Def Leppard – ‘The Early Years 78-81’ Box Set – Album Review

To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the bands debut album, Def Leppard put together quite an impressive box set.  The debut album was ‘On Through the Night’ which arrived in 1980.  The band didn’t stop with that album to commemorate, they decided to cover the 4 years of major transition from the band.  They are gong back to their humble beginnings of 1978 and up through 1981 and the album ‘High & Dry”. The last album  before the band blew up in to major Rock Star status.  And man they were huge.

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This set is 5 CDs.  And they consist of the following:

  1. ‘On Through the Night’ (Remastered)
  2. ‘High ‘N Dry’ (Remastered)
  3. When the Walls Came Tumbling Down (Live at the New Theatre, Oxford – 1980)
  4. Too Many Jitterbugs (Rare and bonus tracks)
  5. Raw (Early BBC Recordings)

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It is over 4 1/2 hours of music.  And believe it or not, there are some things on here I did not have which is why I bought the whole set.  The packaging is pretty sweet.  The box it comes in looks like a box to hold a collection of 45’s and the front and back covers even show the wear of records being included which is a nice touch. The CD’s themselves come in a tri-fold cardboard folder that is pretty durable and it looks like this…

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Enough about that.  Are you ready for me to go through the set?  I thought so.

‘On Through the Night’ & ‘High ‘N Dry’:

I am not going to spend time talking about these albums.  Let me tell you why. I will eventually do very detailed reviews of these albums and each and every Def Leppard album. Of course that will come some future time down the road.  Instead, I will focus on the fact that these are both remastered and when you put the CD in the player, these two discs sound amazing. Probably the best they have ever sounded.  The ‘High ‘N Dry’ album is the original release, not the reissue with ‘Me & My Wine’ added although the song is on another disc in the set.

‘On Through the Night’

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‘High ‘N Dry’

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‘When the Walls Came Tumbling Down’ (Live at the New Theatre, Oxford – 1980)

There are two albums on here that are worth the price of this set on their own.  The first is this one.  This CD is a show from the tour for the album ‘On Through the Night’.  The show was from 1980 and it was recorded at the New Theatre in Oxford, England.  Somehow, they sat on this thing for 40 years and I am not sure why they would.

It is a 16 song set and they basically play the entire ‘On Through the Night’ album and then some.  It is the ‘and them some” part that is most interesting to me. The show sounds untouched and as you would’ve heard it and damn, that is awesome. First let’s go through the set list…

  1. When the Walls Came Tumbling Down
  2. It Could Be You
  3. Rock Brigrade
  4. Satellite
  5. Medicine Man
  6. Answer to the Master
  7. When the Rain Falls
  8. Sorrow is a Woman
  9. Good Morning Freedom
  10. It Don’t Matter
  11. Overture
  12. Lady Strange
  13. Getcha Rocks Off
  14. Hello America
  15. Wasted
  16. Ride into the Sun

The songs to check on here more closely are “Medicine Man” as you will recognize this one when you hear it. It becomes “Rock, Rock (til you Drop)” in 1983 on the ‘Pyromania’ album.  You get a very early taste of this song here.  Another track is “When the Rain Falls” as that would later turn in to the song “Let it Go” on the album ‘High ‘N Dry’ thanks to the help of Mutt Lange.

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Another cool track is “Good Morning Freedom” an early Lep song that never made an official album.  You also get “Lady Strange” before the ‘High ‘n Dry’ album was done.  Thankfully, this one was in good shape and Mutt didn’t have to change much to it at all.  The last really cool song on here is “Ride into the Sun” which is off the band’s E.P. that came out in 1979.  Cool to get a live one of this song.

The show itself is pretty awesome. For such a young bunch of guys, all 20 or less (and Rick Allen only being like 16 or 17), the band is tight.  There is a little Prog, a little glam and a lot of rock & roll in this set.  What I really love about this show is that it has Pete Willis on guitar. Pete was such an amazing player and when you butt him up with Steve Clark, you have some massive guitar playing and these two play off each other so well.  They seemed like seasoned vets.  Rick’s playing is solid, but it is fast.  The tempo on the songs are all little faster, but that is okay as it works live.  Joe sounds young and not as self-assured as he would later become (again thanks to Mutt).  It is a beast of a show and along with the last disc, my favorite.  If you want more on it, go check out Deke’s Reviewit’s much better.

‘Too Many Jitterbugs’

This disk is chock full of Rare songs and B-Sides as well as Single Edits and remixes.  For someone new collecting Lep stuff, this is a great disc.  For someone like myself, I had most everything already in some form, but not quite everything.  The “Too Many Jitterbugs’ title is actually a line from the song “Glad I’m Alive” which is a fantastic song.

What do you get on this disc?

The first three tracks are from the band’s debut E.P..  They are “Ride into the Sun”, “Getcha Rocks Off” and “The Overture”. I have these on vinyl and not CD, so I am glad to now have them in that way.  Next up is a bunch of early versions of songs including “Wasted”, “Hello America” and then two that have never been released and  I don’t have…”Rock Brigade” and “Glad I’m Alive” which in fact was never released on a studio album.

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Another song I am glad to get is “Good Morning Freedom” which was a B-Side before on “Hello America” and I actually didn’t have the studio version of this one, only a live version.  Other then that it is stuff I had including “Let it Go (Single Edit)”, “Switch 625 (Single Edit)”, “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak (Single Edit)”, “Me and My Wine (original version)” and then the 1984 remix of “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” and “Me and My Wine”.  All-in-all, it is 14 tracks of bonus material and that is always a good thing.

‘Raw’ (Early BBC Recordings)

This disc is the second prized disc to have.  It is full of studio recordings and live songs from various BBC recordings in those early years.  Some pretty cool stuff.  The first set of songs were recorded in June 1979 and they were for a show hosted by DJ Andy Peebles.  Those 4 songs that were recorded were “Glad I’m Alive”, “Sorrow is a Woman”, “Wasted” and “Answer to the Master”.  I didn’t have these versions and they are awesome.  The Raw title of the disc is a good description of what you get.

The second set of songs are from the Friday Rock Show Session which was hosted by Tommy Vance and it looks like they came out in October 1979. The recorded 4 songs for this show as well. This time they did “Satellite”, “Rock Brigade”, “Wasted” and “Good Morning Freedom”.  Again, these sound amazing and again, very raw sounding. I know…original!!

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The last set of songs on here are from the bands performance at the Reading Festival on August 24, 1980.  Here is the cool thing about these songs, I already have a few of these songs on a bootleg I picked up last year.  I am so glad now I have them on CD as I have struggled trying to get the vinyl recorded digitally.  The songs from the set were “Satellite/When the Walls Came Tumbling Down”, “Medicine Man”, “Overture” (which I didn’t have), “Lady Strange” and “Getcha Rocks Off”.  Of course, these do sound a little better here than on my bootleg, but I don’t care, I will listen to the bootleg again and again anyway.

THE BOOK – 1979-1981

You also get a hardback book with the set. It is full of pictures and commentary on each of the discs and the eras they represent.  There a ton of great stories and some I have never heard so it was a total treat for me and I sat and read it straight through.

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And pictures, of course I can’t give you all of them as I might get in trouble, but here is one page for reference…

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And the book gives you writing credits as well as production credits for each and every track.  It is full of information any geeked out fan would like.  I fall in to that category and I am okay with it.  And that is everything…

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Def Leppard does it again. They know how to deliver a box set that gives you more band for your buck.  5 discs and a hardback book all for $61.  I ordered mine early on Amazon and as the price dropped so did mine and that is where it ended up.  I will be honest and let you know I would have paid that price for Disc 3 and 5 all by themselves so this was a steal.  And Lep fan should get this as you will enjoy it.  I will give it a 4.5 out of 5.0 Stars only because Disc 4 didn’t have a ton of rare stuff we didn’t already have.  A little more there would have been nice if there is anything left.  But beggars can’t be choosey.

I hope you enjoyed!!

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18 thoughts on “Def Leppard – ‘The Early Years 78-81’ Box Set – Album Review

  1. Thanks for the shoutout dude and link!
    Thanks for the pics and the inside info on this set. Love that retro worn look on the front and back covers.
    Well done by them and that live show is like you said is the price of admission.
    Great job as always reviewing stuff for us Itunes buyers!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice packaging. Good to see bands go to this kind of effort. Great detail in the review as well. This is a high standard you set with your details. I like it.

    I’ve been listening to it in Spotify and I really like the live stuff. Joe sings like a baritone and it works, the songs are a bit quicker as you’ve mentioned courtesy of Allen and Clark/Willis are having a good time, harmonizing and riffing.

    But Savage, rules live, His bass is so prominent, and you forget that he’s an awesome bass player because of what happened afterwards and the Lange polish.

    And how good is that Medicine Man/Let It Go riff. It feels like a Tom Keifer song.

    Liked by 1 person

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