Significantly for collectors, this marks a first-time-on-vinyl release for the albums X, Yeah! and Songs From The Sparkle Lounge. Along with these are two discs of almost all the associated non-album studio recordings and one of live covers. (Six-CD boxes are also available.)
For those who need reminding, for 2002’s X Def Leppard – at guitarist Phil Collen’s suggestion – used outside writers. In came Marti Frederiksen (the man behind Aerosmith’s Jaded and hits for country star Carrie Underwood), three Swedes who could count Britney Spears among their satisfied customers, and Wayne Hector (author of seven Westlife No.1s). Hector’s Long, Long Way To Go remains the band’s most recent Top 40 hit, but the album mostly misfires.
Next time out, for Yeah! (2006), Leppard changed tack with a slew of mostly 1970s glam-era covers, for which they stuck close to the original arrangements. The band sounded much more comfortable than on X – even more like their old, Mutt Lange-styled, selves on Sparkle Lounge (2008), rediscovering their mojo to make what sounds today like their most underrated album.
And so to the 39 bonus tracks. The first disc is called B-Sides, although four of the 12 are album extras from overseas or – as with the impressive X out-take Gimme A Job – an audio track previously only on a DVD. Such forensic diligence is impressive, so the one absentee (a work-in-progress version of X’s Gravity, available briefly as a free download) is forgivable. Most tracks are so-so, but 10 X Bigger Than Love is an absolute cracker (as spotted by Vega, who covered it in 2014).
Disc 5, Studio Covers, is just that, 19 songs that are mostly out-takes from Yeah!, but it actually goes back further, to 1992, to include Mick Ronson’s Only After Dark. Leppard are less at home on Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing and the Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want, than when rearranging Ziggy Stardust as an acoustic (from a Radio 1 broadcast), but they can be forgiven for trying. It’s downright weird to hear Leppard do jazz rock (from a Jeff Beck tribute album), then The Stooges’ Search And Destroy – but full marks for brave sequencing.
The sixth disc, comprising eight live covers, half in previously unreleased form, is mostly set-list regulars but also includes Queen’s Now I’m Here with Brian May from 1992’s Freddie Mercury Tribute at Wembley Stadium.
Volume Three might not contain Leppard‘s best work, but for completists it’s a near faultless collection.