TORONTO (Reuters) - It may be difficult to believe that after three decades of rocking hard -- 65 million albums sold and hundreds of packed concerts -- Def Leppard hadn't released a standalone live album until this year.
As the bandmembers put it, "Mirrorball: Live and More" came together without much advance planning, and owes its existence, at least partly, to them leaving their old record label which, the group thinks, may unleash a new burst of creativity.
The three disc collection features live recordings of some of Def Leppard's greatest hits such as "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Rock of Ages," and "Photograph." It has three new tracks, including anthem "Kings of the World", and a behind-the-scenes DVD. But a live album was never atop the band's to do list.
"The band's focus has always been on writing and recording new songs," guitarist Vivian Campbell told Reuters. "It just never seemed appropriate for us to do a live record. It wasn't something that we sat down and thought, 'We are going to put out a live album in 2011.' It just sort of happened."
Instead of playing one concert and recording it, or taping a series of shows and picking the best one for the album, Campbell and his bandmates -- singer Joe Elliott, lead guitarist Phil Collen, bassist Rick Savage, and drummer Rick Allen -- picked the songs singularly from separate performances so the fans got the best of the best.
"In a way it was sort of like cheating...but it made it more relaxed for us because we never once thought that we were recording," said Campbell.
"Mirrorball" is Def Leppard's initial release as an independent act after finding themselves without a major label for the first time after 30 years with Universal Records.
Campbell sees that factor as a positive, creatively, because it should force the band to put out singles more frequently, in keeping with trends in the recording industry that have performers releasing individual songs via download.
"I really don't see the point in putting out a 10 or 12 song album anymore. It's kind of like sticking our toes in the water, being independent, but that's the way that the industry is now. I do believe that the album is dead," he said.
And like so many bands in these days of declining CD sales and the fewer dollars that comes with it, Def Leppard is now touring through North America to connect with their fans.
In addition to the album, rock photographer Ross Halfin has published "Def Leppard: the Definitive Visual History," a photo anthology chronicling the band's three decades of rock.
The band also is part of the "Rock the Cradle" series which features lullaby renditions of rock classics. "Dreamin with Def Leppard" is a 12-song compilation that features lullaby versions of their greatest hits such as "Love Bites" and "Animal". Recreating songs in different ways shows listeners just exactly what a good tune truly is, Campbell said.
"It's interesting to hear how songs can morph and how they can be given different clothes. I think that's the indication of a good song, if you can restyle it and do it in a different genre. I'm glad to say that many Def Leppard songs stand up to it."
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte