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Heavy Hitters: Def Leppard, Lit, Michael Schenker Group & Crobot

Four new releases spinning on Paul Gargano's turntable

Someone recently asked me if I actually own every album I write about here on vinyl. While I don't own every one, I do own most of them. I have an absurd vinyl collection. I started by exclusively buying the classics, but more than 2,000 records later, I'm basically filling a few high-price holes and otherwise buying new music. I vet new music on Apple Music - if I like what I hear, I show the artists my support by buying vinyl. 

All four of this week's albums are new music, and all four of them have been fixtures on my turntable for weeks now. Don't be surprised if all four end up on my year-end Top 10 list. And don't be surprised if they also end up on yours! Rock isn't dead, and these four (very different) albums are proof.  

DEF LEPPARD Diamond Star Halos

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There’s something to be said for aging gracefully – which is exactly what Def Leppard have done on Diamond Star Halos. A lot has been said about the glam influence that the band wear on their sleeves on this latest studio offering, but people haven’t been talking about how “Fire It Up” could be right off Adrenalize, or how “This Guitar” and “Lifeless” couple the band with songbird Alison Krauss and have Def Lep flirting quite capably with country rock. Not bad for a bunch of Brits! As much as stylized names drive me nuts, I love me some “U Rok Mi,” a light and airy feel-good flutter that lays the path for the orchestral “Goodbye for Good This Time” and “All We Need,” a distant cousin of “Hysteria.” “Kick,” “Gimme a Kiss” and “Unbreakable” anchor the harder end of the spectrum, making this 15-track double-vinyl album a rich and satisfying photograph of our favorite spotted rockers on their 45th anniversary as a band. Diamond Star Halos isn’t the sound of a classic artist trying to recapture their glory days, it’s an album by a band continuing to deliver glory days. The results are Lep's best album since their multi-platinum Hysteria. T. Rex would be proud.

LIT Tastes Like Gold

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We're halfway through 2022 as I write this, and I guarantee you that this album will be on the tip of my tongue in Album of the Year discussions. It’s easy to forget just how big Lit were at the height of hits like "My Own Worst Enemy," Zip Lock" and "Miserable," but Tastes Like Gold reminds us. “Mouth Shut” is pure pop-rock majesty, taken over the top by the band’s inane ability to tell a story through their lyrics. Those stories and the wordplay that drives them are what has made this blissful romp of an album a fixture on my turntable since the day the vinyl arrived on my doorstep. “We Do It Again” is about that relationship we’ve all had that we know isn’t right but feels good enough to not be wrong. “Ok With That” is about the relationship that’s all right, and “Get Out of My Song” is the result of a relationship gone all wrong. Are you noticing a trend here? “Kicked Off the Plane” is a personal favorite, and a true story, “Hold That Thought” is a powerhouse ballad, and album closer “Let’s Go” reunites Lit with Butch Walker as they crush the Cars classic together. Tastes Like Gold makes me feel like gold, and who doesn’t need that today?

MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP Universal

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Not only does “Emergency” kick off Universal in grand fashion, it also includes some of the most tasteful soloing I’ve heard in a long, long time. I shouldn’t be surprised. Michael Schenker is one of the most commercially underrated rock guitarists out there, but for whatever misguided reason, I didn’t really have high expectations for this latest offering from MSG. Wow, I couldn’t be further from wrong. Featuring an ensemble cast of vocalists including Helloween frontman Michael Kiske on “A King Has Gone,” the uber-impressive Michael Voss fueling “Long Long Road” into a power metal frenzy, and Halford-like Primal Fear powerhouse Ralf Scheepers on the punishing “Wrecking Ball,” the 13-track, 52-minute, black-marbled vinyl platter seamlessly toggles from otherworldly prog (“Under Attack”) to power (“Sad Is the Song”), to pure molten metal (“Yesterday Is Dead”). For those that aren’t familiar with the legendary Schenker’s riveting body of work with the Scorpions, U.F.O. and beyond, Universal is the perfect introduction. For those that are savvy to his legacy, this under-the-radar LP is a phenomenal next chapter.

CROBOT Feel This

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How has it taken this long for a band to put a brass knuckle ice cream cone on their album cover? I want some of what whoever thought of that was on. I also want more Crobot. Clocking in at a tight 44 minutes, this latest offering from the Pottsville, PA rockers continues their evolution from blistering live act to formidable studio heavyweights. When he punches his high notes, singer Brandon Yeagley is reminiscent of the late Chris Cornell in Soundgarden’s formative years, but Crobot are far from a post-grunge knockoff, instead swirling an intoxicating blend of psychedelic riffs, rock swagger and groove to spare. Opener “Electrified” checks all the active rock boxes, while “Dizzy” incorporates more of that swirl and “Rusty Cage” Soundgarden I mentioned. “Golden” is just that – pure gold, and “Without Wings” soars as the last track on side one of this transparent red vinyl pressing. A couple of my favorite lines on side two? “I go to sleep just to dream about your nightmares” from “Into the Fire,” and “let’s go dance with the dead, they know how to kill it” from “Dance With the Dead.” Feel This is a modern band embracing the vintage aesthetic, and there’s no better medium for that than vinyl. Feel it!