REVIEW: Def Leppard – Adrenalize (deluxe edition)

DEF LEPPARD – Adrenalize (1992, 2009 Universal deluxe edition)

Ahh, Adrenalize. I remember first buying it on that cold spring day in 1992, and noticing right away, “Where are the riffs?” After Steve Clark died, Def Leppard lost the guy who wrote some of their best riffs, and I miss him.  His absence is most palpable on the album that the band had just started working on when he died.

I was always willing to cut Def Leppard some slack on Adrenalize.  I remember sitting by the radio with my sister waiting for the premiere of “Let’s Get Rocked”.  “It sounds the same as Hysteria,” she said.  I responded, “Well, it had that part with the violins,” but my sister accurately observed that they were only in a section to parody classical music.  If you’re going to enjoy Adrenalize, you have to remember that it was recorded by 4/5 of a band, gutted of their riff writer and performer.  4/5 of a band following the biggest hard rock album of all time isn’t going to reproduce their best work, and we knew that.

Indeed, “Let’s Get Rocked” is pretty limp.  The main thing was just getting Def Leppard back.  Getting them back on the radio was a bonus.  “Heaven Is” was a better song, but it could have been a Bryan Adams outtake.  Sure it has a catchy melody and lush Leppard vocal part, but it doesn’t really rock.  The lyrics won’t be winning any awards:  “Heaven is a girl that I got to have, she makes me feel better when I’m feeling bad.”

IMG_20141116_095810Worse is “Make Love Like A Man”, which is a chorus that I do not want to sing and shout along to.  I give Phil Collen points for the experimentation of putting in a “cockney rhyming rap”, but it’s not enough to save the song.  This sounds like a hard rock version of a Shania Twain hit or something.  The first bonafide Def Leppard classic on Adrenalize is a friggin’ ballad, called “Tonight”.  This one finally captures the magic.  It’s perfect top to bottom, a classy tune that could have fit on Hysteria.

“White Lightning”, a “Gods of War” remake essentially, is a tribute to the fallen Clark.  “White lightning” refers to one of the substances that took him down, but it can also refer to Clark’s appearance on stage, with that big white Gibson guitar throwing shapes.  It’s an apt tribute, and a kick in the ass that this album desperately needed.

The second bonafide classic here is side two’s opener, “Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)”.  If you don’t count this slow pop rock song as a ballad, then it’s definitely close, but that chorus kills!  So do the delicate guitar layers, all done by Phil Collen.  It’s too bad this song had such a weird video, and that it was released as a single so late.  It could have been massive.  It’s worth pointing out that both “Stand Up” and “Tonight” were co-written with Steve Clark before he died, which is perhaps why both have memorable guitar parts.

“Personal Property” is one of the harder rock song, but unfortunately it blows.  Another ballad with the agonizing title of “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” was a hit, but it’s inferior to the other two.  “I Wanna Touch U” is catchy and cute, but not hard enough.

That leaves us at the final song, “Tear It Down”, which is a re-recorded version of a B-side from “Animal” (1987).  The B-side version is better.  Predictably, the Adrenalize re-recorded track doesn’t rock nearly as hard.  In one of those “shoulda woulda coulda” moments, maybe Def Leppard should have just polished up the B-side and put it on the album.

Adrenalize went to #1, and millions of copies were sold, so if you’re a Def Leppard fan, you probably knew all that.  So what about this deluxe edition?

ADRENALIZE_0001

This reissue, part of a series of Universal deluxe editions including Hysteria and Pyromania, is a very welcome addition to anybody’s Leppard collection due to the quality of the bonus material. The sound has also been improved significantly enough to warrant an upgrade. As expected with a deluxe such as this, the packaging and liner notes are perfect, including many tales that even the most diehard of Leppard fans have never heard before.

Bonus tracks abound. They include the four live tracks from Leppard’s very rare club tour EP (Live: In the Clubs, in Your Face, 1992), as well as two of the three acoustic sessions with Hothouse Flowers (covers of “Little Wing” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, replete with piano and tin whistle).  (The third Hothouse Flowers track, an original called “From the Inside”, was released in remixed form on the next Def Leppard album Retro-Active.)  These are some of the first tracks recorded to feature Clark’s replacement, Vivian Campbell.

There are two takes of “Tonight”, one being a stunning 1993 acoustic take, and the other being a 1988 demo with (yes!) Steve Clark. The original version of “Two Steps Behind” (before Michael Kamen added the strings) and a live track with Brian May (“Now I’m Here”) from the Freddy Mercury tribute concert are two more rare highlights. The set is rounded out with two live B-Sides also released on the In The Round – In Your Face home video, from Denver in 1988.  These Denver tracks are here because they were originally released in audio format as Adrenalize B-sides.

IMG_20141116_095843But so much material is missing! The 34 empty minutes available on CD one of this set could have housed many more missing treasures.  The Hysteria and Pyromania reissues really packed on the bonus material, Hysteria in particular, which included virtually every rare bonus track and B-side. Adrenalize is missing quite a few: “Only After Dark”, “Miss You In A Heartbeat”, “Action”, “From The Inside” and “She’s Too Tough”. All of these were originally available on long out of print singles, and are excluded here. Why? I can only guess because they are available in remixed form on the Retro-Active CD. However, the Hysteria reissue that came out earlier did not exclude similar tracks.  This leaves the original mixes of these Adrenalize B-sides frustratingly unavailable to collectors.

This deluxe edition of Adrenalize is such a mixed bag. On one hand they have given us some truly rare material such as that 1988 demo of “Tonight”, but on the other they have shorted us original mixes of many key Def Leppard B-sides from this era. I am certain most if not all would have fit. I find this dissapointing and frustrating.

3/5 stars

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34 comments

  1. Phew, saw this title pop up in the inbox and was concerned where your opinion might go LOL…

    But no, couldn’t agree more. Deluxe is rather nice and personally like the remastering these have received. But so far as the album goes, thought the lead single was terrible the album not much better. The best of the record already mentioned by you above and believed then and still believe the best of Def Leppard died along with Steve Clark (RIP).

    Weird one cause never disliked the band and have listened with hope to everything they released since, guess still hopeful ya know!? :\

    Good fair review.

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    1. Hey Wardy! I’ve always hoped that Vivian Campbell would inject a little more rock and roll back into Def Leppard. I guess it’s gone around in a circle. They sunk to the lowest on that terrible X album and then come back a bit with Sparkle Lounge, which isn’t bad.

      Still, it ain’t no High N Dry.

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  2. Fair review. I avoided it for years cause I thought Let’s Get Rocked stunk but I ended up getting it after Retro Active relit my interest. I was actually surprised how much I got into it. The only songs that don’t do much for me now are Personal Property and I Wanna Touch U. The rest I enjoy. Shame about the B-Sides though.

    Fairly low on my Def Leppard chart though. Above Euphoria and X which isn’t saying much!

    And I have sang along with Make Love Like A Man. I have no shame about that.

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    1. I agree. Above Euphoria and X, but not really above anything else.

      I couldn’t believe when Make Love Like A Man was released as a single. That’s an album track if I ever heard one! Or a B-side.

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        1. Just went blind.

          Do yourself a favor and listen to the Billy Ocean track I posted. Tell me if that’s not a dead ringer for Joe Elliott and Phil Collen on them backing vocals. SOunds like an Hysteria B-side.

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  3. Yep….out went the Riffs with Clark when he passed! This is a different Lep. One that is freaked out by the loss and not wanting to lose the general mass of the public. I guess you can call it lifestyle…keep playing arenas,selling records the old if it ain’t broke don’t fix it deal.
    But yeah and I nevr thought I would say this but Stand Up for me is the best song on here. Well written played etc.
    Great review Mike..hit the nail on the head with all of your points!

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    1. Thanks buddy!

      If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I think they were scared to change too much. Even though they wanted to do a “quick” album that they could write and record in a year, they reverted back to the layers and layers of goop.

      SLang was the album that should have followed Hysteria.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think Adrenalize is a bit underrated, to be honest. That said, how on earth do you go about to follow up an album like Hysteria. It’s imobossible to better that one, Sure, the did a re-write of Gods Of War in White Lightning like you said, but Stand Up is a rewrite of the Hysteria title track, Make Love Like A Man sounds like they’ve been trying to write another Pour Some Sugar On Me and Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad is Love Bites pt 2.
    But still, I think there are lots of songs that holds up on their own. Heaven Is, Make Love Like A Man, Have You Ever…, I Wanna Touch U, White Lightning, Stand Up… All of them are great, I think.
    Let’s Get Rocked is a mediocre bagatelle, though. And Tear It Down really should have stayed a b-side.
    As a whole, I think Adrenalize comes after Hysteria, Pyromania and High N Dry in my Lep-chart.

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    1. Easy to say in retrospect(active ;) but personally reckon for a followup to the huge deal that was Hysteria they shoulda gone back to a heavier sound like Pyromania!

      I mean they didn’t need ditch too much songwise as such, but had they metaled (?) those songs up more (thinking the closest they came to that on Hysteria was say Run Riot which Elliot has since said he disliked go figure) and thrown away the inane pathetic drivel lyrics such as Make Love Like A Man, perhaps not only could they have delivered a stronger record for both old and new fans, certainly one that would have aged far better, but they may have carried more cred during the grunge era without wading about the shallow end for years like they have!?

      Easy fer me to say sure, and biased due to my love for everything Pyromania, thinking Adrenalize showed its age within years of release, Hysteria still gets by mostly for its sound and the fun that came with its era at least half its songs still win, while Pyromania still stands proud (IMO) \m/

      So far as comparing Adrenalize to Bryan Adams yes count me on board, Bryan clearly taking notice of the Lange effect. Although Adams released a far more organic record (if even is such thing in either these releases LOL), probably due to his lyrics, as naff as many were, not quite the level of primary school that were most those on Adrenalize :/

      Cool discussions mikeladano ;)

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      1. AGain check out that Billy Ocean track. Incredible how Mutt Lange has HIS SOUND and it became Bryans and DL’s too.

        I love the classic Def Leppard sound, but Adrenalize just doesn’t have that soul. This band has been through so much, and now with Viv being ill, I wish them nothing but the BEST.

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    2. Well, Hysteria, Pyromania and High N’ Dry are all perfect albums to me. It’s so hard to put them in any order after that. Slang is a crucial album to me, but I think as an album even Retro-Active is better than this.

      I haven’t made a precise Lep-chart myself. But I know I put Hysteria and High N’ Dry very high up top, and X at the very bottom.

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  5. I never owned this album (or Hysteria, for that matter). I stopped getting their tapes (as a kid) at Pyromania. I knew other people who had the next ones, and heard their copies, but I never bought them for myself.

    I appreciate your review of this because it’s still one of those records I’d picked up if I found it cheap enough somewhere. I saw a copy for $2 a week ago at our junk shop but it was pretty hacked up so I left it.

    ““Heaven Is” was a better song, but it could have been a Bryan Adams outtake…” Haha HELLO MUTT LANGE!!

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    1. I’d go the other way around, Bryan Adams songs could be Def Leppard tunes. Waking Up The Neighbours could have been a Def Lep record with Bryan on lead vox.
      But like you said, hello Mutt Lange!

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      1. They are all interchangeable. Adams’ tune Thought I Died and Gone to Heaven could have been on Adrenalize easily. You can even say that about some Shania songs. They often have those thick “woah-woah” backing vocals. ANd Billy Ocean? Listen to “The Going Gets Tough” and tell me you can’t hear Mutt Lange all over it.

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  6. Ah. I’ve actually heard this one. I think everyone I know was walking around singing Let’s Get Rocked for a while. “I’m your average, ordinary, everyday kid .. ” etc. My brother owned this one at some point. Not one I’m gonna look out for, that’s for sure.

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  7. Interesting discussion, I’d like to add that grunge changed people’s tastes or was just starting to, when Adrenalize came out so it was dated on arrival. That’s why I like these posts they provide a different perspective on a release that was pretty dinged at the time even though it sold well. People shifted from wanting Hysteria II to Nevermind, maybe not as drastic a shift as the disco years but still a climate shift DL and others had to deal with.

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    1. Grunge did change people’s taste, mine included. I wanted my lyrics a little bit more serious, and my music a little more harder edged. I didn’t want to lose solos or screams for that, but I liked bands that managed to ride a healthy middle ground. I think Def Leppard did that with Slang, and Bon Jovi did that with These Days.

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    1. They lost a lot of people on Hysteria. They almost lost me. The first time I played it, I was thinking, “What the hell is this? This isn’t metal and some of it isn’t even rock!”

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      1. I agree, although most seem to LOVE that album. I had a friend that would play it over and over. I went from alright its kind of cool(however over slick it is) to please never let me hear this again lol And everything since is just our of my laser beams. I tried with Adrenalize and Lets Get Rocked but that was the end of an era

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  8. It is to be kept in mind that Bryan Adams’ Waking up the Neighbours, co produced with Robert John Mutt Lange was released in September 1991 whereas Def Leppard’s Adrenalize was released in March 1992, seven months after Bryan’s release. Mutt Lange was also the Executive Producer of Adrenalize. In my opinion most of the songs in Adrenalize just gave me a feeling that these could have been left overs from Bryan’s Waking up the Neighbours. In other words, after giving a listen to both albums one after another is just like listening Waking up the Neighbours Volume 1 & 2. Bryan’s and Mutt’s co produced sound is all over Def Leppard’s Adrenalize.
    For instance, just listen to the song ‘Heaven is’ in Adrenalize which is strikingly similar to ‘Not Guilty’ in Waking up the Neighbours. The intro of ‘Make Love like a Man’ is just like the intro of Bryan’s ‘Can’t Stop This Thing We Started’ and the drums pattern are quite similar to Bryan’s ‘Is Your Mamma Gonna Miss Ya’. ‘I Wanna Touch You’ is a complete ripping off Bryan’s ‘All I Want is You’. Just check out the guitar solos of both songs. ‘Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad’ could have easily been Bryan’s Ballad. The only song that truly sounds like Def Leppard is ‘Stand up Kick Love into Motion’ that reminds me of their ‘Hysteria’ era. Def Leppard’s Hysteria is a truly masterpiece that will always be the band’s peak time in their musical career whereas this album’s sound is a complete derivative work of Bryan’s Waking up the Neighbours.

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