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.”
Worse 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?
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.
But 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.