High ‘n” Dry

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Viva! Hysteria – Live at the Joint, Las Vegas (Part 2 – CD 2 & bonus features)

Part Forty-Three of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Viva! Hysteria – Live at the Joint, Las Vegas (Part 2 – CD 2 & bonus features) (2013 Bludgeon Riffola)

When Def Leppard rocked Vegas, they rocked it with far more than just a faithful live reproduction of the Hysteria album.  They also “opened” for themselves as “Ded Flatbird”, and treated the diehards to a set of 15 deep cuts and lesser hits.  For many, this is in fact the superior part of the show.  Indeed, Leppard really pulled some surprises out of the bag, finally satisfying a number of fans who perennially complained, “Why don’t they play ‘A’, ‘B’, or ‘C’?”  With a wink and a smile, they did.  They performed two completely different sets as Ded Flatbird, on March 29 and March 30 2013.

Beginning with the March 29 set, the unlisted intro is a bit of “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, which is not present on the CD, only the DVD.  Then it’s onto the first shocker of the night, and probably the biggest:  non-album B-side “Good Morning Freedom”, from the single “Hello America“.  Straight-ahead riff rock.  It sounds surprisingly at home with the current version of Leppard.  Phil rips a solo and Rick Allen can’t wipe the smile off his face.  For the occasion of opening for himself, Phil Collen wears a shirt.  (Appropriate for an “opening act”, the backdrop is a simple union jack flag, hiding the big screens that would come out for the main set.)

As soon as “Good Morning Freedom” has struck its final chord, and standing in front of a stack of EVH amps, Phil rips into the delicious “Wasted” single.  This song from the first album is the one fans have been begging for, for years.  Joe’s voice is lower and rougher, and perhaps even more effective.  The song is still lethal!  That riff could be the most devastating one in their entire catalogue.

From Pyromania, “Stagefright” is another welcome inclusion.  Joe struggles with the challenging screamin’ vocals but he does the job.  He doesn’t cheat the notes.  This is the Leppard that fans have been wanting to see live all this time.  Then another shock:  from High ‘n’ Dry it’s “Mirror Mirror”!  Joe introduces Ded Flatbird as the best Def Leppard cover band in the world, and he must be right.  The tackle this, one of early Leppard’s sharpest and most melodically riffy songs, with ease.

Joe claims his name is “Booty Ruben” as they kick into the Sweet cover “Action”.  There are several official live versions out there.  This is one of ’em.  Not a song necessary for anyone to need another live version of, but once again Rick Allen can’t seem to stop smiling.  Back to the oldies, it’s another surprise with the early single “Rock Brigade”.  Perhaps by adopting the alternate identity of Booty Ruben (who swears Joe Elliott is a nice guy!), Joe is able to sing these old lyrics from a lifetime ago without feeling too silly.  He sounds awesome on the On Through the Night material.  Their music hadn’t got really screamy yet and Joe rocks it with ease.

Another surprise comes next, albeit a more recent one.  From their last album, Mirror Ball, is the rarely played “Undefeated”.  Though not one of their most outstanding songs, even the generic “Undefeated” deserves to be heard live at least once.  This is to date the only live version you can buy.  “Promises” from Euphoria is the last song of this set, and it sounds really great live with rich backing vocals.

The March 30 Ded Flatbird set brings us another set of delight.  After “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, they go right into “On Through the Night” from High ‘n’ Dry.  A bit “Achilles Last Stand”, isn’t it?  Screamin’ Joe manages well.

The surprising “Slang” from 1996 introduces modern beats.  It sounds good live, if a bit under-energetic.  Sounds like it’s just a little shy of full concert electricity.  But that’s OK.  If energy is what you need, then Leppard come at you with both barrels for the remainder of the set:  it’s all of side one of High ‘n’ Dry, in sequence.  “That ain’t good enough?” asks Joe/Booty.  No, no, it’s plenty good, this is what we have been asking for all this time!

“Let It Go” powers the show forward.  Amazing how close they nail it considering the Def Leppard of today has two different guitar players than the band of 1981.  Yet “Let It Go” is the triumph you want it to be.  “Another Hit and Run” is pure smoke.  Full speed ahead, Screamin’ Joe givin’ it all he’s got, and Viv and Phil ripping the solos while Rick and Rick keep blasting it forward.  “High ‘n’ Dry (Saturday Night)” brings the tempo down but the temperature up.  What a riff, and what a fist pumper.

The closing pair of “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” and “Switch 625” are a thrilling way to end this set.  Like a true guitar duo, Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen walk together to the ramp protruding from the front of the stage, and play “Switch 625” united.  It’s beautiful.  Not to be left out, Ricks Allen and Savage then get a bass/drum outro together.

The DVD has a few more extras to discuss.  There’s a brief and somewhat pointless photo gallery, to the tune of “Animal” live.  None of the photos are on screen long enough to really study.  A better bonus is the “Acoustic Medley”, which is on the DVD but not on CD, except in Japan where it was included as the bonus track.  We’ll discuss this awesome bonus next time.

Viva! Hysteria is an excellent package from top to bottom.  The band were fearless, playing material that they have shied away from for years.  Two CDs, one DVD, and a total of 30 tracks.  Leppard worked hard to get these songs into shape live, and Joe in particular had a lot of challenging material to sing.  They pulled it off, with flying colours, proving that Def Leppard are just as good as they ever were.

5/5 stars

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah!  (Record Store Tales)
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
  37. B.Sides
  38. Yeah! II
  39. Yeah! Live
  40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
  41. iTunes Re-recordings
  42. Viva! Hysteria (CD 1 & DVD)

Next:

44. Viva! Hysteria (Japanese bonus track)
45. Slang (2014 Deluxe bonus tracks)
46. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)
47. Def Leppard (Deluxe and Japanese versions)

REVIEW: Def Leppard – The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)

Part Six of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – The Early Years 79-81 (2019 EMI)

The fine folks in Def Leppard have been doing an outstanding job of getting their rarities and fan-wishes on the store shelves.  We wanted the Def Leppard EP reissued, and they did it.  A few times in fact, including a cool 3″ CD included in a recent box set.  We wanted all the early B-sides available on CD, and here they are.  We begged for decent remastered CD editions of High N’ Dry and On Through the Night, and the band delivered.  More than once.

Now there is a wealth of Def Leppard riches out there for you to buy in your format of choice.  The Early Years 79-81 is the way to go for a complete set of the music from those years.  We’ve gone over it all disc by disc so let’s talk about the box itself.

The 10″ x 10″ box format is awkward to store, but Leppard seem committed to the size, with their London to Vegas set having the same dimensions.  They’ve at least maximised the space, with a generous hardcover book included inside.  This book has the liner notes and essays you expect, broken down disc by disc.  A generous set of unreleased photos keep the eyes from being bored while your ears indulge themselves.  The CDs are stored separately in a cardboard folder, and they don’t seem to move around in there.  Each one has its own cardboard mini-sleeve.  The packaging works.

The sequencing is perhaps the only complaint.  The set is not a chronological anthology of the early years.  In terms of sequencing it’s best looked at as a On Through the Night / High N’ Dry deluxe edition.  Two albums, remastered in their original track listing (not the 1984 track listing for High N’ Dry) with a bonus live CD, a bonus disc of B-sides and rarities, and a bonus disc of BBC sessions from the period.  Which really doesn’t matter so much, except when trying to review a chronological Def Leppard series and figuring out what order to do it in!  The sequencing matters little because the discs are so complete.  All those singles, B-sides, edit versions, unreleased versions, and live recordings are what fans have been demanding ever since the idea of “deluxe reissues” were conceived.  This is it!

Oh sure, there are a few things left in the vaults.  We know of a couple more early tracks called “Heat Street” and “See the Lights”.  These are unlikely to ever see official release, but one must leave some scraps for the bootleggers.  If the band ever changes their minds, that’ll be cool, but the best stuff is right here.

Consider that these three complaints about The Early Years 79-81 (box dimensions, sequencing, missing bootlegs) are so minor, we can disregard them in our final score.  This box accomplished what it set out to do, and when listened to in completion, offers up a real clear picture of the band’s ability and determination.  They had a bright future ahead, and a chapter was about to close while a new one opened.  With the band scheduled to re-convene with producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange in early 1982, life would never be the same again.

5/5 stars

 

 

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  • Pyromania

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Raw – Early BBC Recordings (The Early Years Disc 5)

Part Five of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Raw – Early BBC Recordings (The Early Years Disc 5) (2019)

This final disc of Def Leppard early tracks consists of two separate BBC sessions: 1979, and a few songs from Reading in 1980.  Due to this fact, there is some minimal repeat in the song selections, but you won’t mind getting two versions of “Wasted” instead of just one!  This disc offers a variety of early Leppard songs and rarities.

BBC Andy Peebles Session – June 7 1979

The EP was out and Leppard were starting to get radio play.  They were invited to the BBC and recorded four songs for broadcast.

Opening with “Glad I’m Alive”, Leppard get one of their most underwhelming non-album tracks out of the way early.  It sounds better and heavier than the studio cut on Disc 4 produced by Nick Tauber.  Solos and backing harmonies are fire.  “Sorrow is a Woman” follows, with a quiet, cool laid-back intro of a different flavour.  Things kick in on the chorus of course, but this is not the definitive version of the track.  The guitar solo section has a nice shimmer to it.  Third up is “Wasted”, which opens with a growl.  That guitar is vicious, and Joe just goes for it on the vocals.  This recording has bite.  The final track, “Answer to the Master” is absolutely fine.

Friday Rock Show Session – October 3 1979

“Satellite” enters with a crash of drums, a little hesitant on the pace.  The fun “Rock Brigade” is similar to the early version on Disc 3, but heavier.  The second version of “Wasted” sounds heavier than the first — the band was growing.  Really this song is a highlight of anything it’s on.  This BBC sessions ends with “Good Morning Freedom”, probably the fastest and most pumped-up version we’ve heard yet.  This might be the best recording of the track available.

Live at the Reading Festival – August 24 1980

The next time the BBC caught up to Def Leppard, they had an album out.  With Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, Whitesnake and UFO on the same bill, Leppard were anxious.  Then Ozzy dropped out, and Leppard had to follow Slade in one of their best festival performances — a daunting task.  Fortunately the bandt fought hard and had some killer new material up their sleeves.

Opening with “Satellite” (2nd appearance on this CD) and “When the Walls Came Tumblin’ Down” mashed into a medley, you can hear that the band were fired up.  After this workout, it’s the unreleased “Medicine Man” which today we know as “Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)”.  Imagine getting to hear that track back in 1980, and then when it was finally released in ’83 on Pyromania, going “I know that song!”  The early “Medicine Man” version is cool because that riff is unstoppable.

The apocalyptic epic “Overture” is right in the middle of the set, but it was already well known due to its inclusion on the original Leppard EP.  Joe’s unholy yelp of “Go!” at 1:50 is the moment that the band just tear it loose.  Then it’s another new song in “Lady Strange”, absolutely off the hook and hammering with delicious chord after chord, each one more addictive than the last.  Finally after some audience participation noise, it’s “Getcha Rocks Off”.  The audience goes nuts and Leppard leave triumphant.


This excellent disc collects some seriously well-recorded and preserved archival material.  It’s all valuable, showing the growth of the band as they get more comfortable with themselves and performance.  They were always great, with a serious knack for riffs, and this disc delivers plenty of them in unreleased format.  Untampered, unhampered, and unchained.

4.5/5 stars

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  • The Early Years box set wrap-up.

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Too Many Jitterbugs (The Early Years Disc 4)

Part Four of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original reviews:
The Def Leppard EP (1979)
“Wasted” / “Hello America” (1979)
“Hello America” / “Good Morning Freedom” (1980)
“Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” (1981)

DEF LEPPARD – Too Many Jitterbugs (The Early Years Disc 4) (2019)

Because of the non-chronological nature of The Early Years box set, we are now back at the beginning:  Def Leppard’s first rare EP, and singles releases.  Only on Disc 4 do we finally get to go back to the original Def Leppard EP, which has seen a few re-releases over the years, but none as convenient as this.

The story goes that young Def Leppard used money loaned to them by Joe Elliott’s father, and booked a studio for one weekend.  Drummer Tony Kenning was fired just before the start of recording, for being sidetracked by a girlfriend.  Frank Noon from The Next Band (featuring Rocky Newton on bass) was chosen to fill-in temporarily.  It was The Next Band’s own three-song EP release that inspired Leppard to make their own.  They only had a handful of rehearsals with the drummer completed before it was time to hit the studio.

“Ride Into the Sun” was properly perfected when it was re-recorded in 1987 as a Hysteria B-side.  The original still boasts the same relentless riff, but without the increased velocity.  The chorus is a bit different, but here it is:  the beginning!  Out of the gates with a good song, with room to improve.  And improve young Def Leppard would.

Next on the EP is “Getcha Rocks Off”, the only track that has been available on CD for three decades.  It saw its first digital release on Lars Ulrich’s excellent 1990’s NWOBHM compilation.  The version that eventually made its way to On Through The Night is heavier, but this ground-floor version has an identical arrangement.  The solo work shows the band had early talent, and the riff demonstrates their ability to come up with the goods.

Finally: “Overture”, the big Def Leppard epic that later closed On Through the Night.  A little progressive, the 7:45 track meanders from mellow acoustic opening to galloping riff to blasting guitar workouts.  Much of it is first takes, with Joe having little time to finish the vocal.  However the job was complete.  The record was made.

All that was left was to ask Frank Noon to join the band full-time, which he declined.  15 year old Rick Allen was selected instead.  (Noon later reunited with Rocky Newton in Lionheart.)

All 1000 copies of the EP sold within a week.  Radio started to play Def Leppard.  Finally they signed the big record deal and the rest is history.  Still, there are plenty of rare tracks from the early years that were recorded.  Most were released but some are here in this box set for the very first time.

“Wasted” with “Hello America” on the B-side was originally released in 1979.  These are early versions that differ from the Tom Allom-produced tracks on the album.  Neither are as as heavy, with “Wasted” in particular needing more bite.  These versions, by Nick Tauber, were deemed not worthy of album release by the record company.  The ferocious “Wasted” riff is there but needs to be turned up – way up!  “Hello America” fares better as a more melodic rock tune.  It lacks that synth riff on the chorus of the song, which makes it a little more raw.  It also has a really long fade-out.

The Tauber sessions yielded two more songs that were never released.  “Rock Brigade” and “Glad I’m Alive”, for whatever reason, were held back until The Early Years box set.  “Rock Brigade” is probably the best of these tracks.  Rick Allen’s marauding drum rolls steal the show, but not as much as on album.  In general, the Tauber versions are less aggressive recordings, and Joe’s vocals are not as unleashed as on the final album.  “Glad I’m Alive” is the only one that didn’t make the album.  It is the song with the lyric “too many jitterbugs”, but is otherwise unremarkable.  Not many hooks (if any).  It is only available in The Early Years.

Leppard’s next B-side was “Good Morning Freedom” from the eventual “Hello America” single.  This is a song that surprisingly and delightfully was resurrected by Leppard live (more on that later in the series).  It is early quintessential early Leppard, centered on the riff and designed to get the heads-a-bangin’.  It is not without hooks, and might be as good as anything else On Through the Night has to offer, “Wasted” notwithstanding.

The next tracks are the disc are single edits, which are padding to some and valuable curiosities to others.  Moving into the High ‘n’ Dry era, they are edits of “Let It Go”, “Switch 625” and “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak”.  Nice to have to be complete, but not essential listening.  All three are obviously better in their full length versions, but you gotta try what you gotta to get on the radio.  “Let It Go” has a shorter intro, and a truncated middle section, weakening its impact.  “Heartbreak” fades out early.

“Heartbreak’s” B-side was a fast and heavy fan favourite called “Me An’ My Wine”.  It was given a raucous and fun music video when it was remixed by Mutt Lange in 1984.  Both “Wine” and “Heartbreak” were remixed for 1984 reissue, and were included in updated editions of High ‘n’ Dry.  All versions, original and remixed, are present in this box.  For some, the remixed “Heartbreak” with added keyboard accents will be the favourite, because it’s the one they grew up with.  It sounds more like a Pyromania single.  The keys do help spruce up the song, which honestly has a couple dead spots otherwise.  As for “Me An’ My Wine”, it has a longer intro and the drums have been treated to sound a little more 80s.  Incidentally, though you can get them on old High ‘n’ Dry CD pressings, this is the first time that these remixes have been available in a remastered form.

And that’s the disc — a damn fine one in fact, because it manages to include every non-album track that Leppard released during those early years.  It makes for a fun listen, as you hear the band evolve.  Even if some songs repeat, they are different enough to not interrupt the flow.  Many of the B-sides have never been released on CD format before, so the value here cannot be understated.

4.5/5 stars

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  • The Early Years Disc Five – Raw – Early BBC Recordings

REVIEW: Def Leppard – When the Walls Came Tumbling Down (The Early Years Disc 3)

Part Three of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – When the Walls Came Tumbling Down – New Theatre, Oxford 1980 (The Early Years Disc 3) (2019)

Of Leppard’s many live releases, When the Walls Came Tumbling Down is the most ferocious.  The early Leppard including Steve Clark and Pete Willis was a different kind of predator.  This particular setlist, captured after the release of the debut album On Through the Night, is extremely valuable to fans.  The band performed all 11 albums tracks, a clutch of early singles, and unreleased material.

“When the Walls Came Tumbling Down” is played first, full speed ahead.  Joe playfully changes one of the choruses to “When Oxford Came Tumbling Down”, and without pause they barrel right into the adrenalized “It Could Be You”.  There are no touch-ups or fixes done to these recordings.

The single “Rock Brigade” has a different flavour, more focused on the melody, with the foot less on the gas pedal.  Joe Elliot demonstrates confidence.  Rick Allen is a monster on the drums and Rick Savage is audibly holding it down.  Keeping to a similar tempo, “Satellite” swaggers all over the stage with determination, and Pete Willis absolutely slaughters on the solo.

There’s only a brief respite.  “Medicine Man” is an unreleased song that was later reworked into “Rock Rock (‘Til You Drop)” from Pyromania.  The quiet opening only lasts a moment before that now-familiar riff kicks in.  There’s no question that “Medicine Man” benefited from its later evolution, but many elements of the song were already, joyfully, in place.

“Answer to the Master” is rolled out with that snakey riff, and Joe is extra-engaging.  A trend is now apparent:  virtually all these songs are better than they are on album.  Another unreleased gem called “When the Rain Falls” might be more familiar under its later name, “Let It Go” from High N’ Dry.   Some elements including the riff survived to the final track, but what a serious riff that is!  When Leppard had both Willis and Clark in the band, they were a riff factory.

Back to On Through the Night, “Sorrow is a Woman” is more lively than it is on LP.  Same with the non-album single “Good Morning Freedom”.  From the drums to vocals to sheer energy, it’s better than its studio counterpart, with an intense solo to burn.

“It Don’t Matter” has a cool groove, and more drive than it does on album.  This version is evidence that Joe already had ample frontman abilities.  This takes us to “Overture”, the Leppard epic with the soft opening and big arrangement.  This is where Leppard’s two lead guitarists get to show off in dramatic fashion.

The last unreleased song is “Lady Strange” from High N’ Dry, which is in more complete shape than the other two.  As it is on album, it’s one of Leppard’s most impressive songs so far.  Riff, verse and chorus are combined in perfect form.  Only minor tweaking would be needed before it was album ready.

The final batch of album songs for the night are laid out.  “Getcha Rocks Off” is a blast.  “Hello America” is looser than album.  And “Wasted”?  Total blitzkreig.  Unstoppable and unbelievable.  Finally the very last track, “Ride Into the Sun” is the timeless beloved B-side, originally from the Def Leppard EP making it three for three EP tracks.  It’s over before you know it, two and a half minutes are gone and that’s all folks!

Even though it is completely lacking in hit singles, it might not be going out on a stretch to say that When the Walls Came Tumbling Down is a strong contender for Best Live Def Leppard album.

4.75/5 stars

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  • The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased

 

RE-REVIEW: Def Leppard – High ‘n’ Dry (The Early Years Disc 2)

Part Two of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original review: High ‘n’ Dry (1981)

 

DEF LEPPARD – High ‘n’ Dry (The Early Years Disc 2) (Originally 1981, 2019 remaster)

Leppard’s pride in their debut album only extended so far.  They knew that the sound they heard in their heads was not captured on tape.  So they waited, and waited, and waited, until AC/DC producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange was available.  When he had completed the recording of Foreigner’s 4 (six million copies sold), they got to work on Leppard’s second record.  And work they did, with the band members unsure after many takes if they could even play it any better.  They could, and they did.  With Lange on hand to help refine the songs they had written, Leppard had never sounded better.

Today, High ‘n’ Dry is often cited by diehards as the band’s best record.  It bares the teeth of AC/DC, but the attention to melody and harmony was typical of more commercial bands.  It was a winning combination; High ‘n’ Dry has no filler songs.

The sharp opener “Let It Go” makes the changes apparent.  A better recording, a more confident (and screamy) Joe Elliott, and an incessant bass groove propels it.  The guitars cleverly lay back until necessary for the big rock chorus.  All dynamics missing from On Through the Night.  This time, they could afford a real cow bell — no more tea kettle!  With “Let It Go” opening on such a solid, fast note, where do we go from here?  No letting up!  “Another Hit and Run” is even better, with quiet parts contrasting with the increasingly heady!  Joe has found his voice, and uses it to rip and shred.  Don’t try to follow the lyrics — it’s all about how the frontman screams them at you.

Finally, Rick Allen is permitted to slow down for the sleek, slower groove of “High ‘N’ Dry (Saturday Night)”.  This tenacious track takes its time to blow you away.  It was also one of three they recorded in a single session for music video purposes.

Another video from that session was the hit ballad “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak”, although MTV aside, it didn’t really have the intended impact until later.   Originally titled “A Certain Heartache”, with Mutt’s help they steered it away from its Zeppelin-y origins and honed it closer to a hit.  Sad verses are coupled with a chuggy riff at the chorus, which is beefed up by the backing vocals of Mutt and the band, gradually finding that sound step by step.  The lyrics are nothing to write home about with, “You got the best of me,” predictably rhyming with “Oh can’t you see.”  But then the track ends not with a total fade, but with the urgent pulse of a new bass track.  It’s the brilliant instrumental “Switch 625”, paired with the ballad as if to say “don’t worry folks, we haven’t lightened up.”  Leppard were, after all, a part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands.  “Switch 625” is something that would have generated melting heat on that scene.  Written solely by Steve Clark, this is one instrumental that is not filler in any way.  It’s a song.

So ended side one, but side two commenced with the crash of “You Got Me Runnin'”, a single-worthy number that scorches the skin with its burning tower of riffs.  Joe bemoans a girl that he don’t trust, while Steve Clark and Pete Willis do their best Angus and Malcolm.  Rick Allen, all of 17 years old now, keeps the beat minimal while Rick Savage maintains the pulse on bass.  When Pete breaks in with his guitar solo, it’s one of the best of his time with Leppard.  But it’s the crucial chorus that keeps you coming back, a singalong brute with gang vocals that could have been lifted from an era past.

Then things get eerie with “Lady Strange”, hurling multiple riffs at the speakers, and boasting a chorus to back it all up.  Tough guy Joe claims to have never needed love before meeting his “Lady Strange”.  This is the only track with a Rick Allen co-writing credit, and features a scorcher of a Clark guitar solo.  Elliott’s screams have never sounded more tormented.  Brilliant stuff.

Without a break, we plow “On Through the Night”, and one of the fastest tracks on the album.  There’s a surprising, quiet Zeppelin-y middle breakdown that’s welcome, but otherwise this track is built for speed.  “Rock n’ roll is no safety net!” screams Joe.  If there were any single track to delete from High ‘n’ Dry, you could make an argument for “On Through the Night”.  However, fact is you need it to set up “Mirror, Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)”.

Displaying their penchant for parentheses, “Mirror, Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)” takes Def Leppard back to dark territory.  A single spare Clark riff carries the song while Allen and Savage lay back.  It’s the kind of brilliant construction that Clark was becoming the master of.  Tension building riffs, stinging solos, topped with another perfect Joe Elliott vocal melody.

Finally it’s the all-out chaos of “No No No”, a memorable way to close out a hell of an album.  Breakneck pacing, top lung screaming, and a blitz of a Willis riff.  Melody?  Unimportant!  If the guitars weren’t so obviously well arranged, this could have been punk rock.

Different versions of “No No No” run different lengths.  This one is 3:12 with a slight fade and then abrupt stop.  One can never go wrong with an original vinyl LP, featuring an infinite groove at the end, with Joe Elliott shouting “No!” over and over again, until you either stop the record yourself, or wait until the ultimate end of the universe — your choice.  Another variation of interest is the the 1984 reissue of High ‘n’ Dry, with two remixed bonus tracks.  We will discuss those later as they are included on Disc Four of this set.

Praise today for High ‘n’ Dry is fairly universal.  Martin Popoff rated it higher than Pyromania.  It truly is a remarkable photograph (pun intended) of a brief period in Def Leppard when they were still solidly riff-focused, but with the moderate temperance of Mutt Lange.  A period that has never and can never be repeated.

5/5 stars

Previous:  The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 

Next:  The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980

REVIEW: Def Leppard – High ‘n’ Dry (1981)

Part one of a Def Leppard two-parter!

Def_Leppard_-_High_'n'_DryDEF LEPPARD – High ‘n’ Dry (1981 Polygram)

Now that Pyromania, Hysteria, Slang and Adrenalize have been remastered and reissued with bonus tracks, it is High ‘N’ Dry that needs to be given the deluxe treatment next.  The fact that Adrenalize has been given an elaborate deluxe edition, but High ‘n’ Dry hasn’t even been remastered yet, is injustice.  Any time I listen to High ‘n’ Dry, I leave with one conclusion:  This is Def Leppard’s best album.  And not only that, it’s just one of the best by any hard rock band, period.

For High ‘n’ Dry, my g-to version is my vinyl US pressing.   The CD is still in my collection, because it includes two songs not on the original LP: 1984 Remixes of “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” and “Me and My Wine” (the versions that were used for the music videos).  So that’s cool, good enough reason to own the CD, but the LP has one more gimmick that you can’t get on CD.  The final track on side two, “No No No”, ends in an infinite loop of Joe screaming “NO!”  I love vinyl gimmicks.  I also love that the vinyl has inner sleeve photos that you don’t get on CD (even if one appears to be Rick Allen’s genitals covered in whipped cream).

This is one solid LP.  Def Leppard teamed up with Mutt Lange for the first time and his influence is palpable.  Def Leppard had been heavy before, but now they were channeling a serious AC/DC vibe.  Mutt had just produced a little album called Back In Black.  Surely it was no coincidence that High ‘n’ Dry has similar riffy and sonic qualities?  Def Leppard’s edge had yet to be blunted in their search for hits.  Instead, it had been sharpened.  On Through the Night could have been better, more tightly focused.  High ‘n’ Dry is as focused as a laser beam.  Aside from one guitar-driven power ballad (“Bringin’ On the Heartbreak”) every song seeks only to scorch.

Although there is not one single throw-away or filler track on High ‘n’ Dry, everybody has their favourites,   Mine:  The melancholy vibe of “Lady Strange” and “Mirror, Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)”.  The pedal-to-the-metal hard rock of “High ‘N’ Dry (Saturday Night)”, “Another Hit And Run”, and the instrumental “Switch 625”.  And my personal favourite song, “You Got Me Runnin'”.  I don’t know why that is so, but that’s the one right there that puts fuel in my tank.

Unlike the band that Def Leppard has become today, this album was all about the hot riffs and the Joe Elliott screams! Hard to believe it’s the same band. But, of course, today they have two different guitar players, so the meat of this band is also not the same.  Having said that, the band acquitted themselves nicely on the recent live album Viva! Hysteria.

Every Leppard fan should own High ‘n’ Dry.   Everybody who’s ever liked a Def Leppard song needs to check out High ‘n’ Dry.  Actually, anyone who breathes should check this album out at least once.  It’s on my desert island list for sure.

5/5 stars, but come on, we need a reissue!

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” (1981 single)

Part 3 of a 4-part series on early Def Leppard singles!

DEF LEP 7 INCH_0001

DEF LEPPARD – “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” (1981 Phonogram/Vertigo single)

High ‘n’ Dry is my favourite Def Leppard album, and I can’t wait to review it (particularly the vinyl version).  “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” was probably the biggest single from the album…I mean, freakin’ Mariah Carey even covered it!  This is a cover version I have never heard and am not even curious to hear, but good on Def Lep for the success anyway.

The original 1981 version is the best known version of the song, although the 1984 remix (keyboards added) was the most pervasive in the late 80’s.  The 1984 remix was done to capitalize on the success of Pyromania, and it was re-released as a single, and as a bonus track on the High ‘n’ Dry album itself.  Also remixed and re-released was the B-side to “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” called “Me And My Wine”.  They even made new videos for both remixes!

For many years, I had never heard the original “Me And My Wine”, as only the 1984 remix was made available on the new High ‘n’ Dry.  I finally hunted down a copy of an original “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” single with picture sleeve, completing this phase of my Def Leppard collection!

“Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” of course is Def Leppard’s first ballad, and one they still play in concert, a rarity for these early years.  It’s always been a favourite of mine.  Back then, you had to have a power ballad, but it had to remain tough.  For example, “Still Loving You” by Scorpions was very soft, you could try to use it to woo a ladyfriend, but it had that awesome guitar solo.  As if to say, “I’m sensitive, but tough.”  This single is Def Leppard’s crack at the format.  I think it’s very successful, the song has proven to have longevity.  It has all the right elements:  a killer chorus, dark and plaintive verses, a dramatic lead solo break, and the word “heartbreak” in the title!

“Me And My Wine” was the main reason I have been hunting this single.  It’s one of Def Leppard’s fastest tunes, while they were still a metal band, and a bit of a cult favourite.  The 1984 remix version is great, and many Def Leppard fans agree that it’s also the best music video they ever made.  Hearing the original 1981 version for the first time, the differences are subtle.

The intro on the remix version is longer, with a count-in, the original mix does not have this.  The drums on the original are a lot more raw.  The remix sounds like the drum tracks are completely replaced by new electronic drums.  The original features more prominent bass guitar as well.  I have to say that after only a couple listens, I already believe the original version is superior to the remix.  It’s groovier with the amplified bass, and I think the remixed drums really take the edge off.  The original version just has more balls!

5/5 stars