Mutt Lange

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Hysteria (2017 5 CD/2DVD 30th anniversary edition)

This is the ultimate review of Hysteria. Some material is recycled from:

This review covers everything you need to know about the ultimate version of Hysteria.

DEF LEPPARD – Hysteria (2017 Universal 5 CD/2DVD 30th anniversary edition)

25 million copies sold.  Seven hit singles.  A two year world tour.  All done under the most difficult circumstances.  Def Leppard’s Hysteria is one of rock’s greatest triumphs.

Although the album was released in 1987, the Hysteria story really begins on December 31, 1984.  Drummer Rick Allen lost control of his speeding Corvette, and was thrown from the vehicle due to improper use of seatbelts.  His left arm was severed.  Doctors attempted to re-attach the arm, but infection set in and it could not be saved.  It would be understandable if people thought Rick’s career in music was finished.  While many artists from Django Reinhardt to Tony Iommi had dealt with physical disabilities, nobody had ever seen a one-armed rock drummer before.

Undaunted, Allen began working on a way around his disability.  The band never considered a future without him, and were disappointed by “ambulance chasers” looking for a gig.  Rick Allen wasn’t about to allow himself to go down or dwell in his misery.  With an electronic kit triggered by his feet and right hand, Allen eventually regained his ability to not only play drums, but play live.  This resulted in an inevitable stylistic change.  Allen’s drumming style became more staggered, with emphasis on bigger, spaced out snare hits.  His electronic kit was no crutch:  singer Joe Elliott said he could play it “and make it really sound terrible”.

The next album was supposed to be a big deal.  It was Phil Collen’s first Def Leppard LP as a writer, and Rick’s chance to prove he wasn’t out.  Unfortunately, when the band started to record, producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange was not available.  Instead the band began to work with Jim Steinman (Meat Loaf), but were underwhelmed by the results they were getting.  Leppard’s ambition was not just to make another album, but to make something seriously good, memorable and special.  Something to surpass Pyromania.  Steinman was let go and the band started working with Nigel Green with no progress being made.

The band were taking so long, and suffered so many setbacks and delays, that eventually Mutt Lange was available again, and together they finally began work on the new Def Leppard LP.  Co-writing every song with the band, Mutt provided the focus and intense discipline.  The stated goal, following the template of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, was to make an album with 12 potential singles.

The long story of this difficult album (false starts, illnesses, studio problems) is only overshadowed by its success.  But it took a while to get there.

Disc One:  The original album (Hysteria)

The first single “Women” did well enough, but failed to kickstart the mega album sales needed to recoup the losses.  “Women” was an odd choice for a first single: a slow robotic rock track, with a killer comic book-based music video.  It introduced the new Def Leppard groove:  A simple one or two note bass line, layers upon layers of vocals and chiming guitars, but none of the full-speed-ahead New Wave of British Heavy Metal that Leppard were founded on.  The year was 1987 and Def Leppard were on the cutting edge.

 

To get those chiming bell-like chords, Mutt had them recorded one note at a time!  This is very apparent on “Animal”, the second single.  It too was mildly successful, but not enough to push the album into orbit.  Listen to the guitar chords and you will hear something that sounds more like chimes than strings.  This is down to the incredibly detailed and overdubbed recordings.  “Animal” was a stellar pop rock track, and a fine example of what Hysteria sounds like.

Refusing to give up, a third single was dropped:  the ballad title track “Hysteria” and possibly the finest song on the album.  The fact that these singles were not the hits the band hoped for at the time has not diminished them.  Today they are all concert classics, radio staples, and beloved fan favourites.  Leppard even re-recorded the song in 2013 for release on iTunes.  (While the re-recorded version is impressive, it is impossible to exactly recreate the magic on this album.)

Finally, the success that the band and record label were waiting for happened.  The track was “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and the North American version of its music video showcased the band’s stunning live show.  Def Leppard were playing “in the round” to rave reviews.  “Pour Some Sugar”, a retro glam rock tune with a contemporary sound, was a summer smash hit.  It was cool, it was catchy, and Joe’s verses almost sounded like rap, although really they had more in common with Marc Bolan of T-Rex.

On a roll, nothing would stop Def Leppard now.  Though the goal was an album with 12 potential singles, Hysteria eventually yielded seven.  Most rock bands were lucky to squeeze three out of a hit album.  Though the album was now becoming a bonafide hit, some critics and fans lamented the death of the original Def Leppard.  Others embraced their pop success.  The raw edgy guitars were gone and replaced by bright, precise parts working as a whole, in a gigantic pop rock juggernaut.  Joe wasn’t screaming out every line, but actually singing now.  It hardly matters.  With the success of Hysteria, Def Leppard had embarked on a whole new journey and have rarely looked back to their origins.

The singles carried on, through the rest of 1988 and into 1989.  “Love Bites” was fifth up, which originated as a country ballad that Mutt wrote and the band Leppardized into something different.  It was a hit for the autumn of ’88, a slightly dark ballad for the fall.  The victorious glam rock of “Armageddon It” was next, simple and pleasant enough for radio and video, and another huge hit.  These were songs that had pep, but wouldn’t frighten mom and dad.

The seventh and final single was a surprise choice:  “Rocket”.  On album, “Rocket” was 6:37 long, and featured a long experimental middle section.  The ambitious mid-section featured loads of NASA samples and sound effects, all backed by the African inspired drum loops of Rick Allen.  The song was based a drum beat by Burundi Black, brought in by Joe Elliott, played by Rick Allen and looped.  Eventually lyrics were added, inspired by the glitter groups of the 70’s that Leppard grew up with.  Lange also used backwards vocals for some of the hooks.  The line that opens the track and repeats through the song is the chorus from “Gods of War”, backwards:  “Raw fo sdog eht rof gnithgif er’ew.”  It was a sharp track to be used as a single, but that unforgettable beat was beyond question.

Hysteria had two more tracks as good as the singles, although they were not.  “Gods of War” became a fan favourite, and easily could have been an eighth single.  Dark in tone but more epic in quality, it has since become heavily associated with late guitarist Steven Maynard Clark.  He was responsible for much of its guitar thunder.  The final track that could have worked as a single was the album closer, the ballady “Love and Affection”.  As good as any of the actual singles, “Love and Affection” had its own charm and hit potential.  It’s long been one of my album favourites, just under “Hysteria” and “Gods of War”.

Rounding out the LP are “Run Riot” and “Don’t Shoot Shotgun”, two rock tracks that would have been highlights on a lesser album.  Neither are clearly as brilliant as the hits, but both solidly get the job done with guitar thrills.  Finally there is “Excitable”, the only song I’ve never particularly dug.  It strikes me as gimmicky and very 80’s, much like “Social Disease” by Bon Jovi.  Too reliant on sound effects and gimmicks.  So out of 12 tracks, only one was really a dud.  That’s not bad by any measure.

Hysteria rode the charts, recouped its costs, and then some.  The tour in the round was legendary and resulted in a live video In the Round: In Your Face.  Def Leppard were, for a short while anyway, the biggest rock band in the world.

Disc Two & Three:  B-Sides and Remixes

As discussed in greater detail in Record Store Tales Part 4:  A Word About B-Sides, this album and its singles really clicked with the collector in me.  Def Leppard prepared a number of B-sides for Hysteria, and perhaps because these were not produced with Mutt, they all have a harder edge.  The four key must-have B-sides were all exclusive studio tracks, and the first four on the second CD of this set.

“Tear It Down” was a speedy but basic rock track considered good enough to include on the next album, and so it was.  The B-side version remains its superior, because it is tougher than the one on Adrenalize.  The most impressive B-side was probably “I Wanna Be Your Hero”.  This B-side from the “Animal” EP has the Hysteria vibe and sound.  It easily could have replaced “Excitable” as an LP track, but if it had perhaps Hysteria wouldn’t have sounded as diverse.  Dig that false ending!   Next, “Ride into the Sun” is a remake of a track from the original 1979 Def Leppard EP.  The 1987 update is heavier and far better, a truly impressive upgrade.  Finally “Ring of Fire” was even heavier than that, clearly too heavy for what Hysteria became.

The second disc features all the radio edits done for Hysteria‘s singles.  Even to collectors, this is padding.  Only one radio edit seems to hit the nostalgic notes, which is “Women” with a fade out ending.  Incidentally, the only single from Hysteria that didn’t get a single edit was “Animal”, already short at 4:04.

Most important is the cover version of  “Release Me”.  This track was initially released on the “Armageddon It” picture disc single, but not credited to Def Leppard.  Much like their later acoustic B-sides credited to the Acoustic Hippies from Hell, “Release Me” is credited to “Stumpus Maximus and the Good Ol’ Boys”.  Engelbert Humperdinck is responsible for the most famous version of “Release Me”, but Stumpus Maximus is definitely responsible for the most twisted.  Featuring Def Leppard’s roadie Malvin Mortimer on lead vocals and the rest of the band goofing around on each others’ instruments, “Release Me” is a hoot.  Mortimer breaks all known sound barriers with his screaming (and burping) of the lyrics.  I was absolutely confused beyond belief upon hearing this for the first time, since I didn’t catch on to this actually being Def Leppard in disguise.  They absolutely fooled me; I thought whoever they were, Stumpus Maximus and the Good Ol’ Boys sucked!  A hilarious novelty.

Disc two concludes with an 18 minute radio special from the BBC, going through Hysteria‘s songs with Joe Elliott.   The third disc consists of remixes and live B-sides from the period.  Extended versions of “Animal”, “Pour Some Sugar”, “Armageddon It”, “Rocket” and even “Excitable” all come from 12” singles.  A welcome inclusion is the single edit of “Rocket”, the short version of the “lunar mix” .  This was excluded from the previous 2 CD deluxe of Hysteria.  The video mix of “Pour Some Sugar” is still missing, but that track is on so many albums including the five-million-selling Vault, so we’re not going to worry about it.  These extended remixes are, not surprisingly, pretty much for the fans and collectors.

The live B-sides feature the fascinating “Rock of Ages” medley. It seamlessly captures key riffs of classic rock tunes:  “Not Fade Away” (Buddy Holly), “My Generation” (The Who), “Radar Love” (Golden Earring), “Come Together” (The Beatles) and “Whole Lotta Love” (Zeppelin).  This is all done to the tempo and style of “Rock of Ages”, and quite well, too.  Then it’s a lively cut of “Love and Affection”, which was also utilised as the album’s Japanese bonus track.  It’s very rare to hear this song done live, and definitely rare to hear a great vintage version done live.  Finally there’s a so-so “Billy’s Got a Gun” (same gig).  One live B-side is missing, though you can understand why, it is still annoying.  “Elected”, the live Alice Cooper cover (same gig again), was on the 2 CD deluxe edition.  It was recorded during this period but released in 1993 on the “Heaven Is” single.  Because it’s not from a Hysteria single, it was dropped from this box set.  Too bad.

Disc Four & Five:  In the Round In Your Face (Live)

When  I was a young fella, massively into Def Leppard, In the Round In Your Face (taped in Denver over two nights) was the very first live home video I ever bought.  To finally, finally have a proper audio edition…there are no words to express the happiness!  It always should have been a double live album release and not just a video, but hindsight is always 20/20.

The legendary set consists of hits from Hysteria, Pyromania, and “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” from High N’ Dry.  From the unforgettable Clint Eastwood “Dirty Harry” intro, to the final song “Photograph”, it’s non-stop fun.  Though today there is plenty of live Leppard available, nothing tops vintage Joe Elliott screaming like a kid.  Aside from a flawless track selection, highlights of the concert include Phil Collen’s new acoustic intro to “Heartbreak”.  “Gods of War” is heavy and powerful.  “Too Late For Love” gives me chills.  Of the newer songs, “Women” is notable for being included as one of the B-sides for “Rocket”.  Instead of putting it on the previous disc, it was left intact here, with the concert it came from.  Of course, we mustn’t forget what really makes this concert special.  Steven Maynard Clark didn’t survive to do another tour with Def Leppard, and this would be the last live recording with him on it.

DVD Disc One:  Visual Hysteria

This disc is a new compilation of video clips, the first four of which are previously unreleased.  Leppard have three Hysteria-related appearances on Top of the Pops:  “Animal”, “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, “and “Rocket”.  These lip-synced television appearances are almost comical as people scream for a band miming a hit song.  The showmanship of Steve Clark, in his billowy white pants, is sorely missed.  What a rock star!  On “Animal”, frontman Joe Elliott appears to have pulled a Derek Smalls and stuffed his trousers.  Note Phil’s ahead-of-the-times Metallica shirt during “Sugar”.  Unfortunately “Rocket” fades out early.  Though these videos are old and washed-out, it’s a hoot to have them.  Leppard lip-sync again on a familiar video of “Sugar” from the Brit awards.

Music videos were a huge part of the marketing for Hysteria, and a key component to its success.  Each one is here, including both the UK and US versions of “Sugar”.  These videos bring back such a nostalgic glow.  I remember seeing “Women” for the first time, thinking how amazing it was that Def Leppard were back.  I also thought about how brave Rick Allen was.  He didn’t try to hide his injury.  The slow-mo effect of “Hysteria” brings back a lot of memories, as does “Love Bites”.  It was a huge hit video in Canada, during a very cool autumn.

DVD Disc Two:  Classic Albums

Of all the Classic Albums series DVDs, this was one of my most frequently played.  It is now reissued as part of the 30th anniversary box set, a perfect place for it.  In case you didn’t know, Classic Albums is a fantastic series of documentaries that go back to the original master tapes.  Hysteria is one of many albums they have covered.

Hysteria is such a rich, textured, thick album with a long story so this DVD is an obvious slam dunk. The only thing it lacks is Mutt Lange’s knowledge (a notorious recluse). Otherwise, the band go back to the beginning with the early demos. “Animal” was sparse but remarkably recognizable while still in demo form, down to the false ending. “Rocket” is deconstructed so you can hear the drum orchestra that was laid down, while Joe Elliott talks about how it was inspired. The backing vocals of “Gods of War” are laid out bare, virtually every single word sung and recorded separately! That’s the kind of album this is.

Along with that, Joe, Phil and Sav also perform bits live in the studio. This helps to illustrate the individual parts further.  It is revealed to “Love Bites” was brought to the band by Lange as a country song; you can hear the roots on this DVD.  Rick Allen is there to discuss his accident, an obviously emotional moment. Steve Clark is discussed too, and current Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell is on hand to talk about the numerous guitar parts that he inherited and has to play live.

JEFF RICHMy favourite feature of this DVD is actually in the bonus material.  It’s the chapter that covers the first shows that Leppard played after Rick Allen’s accident. Originally, Jeff Rich from Status Quo was tapped to play a second drum kit alongside Allen on stage, just in case Allen got tired, slipped out of time, or couldn’t finish the show. There were so many variables that nobody knew what would happen during what really amounted to Allen’s comeback shows. Well, for one show in the middle of nowhere, Jeff Rich was late.  If he had turned up on time, maybe Rick Allen would never have found out that he could play a full Def Leppard show on his own.  Allen did the show with no help on the drums, and he nailed it.  Rich told Allen that his work was done; Allen did not need any more help.  And that was it!

The books and packaging

This iteration of Hysteria comes with four individual books and a poster suitable for framing.  The Big Book of Hysteria is the main event.  Adorned with pictures and full credits, this tells the story of the album from the band’s point of view.  There were details in this book that even I wasn’t previously aware of.   Why did Rick Savage play guitar on “Hysteria”?  What was the original planned 10 track running order of the album?  You’ll find that in this book.  There is also a track by track rundown of the album by the band.

Next:   Ross Halfin’s Portraits of Hysteria.  This photo book has many of the classic pictures you will remember from this period.  I had several of these as posters on my wall.  Halfin was responsible for all of them!

A lovely miniature reproduction of the 1988 UK tour book is complete with cut-outs and even more Halfin photos.  Tour books are large affairs, and this being a small reproduction, the text is hard to read.  Especially for us old enough to have an original North American tour program in the house.

Lastly, and perhaps most lovely, is the Discography book.  Inside are photos and release details of every obscure version ever released of Hysteria, all its singles and more.  It’s exhaustive and assembled with consultation from a fan expert.

All seven discs, books and poster are packed in a nice looking, compact box.  Each disc has its own gatefold sleeve with yet more memorable pictures inside.  They nest inside a cardboard tray with the Union Jack printed on it.  Perfect!

Conclusion

I’ve had Hysteria five times now.  The first was a gift for Christmas of ’87.  I upgraded to CD when I was working at the Record Store.  I bought the 2006 2 CD deluxe edition, the DVD of Classic Albums, and Hysteria on 180 gram vinyl.  I hope this 30th anniversary box set is the last time I have to do so.  I can’t imagine what could entice me to buy it again.  A 5.1 surround sound mix?  Please, rock gods, don’t do that.

I love Hysteria.  But let’s hope this is the last of it.

5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Hysteria (1987, 2006 deluxe edition)

EPIC REVIEW TIME.  Image heavy!  Step inside, walk this way.

DEF LEPPARD – Hysteria (1987, 2006 Mercury deluxe edition)

25 million copies sold.  Seven hit singles.  A two year world tour.  All done under the most difficult circumstances.  Def Leppard’s Hysteria is one of rock’s greatest triumphs.

Although the album was released in 1987, the Hysteria story really begins on December 31, 1984.  Drummer Rick Allen lost control of his speeding Corvette, and was thrown from the vehicle due to improper use of seatbelts.  His left arm was severed.  Doctors attempted to re-attach the arm, but infection set in and it could not be saved.  It would be understandable if people thought Rick’s career in music was finished.  While many artists from Django Reinhardt to Tony Iommi had dealt with physical disabilities, nobody had ever seen a one-armed rock drummer before.

Undaunted, Allen began working on a way around his disability.  The band never considered a future without him, and were disappointed by “ambulance chasers” looking for a gig.  Rick Allen wasn’t about to allow himself to go down or dwell in his misery.  With an electronic kit triggered by his feet and right hand, Allen eventually regained his ability to not only play drums, but play live.  This resulted in an inevitable stylistic change.  Allen’s drumming style became more staggered, with emphasis on bigger, spaced out snare hits.  His electronic kit was no crutch:  singer Joe Elliott said he could play it “and make it really sound terrible”.

The next album was supposed to be a big deal.  It was Phil Collen’s first Def Leppard LP as a writer, and Rick’s chance to prove he wasn’t out.  Unfortunately, when the band started to record, producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange was not available.  Instead the band began to work with Jim Steinman (Meat Loaf), but were underwhelmed by the results they were getting.  Leppard’s ambition was not just to make another album, but to make something seriously good, memorable and special.  Something with the potential to be as big as Pyromania was.  Steinman was let go and the band started working with Nigel Green with no progress being made.

The band were taking so long, and suffered so many setbacks and delays, that eventually Mutt Lange was available again, and together they finally began work on the new Def Leppard LP.  Co-writing every song with the band, Mutt provided the focus and intense discipline.  The stated goal, following the template of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, was to make an album with 12 potential singles.

The long story of this difficult album (false starts, illnesses, studio problems) is only overshadowed by its success.  But it took a while to get there.

The first single “Women” did well enough, but failed to kickstart the mega album sales needed to recoup the losses.  “Women” was an odd choice for a first single: a slow robotic rock track, with a killer comic book-based music video.  It was incredible just to see how Rick Allen played drums with his new setup.  Apparently, video directors asked how they should shoot Rick?  The band answered “Just the same as you would any other drummer.”  It was simple as that.

“Women” introduced the new Def Leppard groove.  A simple one or two note bass line, layers upon layers of vocals and chiming guitars, but none of the full-speed-ahead New Wave of British Heavy Metal that Leppard were founded on.  The year was 1987 and Def Leppard were on the cutting edge.  To get those chiming bell-like chords, Mutt had them recorded one note at a time!  This is very apparent on “Animal”, the second single.  It too was mildly successful, but not enough to push the album into orbit.  Listen to the guitar chords and you will hear something that sounds more like chimes than strings.  This is down to the incredibly detailed and overdubbed recordings.  “Animal” was a stellar pop rock track, and a fine example of what Hysteria sounds like.

Refusing to give up, a third single was dropped:  the ballad title track “Hysteria” and possibly the finest song on the album.  The fact that these singles were not the hits the band hoped for at the time has not diminished them.  Today they are all concert classics, radio staples, and beloved fan favourites.  Leppard even re-recorded the song in 2013 for release on iTunes.  (While the re-recorded version is impressive, it is impossible to exactly recreate the magic on this album.)

Finally, the success that the band and record label were waiting for happened.  The track was “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and the North American version of its music video showcased the band’s stunning live show.  Def Leppard were playing “in the round” to rave reviews.  “Pour Some Sugar”, a retro glam rock tune with a contemporary sound, was a summer smash hit.  It was cool, it was catchy, and Joe’s verses almost sounded like rap, although really they had more in common with Marc Bolan of T-Rex.

On a roll, nothing would stop Def Leppard now.  Though the goal was an album with 12 potential singles, Hysteria eventually yielded seven.  Most rock bands were lucky to squeeze three out of a hit album.  Though the album was now becoming a bonafide hit, some critics and fans lamented the death of the original Def Leppard.  Others embraced their pop success.  The raw edgy guitars were gone and replaced by bright, precise parts working as a whole, in a gigantic pop rock juggernaut.  Joe wasn’t screaming out every line, but actually singing now.  It hardly matters.  With the success of Hysteria, Def Leppard had embarked on a whole new journey and have rarely looked back to their origins.

The singles carried on, through the rest of 1988 and into 1989.  “Love Bites” was fifth up, which originated as a country ballad that Mutt wrote and the band Leppardized into something different.  It was a hit for the autumn of ’88, a slightly dark ballad for the fall.  The victorious glam rock of “Armageddon It” was next, simple and pleasant enough for radio and video, and another huge hit.  These were songs that had pep, but wouldn’t frighten mom and dad.

The seventh and final single was a surprise choice:  “Rocket”.  On album, “Rocket” was 6:37 long, and featured a long experimental middle section.  The ambitious mid-section featured loads of NASA samples and sound effects, all backed by the African inspired drum loops of Rick Allen.  The song was based a drum beat by Burundi Black, brought in by Joe Elliott, played by Rick Allen and looped.  Eventually lyrics were added, inspired by the glitter groups of the 70’s that Leppard grew up with.  Lange also used backwards vocals for some of the hooks.  The line that opens the track and repeats through the song is the chorus from “Gods of War”, backwards:  “Raw fo sdog eht rof gnithgif er’ew.”  It was a sharp track to be used as a single, but that unforgettable beat was beyond question.  It was remixed and brought down to 4:25 for the single release.

It is  unfortunate that Mercury stopped at seven singles, because they could have released at least nine.  Many fans had counted on a “Gods of War” release, certainly before “Rocket”.  “Gods of War” had become a fan favourite for those who bought the album, and it could have been used as a “serious” themed single towards the end of the album’s life.  Dark in tone but more epic in quality, it really could have been a valiant single.  It has since become heavily associated with late guitarist Steven Maynard Clark, who was responsible for much of its guitar thunder.

The final track that shoulda woulda coulda been released as a single was the album closer, “Love and Affection”.  As good as any of the actual singles, “Love and Affection” had its own charm and hit potential.  It’s long been one of my album favourites, just under “Hysteria” and “Gods of War”.

Rounding out the LP are “Run Riot” and “Don’t Shoot Shotgun”, two rock tracks that help keep the album afloat.  Neither are clearly as brilliant as the hits, but both solidly get the job done with guitar thrills.  Finally there is “Excitable”, the only song I’ve never particularly dug.  It strikes me as gimmicky and very 80’s, much like “Social Disease” by Bon Jovi.  Too reliant on sound effects and gimmicks.  So out of 12 tracks, only one was really a dud.  That’s not bad by any measure.

So Hysteria rode the charts, recouped its costs, and then some.  The tour in the round was legendary and resulted in a live video In the Round: In Your Face.  Def Leppard were, for a short while anyway, the biggest rock band in the world.

Obviously, Def Leppard have continued to suffer ups and downs since Hysteria.  Steve Clark died.  Rick Savage has Bell’s Palsy.  Vivian Campbell fought cancer.  Yet they have continued to soldier on, never topping Hysteria of course, leaving it as the magnum opus that it is.

HYSTERIA

The album inspired a book and a movie.  An album of Hysteria’s stature deserves a killer deluxe edition too.  This one is nearly perfect.

As discussed in greater detail in Record Store Tales Part 4:  A Word About B-Sides, this album and its singles really clicked with the collector in me.  Def Leppard prepared a number of B-sides for Hysteria, and perhaps because these were not produced with Mutt, they all have a harder edge.  “Tear It Down” was a speedy but basic rock track considered good enough to include on the next album, and so it was.  The B-side version remains its superior, because it is tougher than the one on Adrenalize.  “Ring of Fire” was even heavier, clearly too heavy for what Hysteria became.  Along the same lines is “Ride into the Sun”, an old track from Leppard’s first EP, re-recorded here and in fine form.  “Ride into the Sun” is a stellar track and perhaps should have received some acclaim.  Even though the song has been remixed and reissued on other things, it remains a rarely heard gem.  Yet the most impressive B-side was probably “I Wanna Be Your Hero”.  This B-side from the “Animal” EP has the Hysteria vibe and sound.  It easily could have replaced “Excitable” as an LP track, but if it had perhaps Hysteria wouldn’t have sounded as diverse.  Dig that false ending!

This deluxe edition includes all the live B-sides and almost all the bonus tracks associated with singles for the album, and then some.  “Women” is a live classic from the home video.  Anyone who has seen it will remember this version and Joe’s intro.  “We got everything we need!  We got the band, the crowd, the lights, the cameras, the action!  There’s only one thing that we ain’t got…”  Women!  (I doubt that, Joe!)  “Elected”, the live Alice Cooper cover,  was recorded during this period but released in 1993 on the “Heaven Is” single.

From the same gig as “Elected” came a lively cut of “Love and Affection”, which was also utilised as the album’s Japanese bonus track.  It’s very rare to hear this song done live, and definitely rare to hear a great vintage version done live.  Then there’s a so-so “Billy’s Got a Gun” (same gig again), and a fascinating “Rock of Ages” medley.   This medley seamlessly captures some bits of classic rock tunes within itself:  “Not Fade Away” (Buddy Holly), “My Generation” (The Who), “Radar Love” (Golden Earring), “Come Together” (The Beatles) and “Whole Lotta Love” (Zeppelin).  This is all done to the tempo and style of “Rock of Ages”, and quite well, too.  When this was originally released on the “Rocket” single, there was no mention of the medley part.  It was a total surprise when Leppard broke into these other songs, some of which I’d never heard before.

Leppard released a few remixes during this period too.  Extended versions of “Animal”, “Pour Some Sugar”, “Armageddon It”, “Rocket” and even “Excitable” all come from 12” singles.  What’s missing is the single edit of the “Rocket”, the short version of the “lunar mix” .  The single mix of “Pour Some Sugar” is also missing, but that track is on so many albums including the five-million-selling Vault, so we’re not going to worry about it.  These extended remixes are, not surprisingly, pretty much for the fans and collectors.

Finally, and most importantly, is the last B-side “Release Me”.  This track was initially released on the “Armageddon It” picture disc single, but not credited to Def Leppard.  Much like their later acoustic B-sides credited to the Acoustic Hippies from Hell, “Release Me” is credited to Stumpus Maximus and the Good Ol’ Boys.  Engelbert Humperdinck is responsible for the most famous version of “Release Me”, but Stumpus Maximus is definitely responsible for the most twisted.  Featuring Def Leppard’s roadie Malvin Mortimer on lead vocals and the rest of the band goofing around, “Release Me” is a hoot.  Mortimer breaks all known sound barriers with his screaming (and burping) of the lyrics.  I was absolutely confused beyond belief upon hearing this for the first time, since I didn’t catch on to this actually being Def Leppard in disguise.  They absolutely fooled me; I thought whoever they were, Stumpus Maximus and the Good Ol’ Boys absolutely sucked!  For the time it was a novelty release, but it’s now a wonderful tongue in cheek finale to this great deluxe edition.

Some, including renowned rock journalist Martin Popoff, have dismissed Hysteria as lifeless and dismally underwhelming sell-out pop.  Keeping in mind where they came from (High ‘n’ Dry, Pyromania) there is no question that Hysteria was a clear and intentional turn towards the mainstream.  Where Def Leppard rose above a simple pop foray is in the detail and care given to the recordings.  With Mutt Lange keeping his eye on the goalposts, he drove Leppard not to make an album without a soul, but one that offered flawlessly assembled guitar based songs.  The passion and heart can still be heard; they are not buried.  It’s a unique combination of studio sterility with Leppard’s brand of glam rock, and nobody (not even Leppard) have been able to duplicate the magic of Hysteria.

You might not “need” the full-on deluxe edition, but considering the quality of the B-sides and live material, you’d be positively missing out.

5/5 stars

Gallery of single covers

 

 

 

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

REVIEW: AC/DC – Back In Black (2004 DualDisc edition)

AC/DC – Back In Black (originally 1980, 2004 Epic DualDisc)

How many times have I bought Back in Black?  How many times have you bought it?  I know that I purchased it on CD first in 1990, and then four more times since.  I currently own two copies:  this DualDisc, and the one that came in the Bonfire box set.  I don’t think I have it on vinyl, but I could be wrong.  The DualDisc has a DVD side with some neat stuff including a documentary.

“The Story of Back In Black” begins in 1979, with Highway to Hell,  fame and glory.  New interviews with all five AC/DC members (Angus & Malcolm Young, Cliff Williams, Phil Rudd and Brian Johnson) provides a little bit of insight.  We all know the story: February 19 1980, the death of Bon Scott, and the brave decision to carry on have become rock legend.  But according to Angus, it was Malcolm who kept the band playing, if only to distract them from the pain of their loss.  The band continued to jam and write without a singer, but producer Mutt Lange knew of one from a band called Geordie.  Brian recalls a hilarious story of being invited to audition for the band.  He went down to London and played “Whole Lotta Rosie” with AC/DC for the first time.  They then went to the Bahamas with Mutt to record.

ACDC BIB DUAL_0005The band tells the stories behind several songs:  “Hells Bells”, “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Back in Black”, and “Shoot to Thrill”, while Angus and Malcolm demonstrate the riffs up close.  Brian reveals “Back in Black” was a challenge, since it was intended as a tribute in song to Bon.  No small feat to get the mood right.  The 30 minute mini-doc ends with Back in Black selling 10 million copies.  I guess they got it right!

You know the songs.  You’ve heard ’em the radio, seen ’em on the video, hummed them in your sleep.  “Hells Bells” is one of those archetypal AC/DC songs.  When one pictures the “ominous AC/DC headbanger” song, “Hells Bells” should certainly come to mind.  Then you can get your stompin’ shoes on for “Shoot to Thrill”.  I do miss Bon Scott’s sly playfulness, but there’s nothing wrong with Brian Johnson’s full-speed-ahead screech either.  “What Do You Do For Money Honey” is as catchy today as it was then, and has the benefit of being one of the songs that doesn’t get played every single day on the radio.  I’m not as burned out on it.  Same with “Givin the Dog a Bone”, but on that song all I can do is wonder what Bon would have done with that groove.

One truly outstanding track is the last song on side one, “Let Me Put My Love Into You”.  Yes, that title is hardly clever.  But the song kicks ass all over the place.  It’s one of those late night prowls that AC/DC do so well, and it perfectly closes the first side.

ACDC BIB DUAL_0004

The title track opens the second side with a bang.  Then “You Shook Me All Night Long”, a classic that also needs no introduction.  If you don’t know this song then you probably don’t listen to rock music.  I can’t add anything to the discussion there.

“Have A Drink On Me” and “Shake A Leg” are both fine AC/DC songs.  Nothing wrong with ’em, nothing exceptional about them.  Thankfully they saved one of the best songs for last:  “Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”.  This has been my favourite track since first getting the album 24 years ago.  It’s an anthem, the kind of thing we can all agree on.  Rock and roll ain’t noise pollution, baby.  I’ll drink to that.

I don’t think Back In Black is the best AC/DC album, but it might be the best Brian Johnson album.  It’s certainly the most important AC/DC album historically, and it’s a must for any serious rock fan to own.  Choose your format according to your own wishes, but this DualDisc edition satisfies me fine.

4/5 stars

For those times when you can’t use the internet to tell you what songs are on what albums.

DVD REVIEW: Classic Albums – Def Leppard – Hysteria (DVD)

Part 2 of a 2 part Def Lep extravaganza


DEF LEPPARD – Classic Albums – Hysteria (2002 Eagle Vision DVD)

Of all the Classic Albums DVDs that I own, this is one of the most frequently played. And I own a lot. In case you didn’t know, Classic Albums is a fantastic series of discs. Go back into the recording studio where the album was made, with the producer or engineer who recorded it, and the band themselves. You get to hear the original multitrack tapes deconstructed, and we get to hear the band talking about the genesis of the songs and what happened in the studio. Best of all, we get to see the band listening and discovering parts that even they forgot.

Hysteria is such a rich, textured, thick album with a long story so this DVD is an obvious slam dunk. The only thing it lacks is Mutt Lange’s knowledge (a notorious recluse). Otherwise, the band go back to the beginning with the early demos. “Animal” was sparse but remarkably recognizable while still in demo form, down to the false ending. Something like “Rocket” is deconstructed so you can hear the drum orchestra that was laid down, while Joe Elliott talks about how it was inspired. The backing vocals of “Gods of War” are laid out bare, virtually every single word sung and recorded separately! That’s the kind of album this is.

Along with that, Joe, Phil and Sav also perform bits live in the studio. This helps to illustrate the individual parts further.  It is revealed to “Love Bites” was brought to the band by Lange as a country song; you can hear the roots on this DVD.  Rick Allen is there to discuss his accident, an obviously emotional moment. Steve Clark is discussed too, and Vivian Campbell is on hand to talk about the numerous guitar parts that he inherited and has to play live.

JEFF RICHMy favourite feature of this DVD is actually in the bonus material.  It’s the chapter that covers the first shows that Leppard played after Rick Allen’s accident. Originally, Jeff Rich from Status Quo was tapped to play a second drum kit alongside Allen on stage, just in case Allen got tired, slipped out of time, or couldn’t finish the show. There were so many variables that nobody knew what would happen during what really amounted to Allen’s comeback shows. Well, for one show in the middle of nowhere, Jeff Rich was late.  If he had turned up on time, maybe Rick Allen would never have found out that he could play a full Def Leppard show on his own.  Allen did the show with no help on the drums, and he nailed it.  Rich told Allen that he didn’t need any more help, and that was it!   Jeff Rich is there to talk about that day, which was a nice touch.

Of the whole Classic Albums series, this one is certainly my favourite.

5/5 stars

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!

Gallery: Def Leppard – Pyromania (India import cassette)

Aaron finds the weirdest stuff!  In a recent Box of Goodness that he sent me (including an awesome Thin Lizzy Thunder and Lightning reissue on vinyl) I found this.  It’s Def Leppard’s Pyromania (review here) on cassette, but not just any cassette.

The weird extra-thick and bendy clamshell case was the dead giveaway that this was something unusual.  A quick look at the sleeve reveals it’s an actual Vertigo release, but also an import from India!  Does anyone know if cassettes in India always came in these odd cases?  The cassette actually snaps into the case, and is held by two tabs.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  This version even has an oddly coloured Def Leppard logo, that I’ve never seen on anything else.

Pyromania had a max. retail price of 60 rupees. That’s approximately one US dollar today.

Even though the yellow price tag on the side says $2.99, Aaron got this for the princely sum of one Canadian dollar!  And now here’s the gallery of this strange oddity.

REVIEW: The Darkness – “Get Your Hands Off My Woman…Again” (2004 mp3 single)

GYHOMWATHE DARKNESS – “Get Your Hands Off My Woman…Again” (2004 Atlantic mp3 single)

After the surprise hit Permission To Land (which was essentially just a released demo) The Darkness were determined to make a better sounding second album.  At first it was announced they were going to be working with one Mutt Lange; that didn’t pan out.  Up next was Roy Thomas Baker, of Queen fame.

Their first released collaboration was a re-recording of “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” re-titled “Get Your Hands Off My Woman…Again”.  It differs only slightly from the original.  Better sounding bass, better sounding drums, but almost identical otherwise.  There are only two moments were the song deviates from the original:  a 5 second piano break at 1:54, and a different, more abrupt ending.

This was released November 8 2004, for one month only, for 99p on the official Darkness site.   Since then I understand it’s been very difficult to find online.  I like when bands release stuff like this, even though for most people it’s fairly redundant.  A lot of bands test the waters by re-recording older material, Axl’s done that and so have others.  When they make it available for almost nothing for a limited time, sure, I’ll bite.  It’s a kind of immediate release that didn’t exist 20 years ago.

Not to mention that this is just one of the Darkness’ best songs, ever.  Gratuitous language, hot riffs, screeching high vocals, ripping solos, and hooks for miles.  I was sold on the original song on first listen.  As for this re-recorded update, I like the better quality sound, but I don’t like the piano break or the ending.  Great tune, great sonics thanks to RTB, but I’ll stick with the original!

3.5/5 stars

Since you can’t take a picture of a non-physical product, here’s the CD single that I burned!

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

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Pyromania (deluxe edition, 24kt gold Ultradisc II)

Another one that I wasn’t happy with my original review for.  I redid this one, with loads of new pics.  Here it is:  Pyromania redux!

DEF LEPPARD – Pyromania (1983, 24kt gold Ultradisc II, 2009 deluxe edition)

Pyromania is one of those landmark albums that every melodic rock fan should own: Over 10 million copies sold, four classic hit singles, and a sound that at the time was so new and fresh that everybody took notice. This is before Rick Allen’s accident, before Steve Clark’s death, and before Def Leppard had any serious hits. Three would prove to be their lucky number when they set down to record their third album.

Pyromania is also the only Leppard album to feature a three-guitar lineup, in a sense.  Pete Willis was fired mid-way through recording, ironically for alcohol abuse, the same illness that would take Steve Clark 8 years later.  Phil Collen (ex-Girl, with Phil Lewis of the future L.A. Guns) was hired to complete the unfinished guitar rhythms and solos.  Willis’ rhythm guitar appears on all 10 tracks, making this his final Def Leppard album.

Girl, featuring Phil Collen and Phil Lewis

Girl, featuring Phil Collen and Phil Lewis

At some point in the 1990’s, Pyromania was licensed out to Mobile Fidelity labs, who used the original master tapes to create a 24kt gold “Ultradisc II”.  The discs are “custom pressed” (don’t know what that really means) on gold, because it doesn’t oxidize (IE, it’ll last longer).  Although the back cover states that “all liner notes, photos and artwork from the original LP are faithfully recreated”, this is not so.  All the Ultradisc comes with are the lyrics, and nothing else.  Not even a producer credit.  And the weird thing is, Leppard didn’t even print lyrics in their albums at the time.

The ultradisc comes in its own unique case seen below, and does sound tremendous, I can vouch for that.  Does it sound better than the remaster?  Hell, I don’t know.  I’m no audiophile.  They both sound good to me!  The 24kt gold is obviously collectible, which is why I still have it, even though I upgraded to the deluxe since then.

SAM_2504

The Ultradisc II’s unique case

Now, onto the deluxe.  This was freshly remastered. It brings the glory of Mutt Lange’s groundbreaking production to daylight. The liner notes (by one of my favourite writers, Rolling Stone’s David Fricke) reveal Mutt’s obsession: At one point the band were laying down entire chords one note at a time in order to get the right alchemy. Their goal was to create an album that nobody had made before, and they succeeded. (Hard to believe that they would pull off the same stunt twice, and do it again on Hysteria, as different from Pyromania as Pyromania was from On Through the Night!)

This landmark album contains no weak songs:  All 10 of its tracks were valuable use of precious vinyl.  It even filled the vinyl, a full 45 minutes, pretty close to the maximum afforded by the format.  From the melancholy apocalyptic riffage of the power ballad “Too Late For Love”, to the manic gallop of “Rock! Rock! (‘Til You Drop)”, this album is nearly flawless.  Album cuts like “Comin’ Underfire” (tied for my favourite on the album) and “Stagefright” stick to the brain like peanut butter in the mouth.  (“Too Late” is my other favourite.)

And that’s not including the hits:  “Rock of Ages”, “Foolin'”, and “Photograph”, all classics in their own right, which I certainly hope you already know by heart.  The combo of Def and Mutt had, by this point, gotten quite good at writing riffs with hooks, and the songs to go with them.  “Rock of Ages” has a life of its own now, radio will never let this one die.  “Photograph” was a mid-tempo pop rock classic, pointing the way to Hysteria, four years later….

Unlike the Hysteria and Adrenalize deluxe editions on the market, Pyromania has no B-sides.  There were no extra tracks lying around unreleased, and no B-sides available. The liner notes reveal that an 11th song was written, but not much else is known about it.

Instead, the bonus second CD contains an awesome sounding show from the Pyromania tour. It’s important to remember that no live albums or videos were released by Def Leppard until post-Hysteria, so this is the only live release featuring Rick Allen before his accident. Def Leppard sound absolutely ferocious. Joe Elliot’s voice is at its vocal-cord-shredding best, gargling glass like Brian Johnson possessed. Steve Clark and Phil Collen (the new boy) rip and shred on their guitars, and weave them into a wall of thunder (listen to “Switch 625”). The two Ricks, Allen and Savage, keep it rolling on the rhythm, steady as she goes. And then Brian May of Queen even shows up at the end for a CCR cover tune (with a surprise foray into Led Zeppelin)! Some of these songs have never been heard live on a CD before. Indeed, Leppard rarely play anything pre-Pyromania anymore.

SAM_2505

I mean, it’s always a treat to hear “Wasted”, isn’t it?  Combine that with some great tunage from High N’ Dry, such as “Mirror Mirror” and “Another Hit and Run”.  These are some of my favourite Def Leppard tracks anyway, and to hear them live in ’83 by a young and hungry band is really, really entertaining.

Pyromania being their third release, it would have been totally appropriate (and in hindsight very wise, considering the gap between albums) to release this concert as a live album back in the 80’s as the band buckled in for the very hard Hysteria recording sessions. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen. At least we get to hear it now!

5/5 stars

Pictured below:  the three versions I currently own.  The original LP, the 24 kt gold Ultradisc II, and the deluxe.