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It might seem incredible but there was a time when this band was respected and admired by the enthusiastic British heavy metal kids way back in the early-80’s, we’re talking of the times when groups of the first generation of the NWOBHM as Gillan, Spider, Trespass and White Spirit emerged in the underground scene and Joe Elliot himself still looked like a man. Their debut On Through The Night was positively received, even though its sound didn’t have much to do with the inventive and originality of Chateaux, Sweet Savage, Holocaust or Demon, it was rather the cheesiest stuff you could find but not as horrible as following releases. Money and fame didn’t arrive yet, so at least they made a couple of decent casual rock & roll tunes. For the next record, they found a great inspiration on AC/DC particularly, who were more popular and acclaimed than ever. Mutt Lange even produced them, so this is where the group and greedy producers around realize of the possibilities of making cash by modifying their sound and selling out.
The whole pack obeys a uniform scheme of easy straight melodic pop & roll, it would be even inexact to describe this as hard rock because aggression and attitude are completely inexistent. There’s a scandalous absence of complication and technique, certain humble complexity and a couple of lengthy tracks could be found on the debut, they clearly prefer playing it primitive, simple and accessible now (although none of these guys ever displayed remarkable skills before anyway). Limited musicians with limited ideas can only design mediocre music, you got the title-track or “Another Hit And Run”, both notable expressions of incompetence and tediousness, revealing like most compositions a truly silly configuration of poor structures and uninventive riffs that hardly vary at all. Elliot & co. put bigger emphasis on vocals (“Let It Go” speaks for itself), which as usual are annoyingly repetitive, dumb and intended to be catchy, talking of uninteresting stuff and abusing of the same chicks, party & booze issues, the kind of lyrical themes radio stations adore. That’s everything Def Leppard can offer, lame pop vocally-based music with no progression, power or real musicianship, getting more and more polite and cheerful in contrast with the ferocity and wicked imagery of many other NWOBHM acts. So their patterns and sound are far from talented, not even fresh or amusing, this might not be as difficult, exhausted and bluesy as the preceding 70’s classic rock but they lack basic characteristics of the new movement: the essential loose tempos and speed, overwhelming aggression and punk attitude, they only abuse of the evidently simpler ways 80’s British metal bands configured their music with, contrary to the past decade tiring complexity. Melody is another exhausting element, conceived with no grace or charm as Iron Maiden or Satan, most harmonies here are clumsy and vain, making these numbers inoffensive and comical.
Def Leppard were determined to simplify their already easy ways, as I mentioned taking huge influence from AC/DC as their direct unpretentious methodology proves. However, Joe doesn’t have the peculiar charisma of Brian Johnson (though his voice here is certainly cheesy and raspy) and both Willis & Clark lack the fresh ideas and inspiration of Malcom & Angus, who must be the only guys on Earth able to make a bunch of hard rock anthems out of a couple of simple riffs. Sometimes, Leppard nearly sound like a tribute band of the Australian rockers, deprived of originality, creativity and an own identity and attitude. Inevitably, those handicaps make each of these lame titles generic and empty, actually it is impossible to find significant big differences between cuts as they follow an exact pattern (Alright, “Bringin' On The Heartbreak” is a ballad and “Switch 625” is an instrumental - riffs sound pretty similar and repetitive anyway, no notable distinction). The only thing you’ll probably remember from this material are those impossible choruses but no riff or solo or instrumental passage, lyrics are supposed to be infectious, so damn insistent that you might end up singing the most stupid lines along. High ‘N’ Dry isn’t as exaggeratedly overproduced as its abominable successor Pyromania but Mutt Lange is already giving vocals bigger presence among the instrumental section, which is poor and inefficient. The band always played pretty accessible music from the very beginning compared with the underground spirit of Tellurian, Requiem, Hollow Ground or Ritual, their innate predilection for simplicity due to their limited technique and the massive melody was consolidated in this album, where all the decadence began for themselves and soon for the whole movement. And of course, if you wanna be on the radio you have to reduce the instrumental difficulty, so the tenuous talent displayed on the debut is totally denied in favor of the supremacy of vocals. They focus on a musically weaker direction that, on other hand, guaranteed fame and hits (How come the dumbest easiest stuff is what always succeeds and reaches the charts?) Back then, if you wanted to be rich you had to play it simple like Leppard here and sell out.
There’s nothing remarkable about this record, it’s like listening t one of those countless vain AC/DC tribute bands out there without the magic of the Young brothers and their song-writing ideas. The decay and mediocrity of 80’s rock is materialized and represented on each of these forgettable songs. Def Leppard should get credits for that, shortly afterwards starting that infamous trend of commercial radio pop with Pyromania, then came the make-up, the pink guitars, the extravagant clothes, Diamond Head’s Canterbury, Saxon’s Crusader, Savage’s Hyperactive, Jaguar’s This Time, Raven’s The Pack Is Back…and the list goes on. In conclusion, if you want honest rock & roll listen to the genuine product instead and avoid this. Such an irony back in those old days, a Leppard woven patch which said in big glitter letters “Heavy Metal Rules” was produced, albums like this were the less metal thing you could find, good sense of absurdist surreal humor those merchandise designers had, nearly as funny as Python's.
Torn between the grit of "On through the Night" and the more commercial sound of albums such as "Pyromania" and "Hysteria," this 1981 effort just might be the ultimate Def Leppard album. The hooks are excellently delivered, the production is more polished, and the band’s performance is a little more melodic than before. The album is also the first to feature legendary producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange and is the last to feature guitarist Pete Willis.
As previously stated, the band’s performance provides a strong balance between attitude and melody. The bass and drums may not stand out too much, but they do manage to provide a strong foundation and the guitars manage to provide plenty of great riffs and twin harmonies. Also worth mentioning are the vocals of Joe Elliot. Thankfully, the studio effects of later effects are completely unheard of and the singer’s high pitched croons and shrieks rarely go into castrato territory.
The songs themselves also provide a solid deal of variety. Energetic rockers are represented by tracks such as "Let It Go" and "No No No," a more accessible mid-tempo style is seen in tracks such as "You Got Me Runnin’" and "Mirror Mirror (Look into my Eyes)," and the strong ballad "Bringin’ on the Heartbreak" gave the band one of its earliest and best known hits. Also worthy of note is "Switch 625," which may be one of the band’s only instrumentals and includes some hypnotic guitars and excellent vocalizing.
Aside from a somewhat lightweight nature compared to the other bands of the NWOBHM movement, this album’s only flaw seems to be the occasional reference or resemblance to another tune. "Bringin’ on the Heartbreak" often reminds me of a heavier version of April Wine’s "Just between You and Me," the opening guitar strums in "You Got Me Runnin’" remind me of those on KISS’s "King of the Nighttime World," "Lady Strange" reminds me of Rush’s "Limelight," and "No No No" resembles "Riff Raff" by AC/DC. Kind of odd, but it’s not really anything to get worked up over...
All in all, it’s a pretty strong album that should appeal to fans of hard rock and classic metal the world over.
1) Strong hooks and accessible structures throughout
2) Great twin guitar harmonies and solid vocals
3) Good variety
1) A little lightweight for heavier fans
2) Vague references/resemblances to other songs
My Current Favorites:
"Let It Go," "Bringin’ on the Heartbreak," "You Got Me Runnin’," "Lady Strange," and "Mirror Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)"
High'n'Dry has always been an unsung album, stuck in between the glitter of the next album and the grittiness of the last. For the last two decades, mullet-waring dumbasses have defended their later albums as not too bad and purists have held up On Through the Night as an example of what happens when you don't concentrate more on your backing vocals than the actual songs. High'n'Dry is always caught in the middle as it contains some qualities of both. So it will probably come as a surprise when I say that High'N'Dry is the best album of all time. However, prog fans be warned - the band (besides Pete Willis) doesn't exactly showcase their musical ability.
I'll come right out and say it. The reason that any thinking person should have Def Leppard's second full-length album in their collection is that it kicks ass. It's as simple as that. It kicks off side one with twin anthems Let It Go and Another Hit and Run, and only lets up once, on track four with a ballad which nevertheless kicks most other ballads out of the room with hard-hitting chorus. There is no filler here. There are tracks that were intended to be filler, but rock anyway. Mirror, Mirror and You Got Me Runnin' come to mind
There are two key songs on this album, Let It Go and Lady Strange. Let It Go is a straightforward rocker with one of the coolest verse buildups in all of music. I've made my disc skip numerous times thrashing around to it. And it's not even the album's best song. You see, Lady Strange is a perfect song. The twin-guitar harmony at the beginning, the pounding verse riff, the wonderful solo, and the harmony returning at the end... everything screams perfection. It is defenitely the best conventional rock song ever written.
There are only a few individual songs that can match the quality of this whole album. Don't miss it.
I was going through my vinyl collection today, and pulled this number out again on a whim. It didn't take long for me to remember why I INSISTED on picking High 'n' Dry up when I saw it. The thing is very hard to take off a turntable.
Odd as it may sound to say this about a Def Leppard album, High 'n' Dry doesn't get nearly the credit it deserves. It is the perfect mix of early '80s British heavy metal and the then embryonic LA hair band scene. The songwriting is brilliant, and the chemistry between Steve Clarke and Pete Willis is exceptional. Joe Elliot's raspy voice grinds over their sleazy riffs, spewing sordid tales of sex, drugs, and booze that would make Gene Simmons nostalgic for his youth. You can hear so many great examples of inebriated party rock, but there's also substance beneath the surface. The boys were legends in their own minds, and they worked very hard to make their delusions believable. It almost came true.
High 'n' Dry was also the beginning of Def Leppard's superstar era. Let it Go, Bringin' on the Heartbreak, and the title track all received a decent ammount of radio play, with Bringin' seemingly played by MTV every five minutes. What's unexpected, is the strength of the album tracks. Many of them were hidden gems, a rare feat for a hair band. This release is a glimpse into what Def Leppard could have been, had they not wasted their careers with drug overdoses, alcoholism, and horrible car accidents. They could have been remembered in the same breath as their heroes: Queen, T-Rex, and Led Zeppelin. Here, they are nigh equal with the greats.
Every song is catchy, and the guitars and vocal melodies still manage to be phenominelly impressive. The rhythm section isn't much to write home about, but I could say the same for some of the greatest rock bands ever. In Def Leppard's defense, they pioneered the "shout along" choruses that helped Bon Jovi, Poison, Mottley Crue, and Skid Row make millions. It's a shame that reality and the fast livin' of the rock n' roll world got in the way of those ambitions.The bottom line is that when Def Lep pressed this to wax, they seemed ready to assume control of rock's direction for the next ten years. The band certainly had the talent to pull it off. Echoes of the Brits' futility would later be heard in Guns N' Roses. They followed Def Leppard's example in many ways, some of which were ill-advised.
Def Leppard's best album is also their most hard rockin', and is one of my personal favourites of the catalogue, right next to the lovely Retro-Active in fact. It's also one of the three primary arguments for Def Leppard's inclusion in the Encylopaedia, the others being the records immediately before and after it. This album is just a straight forward party metal album, combining NWOBHM leads with a total AC/DC groove. And man, Joe Elliott could scream like nobody’s business, like a Bon Scott with range.
I am a big fan of the Leps, even SOME of the later pop style stuff, and you can't deny they could write some pretty sweet riffs. This album is all about them riffs, most of em good, a few great, but a lot are a bit same-y. This album sort of blurs together (think Reign in Blood or High Voltage) because a lot of the songs are very alike, but the good ones are total classics. I think my life would be immeasurably worse without "Let it Go", "Switch 625", "Mirror, Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)", "No No No", "Bringin' on the Heartbreak", "Me and My Wine", and "High'n'Dry (Saturday Night)".
"Let it Go", wow, what a true anthem. That riff is pure gold, those lyrics delightfully young dumb and fulla...fun, and that lead break is fantastic. And Joe, Joe, Joe! This man is shredding his vocal chords in an undeniably metallic fashion. This is one of those tunes AC/DC could've written, maybe should've written, had they the youthful energy that electrifies these Leppards. Too bad AC/DC would continue doing their thing and doing it well, while Def Lep would go off to sunnier, more top 40 type pastures.
The title track is a boozy and bloozy barnstormer, the new gold standard for drinking songs (call it a tie with "Have a Drink on Me"), from that slinky Steve Clark intro to the fist-pumping chorus. Just nice, steely guitar work all around, the classic live video being the perfect smoky companion to this one. I mean, I just gotta give it up to that perfect midpaced groove, Rick "Two Arms" Allen laying it down with admirable simplicity and feel.
You've all heard "Bringin' on the Heartbreak" right? Just a great, great ballad, in no way wussy or corporate. Well… a little wussy and silly, but we can live with that right? In fact, Def Leppard originally didn't want to include it because it was a ballad. Can you imagine that today? I certainly can't. Anyway, beautiful acoustic work, lovely Pete Willis solo, and some really heartfelt vocals from Joe. As I said, lovely. But what's this? It's over, but we have some throbbing Sav bass and...its segueing into the next song, a galloping instrumental called "Switch 625". Man, this is just a great, great song. I imagine Joe off getting a drink to cool off his overworked vocal chords while the boys get down and rock out. Good song, particularly awesome when it occasionally gets airplay when some DJ just lets the CD keep spinning.
"On Through the Night" does the whole Houses of the Holy-"Houses of the Holy" thing, the title track from an album not actually showing up on that album, rather being pushed to the next one. This one's a little dull, a little poppy, just the most Mutt Lange track on a down and dirty record. And it's pretty long for this record. I tend to skip it.
Although the title is sorta out of place, "Mirror, Mirror" is a stunner, just an aggressive track, the whole band locking into another one of those magic grooves, Elliott shrieking over another "who cares?" lyric (as in the lyrics don’t matter rather than ‘I don’t give a damn’ type) and just selling it perfectly. Nothing particularly amazing on paper, but explosive magic when you hear it.
"No No No", man, superb near-speed metal, the angriest track in the Def Leppard catalogue bar none really, not even any real competition. It's songs like this that make "Adrenalize", "Euphoria", and "X" just depressing, this kind of real power really getting lost in the shuffle. Almost sounds like the Leps are denying their eventual sell-out, but as convincing as it sounds, it was not to be. Still, give 'em credit for being metal once, and undeniably so at the time.
If you have the Canadian version, you get a remix of "Bringin' on the Heartbreak" that sounds to syrupy and poppy with the new mix, Mutt adding some of that annoying sparkle, polishing off the grit. Just go listen to the original again, it's better.
"Me and My Wine" was a single the band released as a laugh, and man, this is probably the last heavy track the band would record until the criminally underrated Retro-Active. Interchangeable with the title track, but a little quicker, a little angrier especially on the verses. Actually, this is what qualifies for rage in the Leppard camp, convincingly sour but still leading one to wish the worst of all of our worries was a bad hangover.
Highlights: “Let it Go”, “High N’ Dry (Saturday Night)”, “No No No”