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Def Leppard matures on their second release. Certainly the presence of world-class producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange helped the group out, but they were maturing as songwriters and as musicians regardless. This is without a doubt their strongest album, and it also happens to rock the harder than anything before or after it.
Before Def Leppard were interested in being a pop band all they wanted to do was be a dominating hard rock band and get out of the steel production of their hometown. This album captures the band at the end of this phase, and it shows. This album rocks harder and with more determination than "On Through the Night", and has much more energy than any of the more mechanical albums that came after. Pete Willis seemed to have been the force keeping these guys rocking, and his departure was missed as Phil Collen has openly admitted recently that up until recently he had no feel, he was just trying to play as fast as he could. On this album the solos have more meaning than they do on Pyromania, and more balls than they do on Hysteria.
The sound quality of the album is superb and fits the style. The presence of Mike Shipley and Lange is more than welcome at this point, the guitars have much more mid-range power than on the debut, the drums thump without being thunderous fake cannons they became later in the decade, and you can actually hear Rick Savage in the mix! Not to mention Joe Elliot has greatly improved as a singer. His voice has matured and he's not frequently singing out of key like on the debut, and has also adopted a more gravel based rock style. This new level of vocal perfection is most likely because of the addition of Lange and his meticulous detail of perfection in all aspects of the making of an album. Elliot actually sounds similar to the late Bon Scott, while on the next album he seems to try and emulate Brian Johnson. Coming between his productions of "Back in Black" and "For Those About To Rock We Salute You", this album has an obvious AC/DC influence. This influence improves the music from their mediocre barroom boogie of yesteryear. It's debatable that some of these tracks are heavier than AC/DC.
"Another Hit and Run", "No No No" and "On Through the Night" (the song, not the album) are the heaviest tracks this band would ever record, and perhaps not coincidentally, they are the three best songs that this band ever released. "Hit and Run" is a heavy very angry response to the criticism that their debut received. Catchy hard riffs dominate the verses with a loud shout chorus to climax that anger. There's a soft breakdown in the bridge that just fits the song and adds to the dynamics, giving it the chance to crash into the chorus which is the climax of the song. "On Through the Night" sounds like nothing released on the previous album of the same name, it rocks hard fast and never lets up. The album also has the band's best ballad "Brinin' on the Heartbreak", which also happens to be the only ballad they released that didn't come off as either cheesy or syrupy. The only instrumental on the early Leppard albums "Switch 625" is not technically astounding, but it is melodically pleasing and has a nice build of intensity, their best instrumental by default really. The other songs as a whole are very high quality AC/DC style rock delivered with power, energy, hunger, and a looseness that this band would unfortunately never match again. Every song on this album rocks hard (minus the ballad), and delivers the goods with catchy riffs and strong melodic hooks that were missing from the debut.
This album does not have the problem that Pyromania does as far as mastering, and there is not a band sounding version. The best one to get would be the original CD for its two bonus songs, the remixes of "Brinin' on the Heartbreak", and b-side "Me and My Wine". The remix of "Heartbreak" adds nothing to the original song, and the cheesy synths and added '80s drums actually detract from its appeal. The remix of "Me and My Wine" is superior, and is the only version available on CD. It's a fun song that doesn't really fit the style of the album. The band seems to be having a good time and letting loose on this song, while they seem to be rather angry on a lot of the actual album. It's about the amusing after effects of a night of heavy drinking.
Overall "High 'n' Dry" is the strongest Def Leppard album because of its sharp and focused songwriting and the assistance of Lange and Shipley manning the boards. Def Leppard's hardest rocking album is also their strongest. It shows a young and hungry band whose vision was yet untainted with looming commercial desires.
Well, two years after their debut, Def Leppard unleashed their second album, "High 'N' Dry". While their debut was popular, they didn't really start to matter until this second outing. Everything is in place here for Def Leppard to become NWOBHM's version of pop stars, and they fulfill that potential 100%
Def Leppard were never really a metal band. They were a classic rock band disguised as NWOBHM and nowhere else do they sound more comfortable in that role than here. The songs here are tight rock anthems with extra loud guitar, and it mostly works perfectly. This album starts with the great "Let it Go". While Def Leppard never had great lyrics, this song is pushing it. Plenty of songs are about sex, but few word it as poorly as this one. However, an awesome riff and solo keep you distracted enough to distract you from the less than stellar lyrics.
Other album high-lights are "Another Hit and Run" and "Mirror Mirror". "Another Hit and Run" is probably the hardest rocking track here, with a driving riff and memorable chorus, it's the full hard rock package. "Mirror Mirror" is basically a song from the pop era Def Leppard, but it works better than almost any later day Def Leppard song. The chorus is one of their best and the riff is good enough (however, like most pop songs, the vocals really carry the energy). This basically is a song from "Pyromania" that got released early.
Production wise, this album is good, but not great. It's a huge improvement from their debut, but that wasn't too hard to do really. It is sharp and isn't too compressed, giving the songs a good amount of needed energy. Unlike their debut, the songs are played fast enough to let them have their proper momentum and really helps even the bad songs feel fun. I couldn't get through this without talking about "Bringin on the Heartbreak". Power ballad it may be, it's well above average and really gives a much needed break from the rest of the album. Honestly, I'm glad it's on this album.
In the end, it's an often overlooked great. It's nowhere near perfect, but for the most part it gets things right. Totally worth picking up, if not quite worth hunting for. 8/10
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”