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A Welcome Blast From The Past - 75%

corviderrant, April 27th, 2008

Wow...this was one of the first hard rock albums I bought with my own money back in the day, alongside "Metal Health" and "Shout at the Devil"! I remember this album getting lots of airplay on radio back then, understandably so given that it's a very solid album. I really don't consider this a "glam" album, it was still too rough and tumble to earn that status, highly polished though the production was. It's more the vocal harmonies and the melodies extant in the songs that give it a more commercial feel, but if you look past that you see a level of sophistication in the guitar arrangements that goes beyond standard issue Kiss wannabe riffs or simple big, loud anthems. Then again, Def Leppard always wanted success in America (the second album had a song called "Hello, America" on it, even) and they achieved it with this album, I think.

The choruses are very catchy and memorable and I still find myself humming them to this day in idle moments. "Foolin'" and "Rock of Ages" stand out in this regard in particular. Even "Coming Under Fire" and "Rock! Rock! Til You Drop!" stand out there too after all these years. Joe Elliott's rough, screaming vocals drive those home with conviction. In later years he became too much the squealer for my taste, but this album shows him as he was before he went that route, a more guttural approach with more power behind his vocals. He was capable of softer vocals as well, like the verses of "Foolin'" where he sings in a more subdued vein and pulls it off well.

Phil Collen and Steve Clark made an excellent guitar tandem that bounced all manner of guitar parts off of the walls on these songs. Rather like a more relaxed and calm version of the Amott brothers, they arranged the songs with an ear-catching variety of guitar parts that are just much lurking in the background as texture as they are loud and up front. There are an abundance of clean toned and acoustic parts throughout, and their soloing is tasteful and well-constructed at all times, no random flailing here. A strong blues sensibility informs their playing and the shining solo moments on the album are still on "Photograph", where Phil builds a fabulously scorching yet melodic moment in the sun in the middle and Steve rides out with a sweet, haunting ending. "Rock of Ages" does pretty well in that respect too, with some nice whammy bar stuff going on in the middle of the solo. In short, a very underrated guitar team, Clark & Collen were.

The Ricks, Savage and Allen, are a tight and capable, if workmanlike rhythm section that drive things along in a highly appropriate fashion on every song. They are not flashy or grandstanding at all, just a good rhythm section that lay down the bottom and rhythm like bedrock. For this band, there is no other way to do it.

Standout songs for me are pretty much what everyone else agrees on: "Rock! Rock! Til You Drop!", "Rock of Ages" (with its amusing scat intro and Joe declaring "It's better to burn out than fade away!!!" convincingly), "Photograph" (the mega hit that was understandably so since it is easily the best tune here), "Coming Under Fire", and "Foolin'". Understandably so, since these are great songs! The rest of the album is solid but not as good, hence the rating of only 75. But still, this is not an album to be disregarded or ignored--that goes to anything after "Hysteria", for my taste. Mutt Lange's production does seem a bit dated with its massive airplane hangar drum sound, and this is another reason it doesn't get a higher rating. Those niggling things aside, still, this album holds up well musically and shows a band hitting its stride and really jacking it up a notch to take over American radio and video channels. Check it out and give it a chance.