Def Leppard - 1987 Hysteria

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ARTIST: Def Leppard
ALBUM: Hysteria
LABEL: Bludgeon Riffola (UK), Mercury (USA)
SERIAL: HYSLP 1, 830 675-1, 830 675-2
YEAR: 1987
CD REISSUE: 2006, Mercury/Bludgeon Riffola, 9843047 (Deluxe edition)

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image

LINEUP: Joe Elliott - lead vocals * Phil Collen - guitars * Steve Clark - guitars * Rick Savage - bass * Rick Allen - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Women * 02 Rocket * 03 Animal * 04 Love Bites * 05 Pour Some Sugar On Me * 06 Armageddon It * 07 Gods Of War * 08 Don't Shoot Shotgun * 09 Run Riot * 10 Hysteria * 11 Excitable * 12 Love And Affection * 13 Tear It Down (bonus) * 14 Ride Into The Sun (bonus) * 15 I Wanna Be Your Hero (bonus) * 16 Ring Of Fire (bonus)

Background

Def Leppard set the world on fire in 1983 with their 'Pyromania' album (see what I did there - ahem..), selling close to 20 million copies worldwide and spawning four songs that will forever be staples on classic rock stations.

'Pyromania' was indeed a huge album, the band taking the rawer sound of their first two albums and polishing it to a shine that had not been seen in hard rock to that point.

'Mutt' Lange had produced both of those albums. While 'High 'n' Dry' didn't sound out of the ordinary production-wise, the band and Lange worked together with a common vision to make 'Pyromania' stand alone in its sound. And it worked very well.

Of course, if an approach works the first time, might as well try it again, right? Lange was again brought in as producer. But after working non-stop on several high-profile projects, he bowed out due to exhaustion.

Drummer Rick Allen lost his left arm in a well-publicized auto accident in 1984. Kudos to the band for supporting him in his recovery and his learning how to play a modified drum kit.

After failed attempts to continue without Lange, the master producer came back on board. They set out to create an album that would be even greater than 'Pyromania', where every song could be a hit single. Finally, in August 1987, the long-awaited album was released.

The Songs

If you were anywhere near a radio from 1987 - 1989, you no doubt heard most of these songs countless times. In spite of the hype awaiting this album, it didn't storm out of the gate like its predecessor did.

Part of this was because of the lead single, 'Women', which is the opening track on the album. Whereas 'Photograph' was instantly catchy, 'Women' is more of a slow-burn tune, more suited as a solid album track than a lead single.

Hardly a bad tune, but it doesn't start the album off with the same energy as the first track on any of their first three albums. It really should have been placed further down in the running order, methinks. It is a rather lengthy tune too, at 5:42. As a single, it barely dented the charts.

Unfortunately, 'Rocket' doesn't exactly improve matters. It is even longer, at over six and a half minutes, and it is really quite an experimental song by hard rock standards. In researching this album, I had forgotten that Lange had produced 'Heartbreak City' by The Cars immediately prior to 'Hysteria'. That certainly explains some of the sounds you hear on 'Rocket'.

This was single number seven from the album, an impressive feat, and it did very well in the charts. I must add that the single version was much shorter, leaving out a good amount of the weirdness. When I got this album in 1987, these first two songs certainly did not inspire me to put this one into heavy rotation (although 'Women' is a good-enough tune overall).

'Animal' begins to stop the bleeding somewhat. It was the second single, and it did what 'Women' didn't, which is get the band some good chart action. Not a particularly heavy song, it does have a catchy melody and chorus. It's fairly close to 'Photograph' although a little lighter (and weirder).

'Love Bites' is the first song that really stood out for me, and I had it pegged to become a successful single upon first listen. It was finally released as a single one year after the album was released. And proving that I occasionally have pretty good judgment, it became the band's first (and only) number one hit on the U.S. Top 40. Pretty darn good for a sixth single.

This song was inescapable during late 1988. I consider it an evolution of 'Bringin' On The Heartbreak' - a more polished and commercial version to be sure. But it's the first song on here that doesn't try anything strange - they play it straight, and it works.

Fourth single 'Pour Some Sugar On Me' is the tune that really catapulted the album to the stratosphere. Do I think it is a great song? No, not really. It is catchy. But it's not really what I was looking for with a Def Leppard album. And I've heard it enough that it is part of my musical essence, for better or worse.

'Armageddon It' was single number five and another huge hit on the charts. Of course, the song has nothing whatsoever to do with the end of the world, rather it is a play on 'are you getting it?'. Another catchy song that, like the prior one, is just as much pop as rock.

I have to admit that I had totally forgotten about 'Gods Of War' until just a couple of years ago when I decided to give this entire album another chance. Kinda shows you how much I played this whole album since the late 80's. It takes a minute to really get going. But it is the closest to some of the excellent album cuts from 'Pyromania'. I would much rather have preferred some more songs in this vein.

'Don't Shoot Shotgun' might as well come from that Cars album the way it starts, but it quickly turns into a nice energetic romp. Same with 'Run Riot'. These two are not at the level of the hits from 'Pyromania', but they are more true to that style.

'Hysteria' was single number three and was surprisingly the first top ten single for the band. A pretty laid-back song for a hard rock band, with some more of those quirky effects.

'Excitable' is another song that has its moments but would have been better served with a more standard approach.

The album ends with 'Love And Affection'. Like many of the tunes before, it has a good overall sound but doesn't really stand out. Something tells me that it would have been single number eight if they had gone that far, as it is overall pretty similar to 'Hysteria' and 'Animal'.

Four bonus tracks were recorded and released either on the B-sides of singles or on other smaller releases.

'Tear It Down' would make it onto 'Adrenalize' in 1992. I prefer it to many of the twelve actual album tracks.

'Ride Into The Sun' and 'I Wanna Be Your Hero' are pretty good rockers.

'Ring Of Fire' is not the Johnny Cash classic but yet another good rock song. I'm not sure whether Lange was the producer for these, as they have a rawer and edgier sound. I think many fans would have preferred the band to have stayed truer to that sound.

In Summary

Regardless of what you or I might think of this album, it certainly appealed to a great number of people - over 20 million. I've read a lot of various opinions on this album. Some love it, as it is a major part of the soundtrack of their youth.

Others, like me, find it to be a step down in overall quality compared to their earlier albums - more of an impressive technical accomplishment than an excellent hard rock album. I could definitely have done without all the high-tech sounds that permeate this album - they don't add anything to my enjoyment of it. I heard enough of the singles on radio that I went over 20 years without playing the whole album until about two years ago.

I'm reminded why I didn't love this nearly as much as 'High 'n' Dry' and (especially) 'Pyromania'. But I have gained a new appreciation for the five songs that were not released as singles. They're not as strong as anything on 'Pyromania', but they're not quite as forgettable as I had made them out to be.


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