Def Leppard – High N Dry

1991 Mercury/Phonogram

I know, I know.  What in the world is Def Leppard doing in the sonic abyss?  They’ve sold millions of records and everyone knows who they are.

Now I have a question for you.  Can you name any songs from this disc besides “High n Dry (Saturday Night)” and “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak?”  If you can, you’re among the fortunate few, as Def Leppard themselves have rarely included anything from this album in their live sets since the dawn of their grossly over-produced-and-emotionally-sucked-dry era began with the release of ‘Hysteria.’

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for these guys, weathering the twin tragedies of the alcohol-related loss of a founding member and their drummer’s loss of an arm.  I mean, I can be a jerk and talk about how their creativity has all but disappeared since the abysmal (in a bad way) ‘Adrenalize,’ but you’ve just gotta admire how they stood by drummer Rick Allen as he had to re-learn how to play the drums…with one arm and a helluva special drum kit.   Beyond any criticism, it’s undeniable that the band does have heart.

I still say that while ‘Pyromania’ was a fine album and a classic in its own right, the real gem of the Def Leppard catalogue is the album that preceded it…’High N Dry.’

This was the album that made me a Def Leppard fan back in the day, and I still say it’s the definitive DL disc. Although “Pyromania” was good and was their breakthrough to stardom, “High N Dry” was their last album that had any real BITE.

After this, the tedious production values took over and sapped the primal emotion from their music. Don’t believe me?   Check out the self-produced B-Sides from the singles off the “Hysteria” CD: they all sound more lively and real than any ‘Hysteria’ album cuts and they would have fit just fine on “High N Dry.”   The guitar sound is punchy & wet, the energy level is high, and the delivery urgent. Mutt Lange does a great production job here, too, as this was before he started over-producing everything.

There’s a lot more here than “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak.” In fact, the second half of the album (“You Got Me Runnin’,” “Lady Strange,” “On Through the Night,” “Mirror, Mirror (Look Into My Eyes),” and “No No No”) is just flawless.  I remember the first time I ever heard of them.  I walked into a record store and it was silent…then the first chords of “You Got Me Runnin'” (still my fave DL song) blew out of the sound system speakers.  I had no money, but I flipped through the albums in the store for 20 minutes until the rest of the album had played.  I was riveted.   Then that evening I called my best friend and fellow metalhead Peter Gutierrez on the phone to tell him about this new band I had “discovered.”   He teased me for years afterward because he said I actually called them Def Panther on that call.  I’m red-faced even writing that here, but man it’s just a hysterical memory!

This is one of those albums that many people own but few people really know.  If you are one of those people, it’s time to revisit this disc and just listen from start to finish.  You can skip the “remix” of “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” with those stupid and unnecessary keyboards.  Other than that, it’s darn near perfect. This is the album that made me a music addict…the first “unknown” band I “discovered” for myself and began the journey I continue to this day in search of more new music that rocks my world.

This disc is Def Leppard’s best and a true rock classic.

Rating:  5 out of 5