by Tim Durling
Label: Bludegon Riffola/Mercury/Veritgo/PolyGram/Phonogram/I Don't Want Your/Phonogram/I Don't Need Your/Phonogram/Universal/Whatever
Produced by (Colonel) Tom Allom
Joe Ellliott: "throat"
Steve Clark/Pete Willis: guitars
Rick Savage: bass
Rick Allen: drums
I understand that remastered versions of Pyromania and Adrenalize are being released; which is fine and dandy but it's a crime that this album gets so overlooked, even by the band itself. Mind you, I love their later stuff (except for Slang and X) but this is a great album, and in the same way that the first Rush album is quite different from everything that came later, so it is with Def Leppard.
Def Leppard were part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, but even though they were never really that heavy, they definitely rocked hard. The only remotely metallic songs here would be "When the Walls Came Tumbling Down," "Answer to the Master," and "Overture." And that's only because lyrically they could almost be termed slightly gothic. If you've never heard this album and are one of those people who hate Def Leppard, you should give this one a shot. No "Love Bites," no Mutt Lange in sight. However, there are pointers to that direction, if only in hindsight. For starters, from the beginning the band always had fantastic vocal harmonies, not as polished as say, Queen, but for such a young band their talents were indeed impressive. The guitars are intricately arranged, Rick Allen was something like 16 on this album and he was just amazing. Tom Allom's production is adequate but not Earth-shattering...I'm guessing they were on a bit of a shoestring budget. Here we go...
1) Rock Brigade - The boys get right down to business with this, their NWOBHM anthem to excite young punters. The title pretty much says it all, and in the chorus you get a taste of their harmony vocals.
2) Hello America - The band's first shot as a single was a pretty deliberate attempt to woo Uncle Sam which got them a considerable amount of flack back home. By far the poppiest thing on this album, great vocals in the chorus, never been too sure about that skittering synth though. Oh well...brings back fun memories of watching the "Historia" video collection.
3) Sorrow is a Woman - This is the closest thing to a ballad on this album, but it's still got plenty of rocking parts. Joe Elliott sings in a much lower register on this and most of the album, but you can still tell it's him. Again, great guitar throughout.
4) It Could Be You - This song absolutely rocks but the chorus suffers for a bit of ill-advised effects on the vocals ("it could be you you you you it could be me me me me me") but no matter. Fast little one too, only 2:33.
5) Satellite - Very cool, catchy little rocker here. Def Leppard always had a knack for good, solid melody. Nothing syrupy or saccharine here (did ya get that, sweet to taste, saccharine?) just hooks galore, songs to stick in yer head. There is some very early footage of them doing this song floating about on youtube.
6) When the Walls Came Tumbling Down - No, nothing to do with John Mellencamp. One of the songs that perhaps hasn't aged well. Any song with a narration is bound to sound dated, basically an end of world doom kind of song (dare I say Armageddon:), it does rock though.
7) Wasted - The song which seems to have become the best known here, this one was written start to finish by the late great Steamin' Steve Clark. If there was any song the band would do from this album now, it would be this one. Great riff.
8) Rocks Off - This song was the title of their long out of print and never released in North America anyway EP. Tricky little riff and a dandy shuffle on the drums too.
9) It Don't Matter - Not my favorite on here, but passable.
10) Answer to the Master - Almost metallic here, a pretty majestic riff kicks this one off.
11) Overture - Not sure why they called the last song "Overture," but whatever. I believe this was the song that got their first managers interested in the band. It is notable that contractual disputes between MSB Management and their future managers Q-Prime led to them not thanking them on the album.
So there ya go, kind of hard to believe the next album track the world would hear from these guys would be "Let it Go," but the band have no reason to be ashamed of this album. Forget your misconceptions of Def Leppard if you're not a fan. If you enjoy late 70s, early 80s British hard rock, you should give this one a chance.