High 'n' Dry

Def Leppard

Mercury Records, 1981


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


When Def Leppard entered the realm of superstardom, their early works tended to be overlooked. It's almost as if their history started at Pyromania, and anything before that was to occasionally be dusted for posterity.

High 'N' Dry, Def Leppard's 1981 sophomore release, occasionally gets a little airplay thanks to the song "Bringin' On The Heartbreak," but can anyone tell me the last time they heard a radio station take a chance with anything else off of this album? 'Nuff said. I don't know why they don't, for while this album is by no means their masterpiece, it's still pretty entertaining.

The last album to feature guitarist Pete Willis (who would be replaced by Phil Collen on Pyromania), this album also marks the beginning of the band's tenure under producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange". For this outing, it sometimes feels like Lange falls back to the way he worked with bands like AC/DC; the richness of the layered tracks on future albums gives way to just trying to polish the hard rock sound of the band this time around. I'm not saying this is a bad thing (though people who pick this up expecting to hear an early version of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Hysteria will walk away shaking their heads).

Joe Elliott and crew come out of the gate strong with the track "Let It Go," one of the tracks I can quickly pinpoint as "coulda-woulda-shoulda been" hit singles. Everything seems to click for Def Leppard on this one, even down to the harmony vocals on the bridge. The energy sags a little bit with "Another Hit And Run," which doesn't quite live up to the power, but comes back in full force with another one of those should've been hit singles, "High 'N' Dry (Saturday Night)".

Two things do bother me about High 'N' Dry, though. First, did we really need two different versions of "Bringin' On The Heartbreak" (and did we need the Styx-like instrumental "Switch 625" to follow the original without a segue)? Second, I wonder what the original version of "Me & My Wine" sounded like; all we're left with on this album is a remix "bonus track". (For the record, I'm working off my old vinyl copy of this release.)

The remainder of High 'N' Dry, for the most part, is solid pop-metal, though it's not the top-quality material that Def Leppard would soon be noted for. Oh, I still like "You Got Me Runnin'" (which reminds me a lot of "Comin' Under Fire" from Pyromania), "On Through The Night" and "Mirror, Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)". But when they're paired up with subpar (though not by much) efforts such as "Lady Strange" and "No No No," some of their thunder is stolen.

I will say this about High 'N' Dry: it's a marked improvement over their first disc On Through The Night (which we still have to get to here) in both songwriting and album sound. I'm sure the latter is thanks to Lange's master hand.

High 'N' Dry is the kind of album that remains in the background, known by the long-time fans of Def Leppard, but waiting to be discovered by many other people. Dig around your local record store and try to unearth a copy of this. Even with the weaknesses, it's well worth your time.

Rating: B-

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© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mercury Records, and is used for informational purposes only.