On Through The Night

Def Leppard

Mercury Records, 1980


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Sometimes, I can get the gist of an album after just one listen. Sometimes, it takes me a few spins, or even a few days to really get into what the artist or band was trying to accomplish.

In the case of On Through The Night, the 1980 full-length debut from Def Leppard, it's taken me damn near 20 years -- just about the length of time it takes Joe Elliott and crew to record new albums these days.

In a sense, it's hard to objectively view or listen to this album today, what with the superstardom that Def Leppard experienced with Pyromania, the series of tragedies the band has faced, and the almost mythical proportions surrounding Hysteria and its recording. If you judge this album from your experiences with songs like "Photograph" or "Pour Some Sugar On Me," you're going to come away with a bad taste in your mouth.

But let's take a look at the big picture. In 1980, Def Leppard were just five guys unknowingly riding the crest of what became known as the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. The band -- vocalist Elliott, guitarists Steve Clark and Pete Willis, bassist Rick Savage and drummer Rick Allen -- were five young men hungry to make a name for themselves outside of England, and they were still searching for a sound they could call their own.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

They almost nailed it on the first side alone -- even without the help of a superstar producer like Robert John "Mutt" Lange. Right from the start, tracks such as "Rock Brigade" and "Hello America" dare the listener to take a seat and be captivated by the journey that Def Leppard aims to take you on. Oh, sure, the production isn't quite as polished, but the energy, talent and emotion are all there in spades -- and that's something you can't tweak a knob on in post-production.

Even tracks like "Sorrow Is A Woman" -- the first suggestion of ballads courtesy of the verses -- cuts through the preconceived notions of Def Leppard and demand that they be taken on their own merit. For a while, it honestly feels like Def Leppard can do no wrong on this album.

But On Through The Night does eventually hit that pothole separating the solid songwriting from the chaff of filler material -- starting with the spoken-word intro to "When The Walls Came Tumbling Down." Granted, this was indeed a first effort (not including the band's independently-released EP), and some slack does indeed have to be allowed for -- but the drop-off in songwriting quality between tracks like "Sorrow Is A Woman" and "Satellite" to the level of "When The Walls Came Tumbling Down" and "It Don't Matter" (despite that syncopated rhythm track laid down by Allen) is a tad disheartening. It's a pretty significant difference between the levels of songwriting -- both from the lyrical and the musical points of view -- and is the one thing which marks On Through The Night as one that's strictly for the die-hard fans.

All of this being said, I wouldn't be surprised if, somewhere, someone in either the music industry or in radio decided to dust this one off and help try to lead a re-discovery of this first effort. Despite the passage of time, the occasional dated sound and the weak effort here and there, there is enough good material to recommend On Through The Night to those curious to hear what Def Leppard sounded like before they were ready for Behind The Music.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2003 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.