Hysteria (Deluxe Edition)

Def Leppard

Def Leppard’s Hysteria is to rock music what the Mona Lisa is to art, or the Parthenon is to architecture — a masterpiece. Originally released in 1987, it represented a pinnacle of artistic achievement in its genre. Hysteria perfectly welded metal with pop, and chromed it with cast-of-thousands harmonies, layers of guitars, a bludgeoning bottom-end, and Mutt Lange’s phenomenal production. It summarized Lep’s sharpshooter songwriting with 6 smash hits: “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Love Bites,” “Armageddon It,” “Hysteria,” “Rocket” and “Animal.” And it quelled any doubts about following up the success of Pyromania or coping with drummer Rick Allen’s devastating arm amputation, when these blue-collar boys from dead-end Sheffield found Hysteria brawling with rock royalty — Michael Jackson — for Thriller’s #1 spot on the charts.

Hysteria: Deluxe Edition is like having two desserts for dinner. It amplifies the original’s strengths, adding knee-wobbling live cuts, B-sides, studio remixes and a densely detailed souvenir booklet. The first disc of this two-disc set is a brilliant remaster of an already sonically superb original. It’s not merely a commonplace bass-and-drums amplification — which would be deadly to Def Lep’s already Richter-ratcheting bottom end--but a detailed polishing of all instrumentation and singing to dazzling crystal-clarity. And the cherry atop all this icing is the inclusion of four B-sides, including “Tear It Down.”

The five live B-sides on the second disc sound just as stellar: clean and clear, while sacrificing none of the energy and intensity that make Def Leppard fearsome predators onstage, as well as in the studio. There’s a rousing version of Alice Cooper’s “Elected,” and a thunderous rendition of “Rock of Ages” that segues into a medley of “Not Fade Away,” “My Generation,” “Radar Love,” “Come Together,” “Whole Lotta Love,” and back again. The second disc’s remixes are a little sketchier. The “Orgasmic Mix” (as they call it) of “Excitable” is a pandemically catchy, funked-up version of the original. But the extended versions of “Animal” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” are more like studio outtakes that have odd, lyricless gaps. Perhaps they were included to give an exclusive peek into the journey a song goes through in the studio before it winds up at its final destination.

Speaking of final destination, be sure to check out the disc’s last cut, a comical rendition of Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Release Me,” screeched and squealed out by the band’s Welsh crew master, Malvin Mortimer. In spite of all of the Def Leppard’s trials and tribulations, they’re still managing to keep the “hysterical,” right along with the Hysteria.

~ Merryl Lentz

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