The history behind Hysteria is enough to fill a book. If you truly want to inside story, check out wikipedia or their episode of “Classic Albums” on VH-1 Classic (which can also be bought on DVD with bonus footage). “Classic Albums” is a wonderful documentary that goes inside the makings of each album from a technical standpoint which makes you appreciate the album even more. Mutt Lange (the album’s producer) was truly the George Martin/Brian Wilson of this project. Besides Rick Allen’s tragic accident there were so many other obstacles this band needed to overcome to bring this album to life. In the end, after three different producers, Mutt Lange took the reigns and helped create the band’s definitive album, a greatest hits record within itself that had seven singles, six of which went top-twenty. Just last fall when VH-1 counted down the Top-100 songs of the 80’s, “Pour Some Sugar On Me” was at number two.
While everyone knows the big hits (“Pour Some Sugar One Me”, “Animal”, “Love Bites”, “Rocket”), it’s side two that really leaves an indelible impression. “Gods of War” is still performed live today and is truly a classic album track. “Run Riot” would be the perfect concert opener and “Excitable” received a decent amount of airplay and was rumored to be the eighth single from this album. My personal favorite, “Love and Affection” is greatly overlooked and is truly a lost treasure. One can only hope the band digs into their catalog on future tours as there are five non-hit singles on here that are stellar.
The new deluxe Hysteria includes some stellar packaging. The double-disc set is much like the other Deluxe Edition’s from Universal. The inner booklet contains some great liner notes from Rolling Stone journalist David Fricke, who even wrote a book on the creation of the album back in 1987. He recalls the trials, tribulations and triumphs of this band while recording along with some precious personal anecdotes and stories. Fricke is a legendary journalist and it’s great to see a writer of his stature wax his poetic prose on a band that is all too deserving. The enclosed booklet has pictures from the legendary and brutally honest Ross Halfin, one of the best rock photographers on the planet. There is even a picture inside of the seven singles from the albums re-constructed to create a partial picture of the Hysteria album cover. All in all, it’s a stunning package giving fans everything they could want from their favorite album.
It was rumored in early 1987 that Def Leppard had finally completed recording on Hysteria and yet the album was not released until July 27, 1987 (the same day as another rock masterpiece, Appetite For Destruction). Why the long delay between completion of recording and release date? This can be summed up in one word: mixing. Mutt Lange took months, not weeks, to mix this album. He spent almost one month mixing “Women”, which he saw as setting the template for the remainder of the album. If anyone wonders if producing and mixing really matter, all they need to do is take a listen to the b-sides included on this new deluxe packaging. Lange did not add his personal touch to these b-sides and while they’re raw and full of revitalized energy (especially on “Tear It Down”), they lack to sonic stratosphere that Mutt Lange brings to his recordings.
My non-remastered Hysteria disc from 1987 still sounds better than many albums released in the last few years, so I was interested to see how they could improve on it. Mutt Lange was light years ahead of everyone when he mixed this disc, it may have been the first album destined to be played on cd. Despite this need for perfection, the album has an extra thump to it and the sonics are truly to be treasured on a first-rate stereo system with a crystalline mix. With mp3’s we’re living in times where the sound of music is lacking. For the most part, compressed quality is vastly inferior to the cd. Despite this obvious fact, many are not paying attention but if you want any proof, just listen to Hysteria on your mp3 player and then on a first rate stereo system and you will immediately recognize the missing dynamics from the compressed files.
The bonus material on this deluxe edition is a nice collection of previously released material. The best thing about this set is it contains all of the b-sides and remixes for this album in one spot. The b-sides included here are remastered and have never sounded better. It should also be noted that these songs are in their original configuration before the band began remixing and re-recording them for RetroActive in 1993 (“Tear It Down” was eventually re-recorded for Adrenalize in 1992). It’s fun listening to the innocence and spare production of these leftover songs. The irony is that many of these songs had the potential to be more complex and some like “Ring of Fire” and “Ride Into The Sun” harkens back to their 1981 album High N’ Dry. These songs don’t have the Mutt Lange slickness found on the album’s twelve tracks, but there’s something magical about these songs in their original immediate configurations. It would have been nice to have heard some of the original Hysteria tracks unmixed to show how complex the creation of the mixing truly was.
There are also five extended mixes on disc two which are great to have, but in the end are expendable. It’s nice for the completist fans, but they are by no means essential. Even the most die-hard fans will only listen to these versions once or twice.
There are a handful of live B-sides which are all fun; a cover of the Alice Cooper classic “Elected” and a great medley of covers performed during “Rock of Ages”. There is also a remarkable performance of the spare ballad “Love and Affection” which was dropped later in the tour and hasn’t been performed live since, which is a shame as it could have easily been the eighth single from the album. The album’s final track is the b-side “Release Me” which features their road manager Malvin Mortimer on lead vocals. It ironically made the top-ten in Greece. It’s a fun and off the cuff track that is by no means essential but a blast to have and it’s a rare find on cd.
While this package does an “A” grade job of gathering all the released b-sides and mixes from LP, CD singles and imports…it does not give die hard fans anything to chew on aside from improved sound. It would have been nice to hear a few of the raw demos and early versions of some of the big hit singles, unmixed songs and left over jams. However, Def Leppard and Mutt Lange have never been one to look to the past, especially after months and years worth of work went into making this melodic masterpiece. However, it would have been nice to get something unexpected from the vaults as it may have improved the overall sales of this “Deluxe Edition”.
Two-decades down the line Hysteria still sounds as if it was recorded weeks ago and those monster sledgehammer riffs still sound staggering. If you have any doubt, then you didn’t witness the band’s magic over the last two summers where they played no fewer than seven songs from Hysteria nightly. Def Leppard still has the ability to shock and awe twenty-thousand people night after night with these classics. When people talk about defining albums of the 80’s they often mention London Calling, Purple Rain, The Joshua Tree, Thriller…and hopefully in not too distant future, they’ll mention Hysteria as well.