I thought it would be cool to talk about certain records that, in my opinion, have exceptional production quality. The first of this potential series is going to be about Def Leppard's "Hysteria."
Released in 1987, this album was such an important record for the band and it proved to live up to everyones' expectations and beyond. Since its release it has sold well over 20 million copies world wide and I'm sure that number is climbing every day seeing as it's such a classic album. Literally. You can check out the Classic Albums DVD for Hysteria here.
As a producer/engineer, this is the kind of record that I love to listen to, analyze and dissect to try and understand what exactly is so amazing about it. Ultimately, the songs are what it's all about and the songs on Hysteria are as strong as they come and I think it can be attributed to the magic and the chemistry between the band and the producer, Mutt Lange. As a team, they had a tremendous amount of success with their previous releases, particularly Pyromania which had mega hits like "Photograph", "Rock of Ages", and "Foolin", but with Hysteria, they really hit their stride. There was still a real hunger within the band because although they had sold over six million copies of Pyromania, they still hadn't really broken through in the U.K. which is Def Leppard's homeland.
Sonically, it's such a huge sounding album and I think the drums play an extremely important role to that end. After drummer Rick Allen's unfortunate car accident which left him without his left arm, they were forced to approach the drum tracks from a very different angle. The electronic drum sounds laid a very solid foundation from which to build on and it has become such a signature part of the band's overall sound.
I also love the brilliant layering of guitar parts which guitarists Steve Clark and Phil Collen were so good at writing together. This is also one of the key factors with regard to the album's BIG sound. All the guitar overdubs served to create such a lush tone and they work together with the vocal melodies to elevate the impact of the songs. Rick Savage's bass playing is simple, but extremely effective in terms of creating a solid groove with the drums for the rest of band to sit on top of.
Mutt Lange would always say that when you're laying your tracks in the studio, you always want to think in terms of playing parts that will translate in the context of an arena rock show. If a part is too complicated, it gets lost in that type of setting and, therefore, becomes much less effective if not totally pointless. This is precisely why songs like AC/DC's "Back In Black" and Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me" are such monster songs when it comes to live performance.
I'd say Joe Elliott is one of those really unique vocalists that doesn't sound like anyone else. Arguably one of rock's best voices. His performances are filled with energy and conviction on Hysteria and his sense of melody and hooks is unsurpassed. It goes without saying that a weak vocal performance will kill a song, but there's no worries here, Joe delivers.
This blog wouldn't be complete if I didn't take the time to shine a bright light on the absolute genius that producer Mutt Lange contributed to, not only this particular record, but the band's career as a whole. What would songs like "Pour Some Sugar On Me" and "Love Bites" (or any of the songs for that matter) be without those incredibly HUGE backing vocals? Not to mention his impact on the songwriting and the tireless hours of work he put into all the little details and ear candy you hear throughout the record. In the Classic Albums DVD for Hysteria, Mutt confesses that he spent approximately four months just mixing the album. That seems excessive, but when you look at the results, not only creatively, but monetarily as well, I'd say it was well worth it.
To end this one off, I thought I'd slip in a short video clip from the Classic Albums DVD for Hysteria. And if this record affected you in a similar way, please share your thoughts here. Cheers and enjoy the video!