If you read my site, you know Def Leppard is one of my all-time favorite bands, if not the #1 band on my list. And for that, this list was extremely hard for me to do, yet easy as well. I will already go ahead and say it, there is not a horrible album in this bunch only some I like more than others and yet a few that are absolute no-brainers as the top choices. And yes, I am biased.
Speaking of top choices, my Top 5 is my Top 5 because each album is completely different. The band completely changed up the sound and style on each of these albums and when the band does that, for me they hit it out of the park.
From the very beginning in 1980 with their debut and all the way up to today, the band has been mainstay in my musical journey. In 2019, they will be inducted in to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and all I can say is it is about damn time!!! They received the highest public vote so I am not the only one that things these guys from England are pretty darn great.
So, let’s get to it. Here is my favorite Def Leppard albums from the worst one to the very best. I hope you enjoy it.
WORST – SONGS FROM THE SPARKLE LOUNGE (2008)
This is the worst (or least favorite) in my book as it is the one I listen to the least. What left a bad taste in my mouth is the collaboration with Tim McGraw on “Nine Lives”…hate it! Def Leppard album don’t have duets or collaborations with other artist. Now of course, the minute I say this their next album will be nothing, but hip hop collaborations just to piss me off.
But what it is for me was flow. I didn’t like the flow as it felt choppy and songs felt out of place. For me, it wasn’t their best effort. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any good songs because there are. The opening track “Go” is a fantastic opening track as well as “Only the Good Die Young” and I like the ballad “Love”. Overall, it is only a good album and nothing more.
#11 – YEAH! (2006)
This should be the “Worst” because it is a covers album, but there are some pretty decent covers and I listen to this more than “Sparkle Lounge”. They picked some decent tracks that are a little obscure and not your typical fare which makes this a little better than most covers albums. The biggest complaint is the cover of David Essex’s “Rock On”. It is decent enough, but I don’t want to hear this live EVER AGAIN!!! Play your songs during the show, not covers or pick a better cover.
The standout tracks for me were “20th Century Boy” (T Rex); “Hanging On the Telephone” (The Nerves), “Winter Song” (Lindisfarne) and “The Golden Age of Rock & Roll” (Mott the Hoople). As far as covers albums go, one of the best for me, but still not as good as original material which I will go to first almost every time.
#10 – X (2002)
Often called “The Love Album” due to its softer feel and numerous ballads. I actually like a lot of the songs, but I will admit it is not as rocking as most of everything else. A lot of the songs were just okay with only a handful of classic worthy Def Leppard tunes. It might lean a little pop than anything else which does detract from it.
Now, I did say there were some great songs and those are “Scar”, “Torn to Shreds”, “Now” and the ballad “Long, Long Way to Go”. Outside of that, decide for yourself. I do come back to this album often when I am not looking for something heavy so it does have its place in the catalog.
#9 – ADRENALIZE (1992)
Are you surprised that this huge seller is this far down? Let me tell you why. It is them trying to repeat ‘Hysteria’. There is not much different at all between the two except the songs aren’t as superior. Yes, there are some good songs, but for me it it too much of the same. The first 4 albums were each so different from one to the next and this album for me showed zero growth.
It was also the first album without Steve Clark and Vivian Campbell hadn’t yet joined. And for that, the album was missing a very important piece of their success…and it showed. Don’t get me wrong, it is a spectacular album and had some great songs including “Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)”, “White Lightning” and “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” so it is definitely worth picking up. But it also had one of the worst songs they have ever done…”Personal Property” and that deducts from it big time.
#8 – RETRO ACTIVE (1993)
I know Retro Active is technically a compilation, but it is too good not to have on the list. It is a collection of B-Sides and unreleased material from about ’84-’93. The songs aren’t perfect nor their best, but most bands would love to have their A-Sides sound this good. It is the roughness of the songs that have it this far down when compared to the others.
Now, the good is “Two Steps Behind”, “Miss You in a Heartbeat” and one of my all-time favorite tracks, “From the Inside” which the song is from the point of view of the drugs not the person taking the drugs. The album has some gems and since the songs are what they are, I think only the real fans will appreciate most of it…I know I do.
#7 – EUPHORIA (1999)
This album has grown on me. I would have picked this as lower on the list because it is the band trying to recapture the magic of their old sound after the album ‘Slang’ didn’t perform well. It sounded to much like rehashed music. It is the 80’s sound during the end of the century.
However, there are some great songs and the overall tone and sonic feel flows nicely. I like my flow. I liked a lot of the songs and most especially “Paper Sun”, “Day After Day”, “21st Century Sha La La La Girl” and of course “Promises”. Where I got tired of ‘Adrenalize’ for copying ‘Hysteria’, this one didn’t leave me as disappointed.
#6 – DEF LEPPARD (2015)
The band’s most recent album is actually one of the best. For me, it captured the essence of the band. It played homage to the past while staying rooted in the present. For some reason, the homage to the past didn’t bother maybe because this is so far removed from that time and it was nice for them to give a shout-out to the past. The album also sees them growing at the same time which is hard to do for a band that has been together for 40 years.
The coolest thing on this album is the song “We Belong”. It is the first time the entire band has sung on a song (other than background vocals). Each member of the band had at least one verse to sing. That alone caused me to gravitate to this album. I really liked “Dangerous”, “Battle of My Own”, “Energized” and “Invincible”. What I also noticed is that Joe sings differently and doesn’t try to hit those crazy high notes like the past. He is singing more for how his voice works today and that is brilliant. The only negative is “Man Enough”…I do not like this song…not sure why, but I guess I think it is stupid or something…who knows.
And now the Top 5…as I mentioned at the beginning the Top 5 is the Top 5 because each album is completely different sounding than the previous album (if there is a previous album in one case). That constant change is what I love to see. The growth, the maturity change and just plain experimental attempts on one…all just the best….here is the Top 5…
#5 – ON THROUGH THE NIGHT (1980)
The debut album was rough, production sucked and the band was all over the map with style and it was 100% amazing. All of those things are the charm of this album. What this album gives you is an album of pure and utter potential. They have straight up rock songs and they even have a prog feel at times with how Pete Willis and Steve Clark seem to try new things during the vocal breaks of the songs (“Sorrow is a Woman”, Overture” and “Answer to the Master”.
The rock songs were also awesome including “Rock Brigade”, “Hello America”, “Wasted” and “Rocks Off”. The rawness of the sound on this album elevated it to another level and as I get older, this album gets better as I really appreciate where they started and how far they have come.
#4 – SLANG (1996)
Hair metal was dead around 1996 and the band felt they needed to try a different sound. The album wasn’t well received and I am don’t know why. It is the most experimental album the band has done and the change was so fresh and so needed after ‘Adrenalize’ and ‘Retro Active”. They needed to go a new direction, but the sucky casual fan base wasn’t having it…what idiots!!
This is the album of firsts…the first with Vivian Campbell and the first without the traditional Def Leppard logo…which it needed as this wasn’t the Def Leppard of old. There were huge Indian musical influences and they experimented with so many sounds that it is a shock to the system, but stay with it and give it a few listens and you get it. Songs like “Slang” and “Work It Out” were rocking enough, but songs like “Truth?”, “Turn to Dust”, “Breathe A Sigh”, “Blood Runs Cold” and “All I Want is Everything” are a smorgasbord to the senses. It is a breathtaking album for me.
#3 – PYROMANIA (1983)
The album that truly broke them in the States after the moderate success of High & Dry. It was still the early stages of MTV and rock was really taking hold. Their slick production (thanks to Mutt Lange) and their catchy, yet heavy songs struck a chord with people and the band started taking off. From “Photograph” to “Foolin” to “Rock Of Ages”, each song got the band more and more popular.
The first album with Phil Collen after the departure of Pete Willis and I think the guitar work stepped up a notch (now Pete was the rhythm guitarists on all the songs, just no solos). The birth of the Terror Twins of Clark/Collen was born. What other songs were great? “Rock, Rock (Til You Drop)”, “Stagefright”, “Too Late for Love” and “Die Hard the Hunter” to just name a few. I can see why this album sold over 10 million copies.
#2 – HYSTERIA (1987)
The album that cemented Def Leppard into the musical landscape was “Hysteria”. With Mutt Lange still at the helm, the band would release 7 singles…yep, 7…and sell over 12 million copies in the U.S. alone. An album that defines the band and defines a genre of music. I am not sure what else to say about it, it is that good (but not #1 good amazingly enough, yes…one album better).
Who doesn’t know the song “Pour Some Sugar on Me”. Hell, even my kids know that song. Plus, “Animal”, “Love Bites”, “Hysteria”, “Rocket”, “Women” and “Armegeddon It”, the list goes on and on. Hell, even the deep cuts were sensational, “Gods of War”, “Love and Affection” and “Excitable”. Top notch all the way. I own so many copies of this on various formats and deluxe editions that it’s crazy.
#1 – HIGH & DRY (1981)
Surprise!! Hysteria is not #1. Why? Because High & Dry is the most solid, pure rock & roll album of their career. It was straight-up hard rock, no fancy tricks or gimmicks only hard driving guitar rock. It was also the first album with Mutt Lange and the beginning of a very fruitful relationship.
The track listing and how these songs seem to fit perfectly together in an almost seamless transition from one song to the next. The flow is perfect, the energy is electric and the dual guitars of Pete Willis and Steve Clark are nothing short of magic. From the opening track of “Let It Go” all the way to the final tune of “No, No, No”, you are taken on a journey that your ears will never get enough.
The album brought us the classic song “Bringing On the Heartbreak” and the beautiful instrumental creation of Steve Clark, “Switch 625”. The deep cuts…oh the deep cuts…are what is the greatest thing about this album from “Lady Strange” to “Mirror, Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)” I just can’t get enough. Okay, enough already…I like this one a lot. It is my go to album whenever I need a pick-me-up.
And there you have it, the Def Leppard studio albums in order of how I rank them from the worst to the best. Let me know what you think. Where did we differ and where did we agree. What is fun about these list is how differently each album impacts people. What I like, you might not, but we like the same band and that is all that matters really.