Released: 2006, Universal Music
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Besides helping to usher in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal with 1980’s ON THROUGH THE NIGHT and 1981’s HIGH ‘N DRY, Def Leppard still boasts two of the highest-selling albums of all-time with 1983’s PYROMANIA and 1987’s HYSTERIA. The band hasn’t exactly been tearing up the charts with their last few releases but Def Leppard still maintains a strong following on the live circuit, taking schlock-rockers Journey with them on a big U.S. summer trek. Fans show up in droves looking for nostalgia—“Pour Some Sugar On Me,” “Photograph,” “Love Bites”—the very songs that defined a generation of hard rock/metalheads weaned in the eighties and the band is happy to oblige.
On YEAH!, Def Leppard search for a bit of nostalgia themselves, offering up fourteen songs from the late sixties and early seventies that helped shape them as musicians. Most of the bands are big names—David Bowie, Thin Lizzy, The Kinks, Blondie—but what sets this collection apart is that Def Leppard chose songs that one would not expect. This in itself makes YEAH! a worthy inclusion in Def Leppard’s now twelve studio album career because instead of comparing their version to what will surely amount to a superior original that the public has heard a thousand times, the majority of the songs are obscure enough that no one will be familiar with them. Covers usually take one of two paths: a pointless, note-for-note recreation or a wild tangent so far from the original that it is equally pointless and unlistenable. After doing some research into the lesser-known cuts, the band doesn’t stray too far from the original versions but there are certain signature elements they add to make them their own. The gorgeous, soaring vocal harmonies, sharp drums and even sharper guitar riffs have an instantly recognizable sound and when added to obscure songs from British glam bands, an interesting batch of fun, crankable summer tunes are the result.
Standout cuts include a bombastic version of David Essex’ “Rock On,” the punkish take on Blondie’s “Hanging On The Telephone” and the smooth chorus of The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset.” The Darkness’ Justin Hawkins shares lead vocals with Joe Elliott on the AC/DC-like “Hell Raiser” and Mott The Hoople’s Ian Hunter acts as “master of ceremonies” for the cover of that band’s “The Golden Age of Rock ‘n Roll.” Guitarist Phil Collen takes the mike for The Faces’ “Stay With Me” doing a better Rod Stewart than Rod The Mod himself and the sugar-sweet “No Matter What” becomes an instant pop classic in Def Leppard’s hands.
Not every one is a winner but at the very least, it has opened this reviewer’s eyes to some obscure songs from bands I myself have been a fan of for years but never taken notice of. Def Leppard is obviously having fun on YEAH! and after twenty-six years in the business, they have every right to partake in a little frivolous activity. A covers album is often viewed as a swan song for a band who has run out of ideas or at the very least, a contractual filler, but YEAH! works on many levels. Production is top-notch (no surprises there given their track record with meticulous knob-twiddlers like Mutt Lange) and the band sounds as tight as ever. Because these songs are so dear to their hearts (the extensive liner notes show the passion generated in these recordings), Def Leppard has delivered a surprisingly enjoyable album that will hear many fans shout out a resounding YEAH!
KILLER KUTS: “Rock On,” “Hanging On The Telephone,” “Waterloo Sunset,” “Hell Raiser,” “No Matter What,” “He’s Gonna Step On You Again”