Part Twenty-Six of the Def Leppard Review Series
While fans awaited the return of Def Leppard with another new album to follow 1999’s Euphoria, Joe Elliott and Phil Collen released some recordings from their Cybernauts side-project, a fun David Bowie cover band.
But not just any cover band.
Cybernauts were formed as a tribute to the late Mick Ronson, featuring Spiders from Mars members Trevor Bolder, Mick Woodmansey, and Dick Decent. The liner notes are a little bit contradictory when it comes to specific recordings. One page in the booklet says the disc was recorded at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin, August 7 1997. On another page, Joe Elliott states that the album was “pulled together” from a five gig mini-tour. Dublin was the final date on that tour. 18 tracks, and almost 80 minutes of music comprise this live disc.
Without any preamble, we jump right into the rock and roll of “Watch that Man” from Aladdin Sane. Cybernauts are naturally a little more heavy handed but Leppard fans will love it. Things get punky with “Hang Onto Yourself”, full speed ahead, with Phil Collen whipping up some guitar magic to salute Ronson, while the original guys bang it out with bedevilling youthful energy. Massive hit “Changes” comes next, a little chunkier than the version you’re used to but still brilliant. Joe’s lead vocal has the Leppard sound, the Spiders’ backing vocals sound like Bowie. It’s a mash-up of two bands.
Acoustic guitars come out for “The Supermen”, but then Phil kicks in with the distortion. So far, an album highlight though purists might baulk at the heavier rock approach. It’s followed by an emphatic “Five Years”, with Joe doing an excellent job of the complex vocals. Bouncing from album to album, they do “Cracked Actor” next, a nice boogie. The familiar “Moonage Daydream” is welcome, and the keyboards recreate the lush backdrop authentically. Another album highlight with exceptional lead work by Phil.
A Mick Ronson solo cut called “Angel No. 9” from his second album Play Don’t Worry is rolled out next, with a wickedly tasty guitar lick. A brilliant selection, the backing vocals by the Spiders are quite sweet. “Jean Genie” is so familiar is almost skippable, but they pretty much had to play it — can’t blame them.
It’s pretty much non-stop classics from there on it. “Life on Mars” featuring Dick Decent on piano has a more delicate touch and they do a fine job of it. “The Man Who Sold the World” works well with the keyboards providing the backbone and Phil Collen doing his best Ronson. “Starman” is great fun; Joe is clearly enjoying himself.
“The Width of a Circle” is the long bomber, clocking in at almost 10 minutes. Progressive, guitar heavy and epic. After that exercise, “Ziggy Stardust” is rolled out, and always welcome. That guitar riff, the familiar melodies, they never tire. Of course, Leppard covered it a couple times but not as convincingly as this.
The Velvet Underground’s “White Light, White Heat”, which also appeared on Ronson’s second album, is a party. Backing vocals on this are awesome. Joe teases a “goodnight” at this point, but the tracklist on the back reveals three encores.
“Rock and Roll Suicide”, “Suffragette City” and Mott’s “All the Young Dudes” are a pretty good three-for-three. Encores that start slowly and laid back like “Rock and Roll Suicide” does are often like a mini-set unto themselves. “Suffragette City” blasts forth with punky energy and then “All the Young Dudes” is the anthem to end the party.
But that’s not it for the Cybernauts. In 2001 they did a Japanese tour, recorded some stuff in the studio, and released it. We’ll talk about that next time!
- The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night
- The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
- The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
- The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
- The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings
- The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
- Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
- Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
- In The Round In Your Face DVD
- “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
- Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
- Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
- Video Archive
- “Slang” CD single
- I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
- Rarities 2
- Rarities 3
- Rarities 4
27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts