Part Thirty-One of the Def Leppard Review Series
Why Def Leppard, why a covers album? The idea seems to have come from Joe Elliott, who had been pushing to do something like this for over 20 years. Upon the completion of promotion for the X album and the two greatest hits that followed, Def Leppard had no new songs to put toward another album. Therefore, Joe’s cover album concept seemed like the right move.
We had sneak previews of two songs, “Waterloo Sunset” and “No Matter What” on Best Of and The Definitive Collection respectively. After nearly two years’ wait, we finally got the Yeah! album in 2006. All told, 22 different studio covers and two additional live versions were released over the many different CDs released to various retailers. That’s a total of 24 songs to collect. Fortunately, every single one of those tracks is included in the CD Collection Volume 3. There are three bonus interview tracks that are not included, and we will discuss those next time. For this review, we will focus on the core album; the basic 14 songs.
Opening with T-Rex’s “20th Century Boy”, there’s little question that Leppard nailed the authenticity vibe. The guitar tones are perfect. So why is my finger itching to reach for the skip button? Doing covers is like performing magic. It either happens or it doesn’t. The highlight of this song is Canadian singer Emm Gryner’s awesome backing vocals.
“Rock On”? No thanks. I’ve never liked this track. Blame Michael Damien for that, but…skip.
“Hanging on the Telephone” (The Nerves) is awesome! Hard rocking, full speed, really kicking ass. It takes Def Leppard a little further out of their comfort zone and it rocks!
From Def Leppard’s Best Of (UK only) comes “Waterloo Sunset” (The Kinks), which was an awesome bonus track but feels diminished among the other covers here. It jumps out less in this context. Still buttery smooth, still tasty. They picked an excellent song to cover here.
The Sweet’s “Hell Raiser” was covered previously by Motley Crue, except they called it “Kickstart My Heart” I believe. The instantly recognizable Justin Hawkins from The Darkness joins Joe Elliott on the microphone. By the books, this should be a slam dunk. Maybe it’s just a tad sterile.
One of the most pleasant surprises on the album is ELO’s “10538 Overture”. They captured the lushness, the complexity and the many melodies. It sounds very little like Def Leppard; another example of them stepping outside the box and absolutely nailing it.
Roxy Music appears via “Street Life”, which fails to make much of a lasting impression. As the album progresses, most of the tracks seem to just inhabit this nondescript Glam Leppard vibe. It happens again on Bowie’s “Drive-In Saturday”, and it really shouldn’t.
Free’s “Little Bit of Love” is highly polished, but sounds awesome just the same. It’s like a jolt after being sleepy for the last couple songs. Another jolt comes next. Ian Hunter himself appears on Mott’s “The Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, and it’s not his first time with Leppard either for those who remember the Retro-Active album. That’s Emm Gryner on piano too. This song truly does recall the golden age of rock and roll. Well done.
The previously discussed “No Matter What” by Badfinger is slotted in here, previously heard on Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection. Pop genius, rendered well by the Leppard. They take some chances on “He’s Gonna Step On You Again” by John Kongos, a different kind of rhythm for Leppard. It’s memorable and tends to work more often than not. Sounds a bit like what got their engines pumping in the Hysteria days.
Covering Thin Lizzy, now that verges on sacred ground. And the good news is “Don’t Believe A Word” doesn’t sound bad. Joe Elliott has worked on Thin Lizzy remixes in the past and he knows what he’s doing when it comes to this band’s music. It’s not bad. That’s accurate. It’s not Thin Lizzy but it’s pretty close.
Phil Collen takes the lead vocal on “Stay With Me”, and he actually nails Rod Stewart’s voice. Rod was a real screamer back in the Faces days, not the crooner he is now. Phil probably needed about a thousand lozenges after singing “Stay With Me”.
Yeah! is uneven and unnecessary. We mentioned earlier that context is important. “Waterloo Sunset” made a much bigger impact on the Best Of album. Here, it struggles to be felt among 13 other covers. Had these tracks come out on the B-sides of singles, some would probably be cult classic covers. If anything, Yeah! got Def Leppard back into rock and roll music after the meandering X and Euphoria records. Too many ballads, right? That’s what we said. So here’s some rock and roll for you like you ordered, right?
- 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
- Cybernauts – Live
- Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
- Best Of (UK)
- Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews