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CD Review: Def Leppard: Yeah!

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Def Leppard was my first musical love. They were the first band I fell really hard for. I bought everything I could find – singles, stickers, shirts, patches, you name it. They were my first “by choice” concert – meaning they were the first concert that I wanted to go to.

I followed them through the mid-90s and then just lost touch with them as my tastes changed and I grew. Their CDs drifted out of my collection piece by piece as I stopped listening, replaced by other things I regarded as more important. Until recently, that is. Maybe it’s the introduction of the little bundle of joy that is Amanda, but I’ve recently just wanted to get back to fun music.

And, really, what Def Leppard did in the 80s with Pyromania and Hysteria is nothing short of astounding – these two albums are absolute rock classics that deserve to be held in high regard. More than that, I can see no reason why there is any shame in loving Def Leppard’s take on the same 70s glam rock that everyone considers iconic today – yet there certainly is a stigma attached to that name. We all know what happened to rock in the 90s, how grunge came along and pretty much wiped clean any traces of anything that happened to contain (gasp!) a guitar solo. Much of it deserved to be swept away and forgotten, but unfortunately some bands fell victim undeservingly.

I read sometime last year that Def Leppard was working on an all-covers album. You know the cliché – covers albums are an artist’s last gasp. It seemed a really sad step for them – I gave them another shot when 1999’s Euphoria came out, which was being touted as a return to the Pyromania days, but it felt hollow to me. I didn’t even hear, let alone buy the follow up to that, X, but gathered that it left most fans unhappy. After that, a covers album? Of a bunch of bands that Def Leppard already sounded a lot like to begin with? And it’s called Yeah!? And the cover looks like this?
Yeah!

This must clearly be a band on verge of calling it quits, right? Until two days ago, I’d say yes. But I got to hear the album thanks to VH-1’s handy little album-preview. I was prepared for something really embarrassing – a bunch of tired-sounding covers, surely. Wow, was I blown away when this thing started playing. I found myself unable to stop listening, in fact, and when the album was done, I was in shock.

Yeah! is the best thing they’ve done in years, but that sounds like a back-handed compliment and it’s not meant to be. The energy of the band here is the same as back in the 80s, ranking right up there with Pyromania and Hysteria. It is that good. Def Leppard did the almost impossible — they were able to do an entire album of covers that not only works as a tribute to their favorite artists but also remains true to their own sound.

However, I do have to report some major annoyances with this release which, luckily, have nothing to do with the actual music, but how it is being packaged and distributed. The standard version of this album is 14 songs:

1 – 20th Century Boy (T. Rex)
2 – Rock On (David Essex)
3 – Hanging On The Telephone (Blondie)
4 – Waterloo Sunset (The Kinks)
5 – Hell Raiser (Sweet)
6 – 10538 Overture (ELO)
7 – Street Life (Roxy Music)
8 – Drive-In Saturday (David Bowie)
9 – Little Bit Of Love (Free)
10 – The Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll (Mott the Hoople)
11 – No Matter What (Badfinger)

12 – He’s Gonna Step On You Again (John Kongos)
13 – Don’t Believe a Word (Thin Lizzy)
14 – Stay With Me (Faces)

If you live near a Walmart, you can also pick up a bonus CD for $5.88 that includes 5 more songs and three interviews:

1 – American Girl (Tom Petty)
2 – Backstage Interview #1.
3 – Search & Destroy (Iggy & The Stooges)
4 – Backstage Interview #2.
5 – Space Oddity (David Bowie)
6 – Backstage Interview #3.
7 – Dear Friends (Queen)
8 – Heartbeat (Jobriath)

The interesting thing on this disc is this isn’t technically the band – each song is by a subset of the band or is solo (“Search & Destroy” is guitarist Phil Collen singing and playing everything, “Space Oddity” is Joe Elliot doing the same, and “Dear Friends” has bassist Rick Savage handling everything) and two tracks find the members supplemented by non-members (“American Girl” and “Heartbeat.”) Somehow it still manages to sound like Def Leppard.

But we’re not done with bonuses. Best Buy has to get in on the fun, too. Their version adds two tracks to the original 14 track lineup:

15 – No Matter What (Live 2005) (Badfinger)
16 – Winter Song (Lindisfarne)

Believe it or not, there are still more bonus tracks. Even Target has to get in on this action:

15 – Action (Live 2005) (Sweet)
16 – When I’m Dead And Gone (McGuinness Flint)

If you’re adding that up, that makes nine additional songs available on three different CDs to choose from. If you really want them all, you’re in luck, this week at least – everyone has Yeah! on sale. Best Buy and Target both have it for $9.99, and you can price-match it at Best Buy to Circuit City’s $7.99 if you still have this weekend’s ad. For about $24 total, you effectively double the album’s length. This is one of the few times when I think it might actually be worth investing the time and money into getting all these versions.

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About Tom Johnson

  • Guppusmaximus

    “We all know what happened to rock in the 90s, how grunge came along and pretty much wiped clean any traces of anything that happened to contain (gasp!) a guitar solo. Much of it deserved to be swept away and forgotten, but unfortunately some bands fell victim undeservingly…..”

    YEAH! this is definately a review from someone stuck in the mainstream.

  • http://www.knownjohnson.com Tom

    Mainstream? Please feel free to read through my catalog of reviews here on Blogcritics, Guppus. You will find otherwise.

  • http://www.slangwithme.net Rhonda Elizabeth

    I’m enjoying YEAH! Much of the music on all 4 CDs is music that I’m familiar with – having purchased the originals back in the early 70s when they was released.

    What Def Leppard accomplished with this release is a return to pure, unadulterated rock and roll.

    It’s a pleasure and one that isn’t often found.

    The one disappointment for me is Rock On. The band’s studio version pales in comparison to the live version they presented in concert last year.

    I would have rather have had a live version of Rock On instead of the live version of No Matter What. Better yet, I’d really enjoy a live video of Rock On.

    Def Leppard added true theatrical tones to the presentation of this song – sort of what you’d expect from Queen. :)

    I do LOVE the live version of Action. That’s a nice bonus.

    Revisting your beginnings isn’t always a bad thing. And when it comes to music, well YEAH! shows that it can be something really tremendous. :)

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    tom johnson “stuck in the mainstream”?

    THAT is one of the funniest things i’ve ever read.

  • http://rick-savage.net Lepplady

    Never mind the mainstream. Yeah! delivers nothing but good fun, the way only Def Leppard can do it.

  • Guppusmaximus

    Tom, that’s a statement that I would expect to read in a VH1 article about Metal History. And, if you’re such an afficiando of underground music than how can you spill such vile ignorance when Dream Theater came out with “I&W” in ’92 which destroyed any or all “grunge” garbage,musically, that was released on the Mainstream at that time. When you review a crappy release from Def Leppard and,”rank it right up there with Pyromania and Hysteria.”,then you are losing credibility with me and I probably wouldn’t want to read your defining moment about Queensryche’s POOR SEQUEL!

  • http://slademadefilms.com george

    After hearing Phil belt away on “Stay With Me”, I’d like to hear him do more solo projects. I think that they would sound good.

    Yeah! was the best lep album since retroactive, which I enjoyed very much. I can’t wait til they come to town!

  • Penny

    Crazy!
    Thanks for the info on Walmart, Tom. And I thought I was so smart getting 2 bonus tracks from my Target CD!
    Great review!

  • 25YearFan

    After playing this CD about 2 dozen times, I agree that this is DL’s best effort in some time. Although alot of the content pre-dates most of their fans’ music familiarity, it’s a mature and inspired effort. I don’t have to know these songs to fully appreciate what the result is here. It’s a well rounded and diverse selection that this band really enjoyed playing and I really enjoy listening too. The Thin Lizzy cover is excellent!

  • http://defleppardrockofages.fateback.com/main.html Chris

    I would like for just once. To see a review from a die hard fan not someone that was a fan back in there hayday of the 80’s. Everyone has an oppion an that is what this is.

  • http://www.knownjohnson.com Tom Johnson

    I don’t know, Chris, what constitutes “die hard fan” in your eyes, but I’d say that going to all the effort to find all the information about the bonus tracks would definitely put me above the average listener. Writing about it would too, I think.

    If you didn’t want an opinion, what exactly did you read this page for? Is a review of an album not an opinion? I review music, that’s what I do. I’ve heard and know every Def Leppard album except for one, X. Am I any more qualified in your eyes to provide an opinion on Yeah now?

    Here’s the thing: a review of an album shouldn’t need to come from a die hard fan. In fact, it’s probably better that it doesn’t. Die hard fans are just that – they’re die hards. They listen to everything a band puts out, good and bad, and they enjoy it all. A review should not be written for the masses by someone who cannot make a distinction between a band’s trash and its triumphs. And reviews are not written for die hards, by the way – die hards are going to buy the album no matter what. Thank God for die hards, bands love ‘em and need ‘em. I wrote this to help sway those who might not even know it existed, or those who saw it and thought “pshaw, a covers album?!” So, please, don’t ever ask for a review intended for mainstream audiences to come from a die hard fan. Die hard fans do a disservice to casual buyers when they try to sell their favorites to them. You want the skeptics to be won over by an album. I am a skeptic, and I was won over. Consider this a victory, rather than the meaningless “win by forfeit” a die hard’s review will offer.

  • http://www.defleppard.com Anthony

    video for Rock On now at DefLeppard.com and VH1.com

  • linceart

    very great!!!!!