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On their highly anticipated new album, Def Leppard have created a heartfelt and hard rocking tribute to their musical heroes of the late 60's and 70's - the Kinks, Badfinger, T. Rex, David Bowie, Sweet, Roxy Music, Mott the Hoople, Free, Faces, and Thin Lizzy. Recording essential versions of the music that influenced their youth, the band have brilliantly merged the 'Now with the 'Then' to create a buzz that can only be summed up in one word: YEAH!
While most of their teen peers were embracing nascent '70s U.K. punk with all the snotty 'tude they could muster, Sheffield's Def Leppard instead infused then-moribund metal with bracing pop smarts. Having long since sold a gazillion or two records with that formula, the '80s superstars pay homage to the eclectic, chart-savvy tastes that spawned it on this collection of covers, recharging their contemporary fortunes a bit in the bargain. Their takes on Me Decade standards like The Faces' "Stay With Me," Badfinger's "No Matter What," and T Rex's "20th Century Boy" may be arguably too faithful, right down to Joe Elliot's often dead-on vocal chameleon routine. But elsewhere they perform some admirable pop archaeology, imparting a darker edge to David Essex's spooky "Rock On" and pumping Blondie's "Hanging on the Telephone," one-hit-wonder John Kongos's riff-fest "He's Gonna Step On You Again," and Sweet's "Hell Raiser" full of patent Lep energy. --Jerry McCulley
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Now sure, the band went on far too long with Robert "Mutt" Lange, but the fact is they carved a particular sound into the rock and roll world that can't be stripped away. I continued to buy their 90's output along with 2002's "X". Most of it was so-so with maybe the exception of 1999's "Euphoria". I still enjoy the "Pyromania" and "Hysteria" era of the band.
"Yeah!" is the band's first album of all cover songs, and what an interesting blend of 70's influences the band members have. I would not have thought they liked some of the artists that they cover. As for the cover versions....they are solid but do not offer an original take. They seem very much like their popular ancestors. In fact, note for note, I found very little difference in their version of T. Rex's "20th Century Boy" or David Essex's "Rock On" (which was also covered by soap star Michael Damian in 1988 from the film "Dream A Little Dream" starring Corey Haim and Corey Feldman. "Hanging On The Telephone" was popularized by Blondie, and I think I like Blondie's version better. The Kink's "Waterloo Sunset" is interesting. I think the band sounds very different here in a good way. I was not familiar with Sweet or "Hellraiser". Sweet was not that popular in America, and so Def Leppard's version I assume is good since I have nothing to compare it with. Electric Light Orchestra's "10538 Overture" is handled well while Roxy Music's "Street Life" is also good.
The second half of the disc was less familiar to me. David Bowie's "Drive In Saturday" was good, and Free's "Little Bit Of Love" sounded identical to the original. Mott The Hoople wasn't that popular in America and neither was Badfinger or John Kongos, but I enjoyed all three of their songs "The Golden Age Of Rock 'N' Roll", "No Matter What" and "He's Gonna Step On You Again", respectively. Thin Lizzy is yet another band that wasn't that popular in America, so again, I assume "Don't Believe A Word" is suitable.
Most surprising to me was Phil Collen's dead-on imitation of Rod Stewart in The Faces' "Stay With Me" which closes the album. The band members poses for different popular 70's album covers is hilarious on the inner sleeve, plus they offer some insight into why they selected each track. All in all, one of the better Leppard albums in the past decade. Let's see how this spills over to a new album of original material......