Def Leppard’s Yeah! is no mere cover album. The entire CD is an unabashedly punch-drunk love letter to the bands whose music bewitched the adolescent Leps into strumming tennis racquets, banging on sofas with knitting needles, and taking more than a passing fancy to wearing their sisters’ clothing. It pays homage to the British bands of the 60s and 70s that perch on pedestals erected behind every Def Leppard shout-it-out chorus, every anthemic hook, every pop-saturated lead.
Yeah! is akin to a family album filled with ancestors like T. Rex, Sweet and Mott the Hoople, who passed along strong musical genes enabling Def Leppard to thrive for nearly three decades. These renditions crackle with Def Lep’s distinctive arena-rock flamboyance and energy, while remaining so faithful to the spirit of the originals that they would be just as comfy flowing from a 2006 Camry as they would be blasting from the Kraco speakers of a vintage Trans Am. And they all sound like they could have been written by Def Leppard themselves.
To their credit, the band selected these songs simply because they enjoy them, even though the tunes are deeper cuts that never charted at Number One — or are one-hit-wonders like the first single and video, David Essex’s “Rock On.” The song begins with a sinister, spare bass line, then ratchets up the original with swelling guitars that build to a fist-pumping bombast.
Guitar slingers Phil Collen and Viv Campbell turn in consistently skillful, tasty strumming, and Joe Elliott demonstrates that he’s a versatile vocalist who can sing from the heart, as well as from more southerly anatomical regions. On The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset,” he tenderly caresses the lyrics, crooning with a shimmering bittersweetness. And on Thin Lizzy’s “Don’t Believe a Word,” his voice is a hoodlum’s growl, lurking beneath the menacing notes of churning guitars.
Yeah! is also replete with the buoyantly catchy hard-rock-drizzled-with-honey that’s branded Def Leppard like a tattoo. Their renditions of T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy,” Badfinger’s “No Matter What,” Mott the Hoople’s “The Golden Age of Rock and Roll” and The Faces’ “Stay with Me” (with Phil Collen taking over the microphone) have more kick than a truckload of moonshine. All in all, an inspired collection sure to please Def Leppard fans, and maybe initiate others into a world of great classic rock. Who says they don’t make ’em like they used to?!
~ Merryl Lentz