DEF LEPPARD – Yeah! [Japan SHM-CD new remaster / Limited Release] (2023) *HQ*
A few days ago Universal Music Japan started a new reissue campaign of DEF LEPPARD albums pressed on SHM-CD, a Limited Edition release on miniLP reproducing the album first edition LP in miniature and the original Japanese OBI. These differ from the previous (now sold out) SHM-CD reissues, as features a new remastering.
”Yeah!” is Def Leppard ninth studio album, and their first covers album by the band, making their own versions of songs that influenced them from Mott the Hoople and Thin Lizzy to David Bowie, ELO or The Kinks. None of the arrangements veer far from the originals, but they don’t need to – it’s good enough to just hear the band having fun and rocking with melody.
Def Leppard alternate between fairly faithful renditions of familiar classics like T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy,” Badfinger’s “No Matter What,” or David Essex’s “Rock On,” to more subtle reinterpretations where they make seemingly difficult covers seem easy and unmistakably Def Leppard.
That’s notable on their streamlined, muscular take on Electric Light Orchestra’s swirling, psychedelic “10538 Overture,” but even more on their remarkable reworking of The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset,” which now sounds like a power ballad from Hysteria without ever once sounding like it’s an affront to the immortal original. This take on “Waterloo Sunset” works because it’s informed by a palpable love of the original, and that love is apparent throughout this terrific record.
But there are plenty of good covers albums that are fun merely because the band is having a good time. What makes Yeah! exceptional is that Def Leppard is reconnecting with the reason why they’re even in a band by playing the rock & roll that inspired them in the first place.
They’re reinvigorated by this material, and by playing these songs, it’s easier to appreciate what makes Def Leppard a great rock & roll band. Compare their versions of Free’s “A Little Bit of Love” or Thin Lizzy’s “Don’t Believe a Word” to the originals — they’re not as big and bluesy as Free, but the huge riff that drives the song is a direct forefather of Leppard’s powerful signature sound, and “Don’t Believe a Word” hammers home that few bands built on Lizzy’s twin guitar harmonies as well as this group did.
But it’s not just that these covers put Leppard’s music in context; it’s that they sound more like a genuine rock & roll gang than they ever have: listen to the truly raw take on the Faces’ “Stay with Me,” which may not be quite as sloppy as the original (how could it be?), but it’s equally greasy and riveting — plus, it’s sung with raw gusto by guitarist Phil Collen, whose turn on the mic emphasizes that this is a sound of a true group.
They still sound like Def Leppard — there are still cavernous drums, huge guitars, and driving harmonies — but they sound alive and vigorous, making a convincing case that they’re now their own best producers. If they could carry this sound and feel onto an album of originals, they would have a killer record, but saying that diminishes the accomplishment of ”Yeah!”. This is a very good record in its own right.
Few bands could achieve an artistic triumph via a covers album, however as this glorious record proves, there are few bands like Def Leppard.
ＵＮＩＶＥＲＳＡＬ ＭＵＳＩＣ ＪＡＰＡＮ / ＵＩＣＹ～80352
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01 – 20th Century Boy
02 – Rock On
03 – Hanging on the Telephone
04 – Waterloo Sunset
05 – Hell Raiser
06 – 10538 Overture
07 – Street Life
08 – Drive-In Saturday
09 – Little Bit of Love
10 – The Golden Age of Rock ’n’ Roll
11 – No Matter What
12 – He’s Gonna Step on You Again
13 – Don’t Believe a Word
14 – Stay With Me
Joe Elliott – lead and backing vocals, piano
Phil Collen – guitar, vocals – lead on 14
Vivian Campbell – guitar, vocals
Rick Savage – bass, vocals
Rick Allen – drums, percussion
Emm Gryner — backing vocals, piano on 10
Ian Hunter — spoken intro on 10
Justin Hawkins – backing vocals on 5