|Def Leppard Yeah!||Universal|
Ok, so you see the score. Now just why is it so? |
I think this is the strangest scenario for writing a review that I have encountered in my 10 years running this site.
It all began when I gave what was perceived as an unfavorable preview of the album from a leaked unmastered copy some 18 months back.
The comments themselves were not that bad. Sure, a few tracks descriptions were, but overall the sentiment I expressed was that of disappointment in the whole covers album concept and to this day don't believe it does Def Leppard any favors.
My comments were taken personally by none other than band frontman Joe Elliott who unloaded on me publicly and has continued to do so on several occasions since then. The latest swipe came only this week…this from a band that actually holds position #1 on my all time favourite albums list. Yes, Hysteria is my favourite record of some 5000 CDs on my shelves.
So, here is a band that I love; using a concept for an album that I generally loathe; with a frontman who is openly attacking me whenever prompted; and with fans and readers taking sides, ready to pounce to add their 2c worth once this review is posted.
Joe says I am not a real journalist. I'll take his comments on the chin, but the reality is that I was actually one of the very few outlets that supported the X album and gave it a rave review. I went against the grain with that and to this day believe it was a criminally under-promoted record and could have done much bigger business had it been given the chance.
Had I given more positive comments in my 2005 preview of this album, the whole debate that ensued would be moot. But I didn't and since then this saga has taken on a life of its own, fuelled by Joe's taunts and my amusement in passing on those comments to readers.
And here we are at last…
Lets be blunt - I am expected to hate this album. I am expected to react to Joe's silly taunts and dig the knife in now it is turn for me to have my say with this "official review".
But you know what, I don't hate this album and I still love the band. Maybe not the singer so much, but the band, sure.
I don't hate the album, but still hate the concept. I stand by all of my original comments that I think this is a waste of the band's time and merely a stop gap measure between studio albums.
If this album was churned out in quick time 12 months after the last album X, then I would be far more understanding.
I was slated by Joe for reviewing a half finished album. Not true. The retail version in fans hands today is no different than what I first heard, although now the album has been properly mastered, giving it a much brighter and engaging sound, but I never criticized that aspect of the recording.
The final released product doesn't disguise some very laid back performances and a distinct lack of Leppard-isms within the recording itself.
When it comes down to how the band wanted to do this, the guys are placed in a 'damned if they do, damned if they don't' situation. Stay true to the originals and you are just copying, but venture too far away and you are being disrespectful. It's a hard call, so I say why not avoid those issues in the first place and concentrate on new material?
This album is a very 'true to the original' type of tribute release. The songs are faithful reproductions of how the original tunes sounded.
And I must say, being familiar with most of the songs covered here, the band has captured the spirit of these original songs rather well.
How much any given fan is going to enjoy the actual songs is another matter. I expect many long time fans will enjoy it as something different from the band – but how many will still be playing it 3 months down the track?
I have purchased my copy of the album, but once this review is finally completed, I don't expect to play it again. Ever! Having said that, I'm still playing X after 4 years and I'm still playing Hysteria after 19 years!
Track By Track:
Opening the album is 20th Century Boy (T-Rex). Uptempo yes, but still fairly restrained. I think a reasonable choice to open the album. It sets up the pace and the feel of the overall album.
Rock On (David Essex) has been chosen as the new lead track, most probably as it is one of the most recognizable songs to American fans. And let's be honest here – America is where the band sees its fortune these days. The better chart result there first week in and the great response to the band's upcoming tour there shows where the money is to be made.
The track itself is an updated, but faithful rendition which suits Elliott's softer vocal approach used on this album. Unfortunately I think it is one of the more forgettable tracks of the album having heard it covered plenty enough before already. I do like the lead guitar break mid-track though.
Hanging On The Telephone (Blondie) is one of my favourite tracks of the album and one of the few instances where I think the band have improved upon the original. This version is more polished and the chorus harmonies suit that of the band. Same goes for the lead guitar. A catchy song made even more enjoyable.
I have already praised Waterloo Sunset as a great track to cover, how could anyone go wrong with The Kinks? The tone and the delivery is near perfect and I think this is probably my favourite track on the album and perhaps the only one I would pick out to include on a self-constructed Def Leppard compilation. The most 'Leppard' of all the tracks covered.
Hell Raiser (Sweet) is a good change in tempo. The album needed a rocker at this point and that's what you get. I'm not a big fan of this glammy track though. It's just a little…well, I can't take it seriously and the added vocals from The Darkness' Justin Hawkins just compounds that problem.
10538 Overture (ELO) is a track that I don't think goes anywhere. Def Leppard are famous for their hooks and this track just doesn't have one. Curious song to include and not one I enjoyed then or now.
Street Life (Roxy Music) is more in keeping with the band's sound and this track rattles along at a fair pace. Still no major chorus hook and another track I'm not sold on.
Drive-in Saturday (David Bowie) sees the album in a bit of a hook-free run. The song returns to the laid back vibe. I like Joe Elliott's lead vocal here. I'm not a fan of the original track or this version still, but I do like the tone of Joe's vocal and his performance here. You can tell that he believes in the song. Some nice instrumentation, but the song just doesn't have that flair expected from Def Leppard songs.
Little Bit Of Love (Free) is a good choice for the album and a chance for the band to include a good commercial rock track that most will be familiar with.
No album paying tribute to the best of British classic rock would be complete without a track by Mott The Hoople. The Golden Age Of Rock`n` Roll is Leppard's choice here and I can't argue with that. It is a bit of a throw-away rocker, but it's all in good fun.
I'll stick with my original comments about No Matter What (Badfinger) - a pleasant mid-tempo pop song and similar in vibe to Waterloo Sunset. Ok, but not essential.
And my feelings are identical regarding He`s Gonna Step On You Again (John Kongos). This is a tired old rocker that I could live without. I believe I called it dreadful back when I first heard it and my feelings haven't changed. Doesn't suit the band at all and I could easily go on without ever hearing the song (in any form) again.
Don't Believe A Word (Thin Lizzy), is far better. Better suited for the band, better suited for the album and a classic song that couldn't be done badly. It also suits Joe and the band and is another of my favourites from the album. Still love the Andy Taylor version the best though.
Stay With Me (The Faces) is a great fun rocker and Phil adds his deftly tuned best Rod Stewart vocal impersonation here. A good fun track and a good way to close the album, but I have another issue with this track. It has appeared elsewhere before and I believe most die-hards fans would already have it. With several other tracks available for inclusion, why not relegate this to bonus track status?
I won't comment on the various bonus tracks available in various formats here as quite frankly, they are not part of the album for the vast majority of those purchasing this.
Without being flippant, I think the album is fairly enjoyable in the now, but largely forgettable in the long term. And the most disappointing aspect is that it will probably be another 2 years until we finally get that proper new studio album we all long for.
I reviewed this album without any prior reference to my original comments some 18 months back. I found those again after I finished this review and re-read them. What I found really surprising is that most of the comments – both good and bad mirror those I typed out originally.
I still love the same tracks as then and I still really dislike some of the others. Joe may have lambasted me for reviewing a 'half finished album', but my views then are almost identical to the retail version available now.
Proof that this album was a flawed concept from the start. I am just not a fan of covers albums – not when new material would be much preferred. Case in point - two of my favourite artists ever - Rick Springfield and Toto. I didn't rate their covers albums highly either. For long time Leppard fans there is already the numerous covers used as B-Sides and Joe's own Cybernauts release (which I reviewed here).
The upside of all this? The band is now free from their US record contract and can plot a new course from here.
Despite the ongoing rhetoric I believe I have put my opinions forward in a respectful and fair manner. I expect many might disagree with what I have said, but let's just see...
And that's it for this Tasmanian review...
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