Yeah? This disc should have been titled: “Hell, Yes!!!” Put this in your CD player and return to the glitter days of the early 70s. Although there are blatant hints on previous albums and videos, this collection affirms the sound that eventually would become Def Leppard. I always knew there was a reason why I had to get the latest album and stand in line to get tickets for the next tour. Luckily, I grew up on the shores of the north coast – I have caught Lep shows in four cities [Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, and Toledo] at six different venues!
Since the liner notes explain the band’s exposure to these artists, I would be amiss if I didn’t share Glam Rock’s availability in the Midwest. “The Buzzard – Cleveland’s 101 FM WMMS” exposed north central Ohio to The Spiders from Mars, T-Rex, and Mott. At the time we had to drive toward the lake to get reception on our FM converters, but until we were in range the 8track blared Aladdin Sane, The Slider, or All the Young Dudes. Late night broadcasts of In Concert, The Midnight Special, or Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert gave us the stunning visuals. Many a night was spent in front of the television with the sound turned down low for just a glimpse of Thin Lizzy or Queen or The Faces. David Essex and David Bowie appeared on the various variety hours, such as Sonny & Cher. I am definitely old enough to remember and have the fisticuffs scars to prove it. Across the pond, we didn’t have a Glam Rock movement, so to speak. Our Glammers had a raw edge and very quickly morphed into Punk or New Wave.
Now, this album rocks from the opening chords and handclaps of “20th Century Boy” to the final drum roll and waning riff of “Stay With Me.” The folksy harmonies on the aforementioned T-Rex track, “20th Century Boy,” sharpen images of Marc Bolan, gliding on the stage. David Essex’s “Rock On” – finally does. Phil and Viv shred, enough said. Technically, the next cut isn’t really a Blondie song, but I’ve only heard Debbie Harry’s version of the Nerves’ “Hanging on the Telephone.” If Blondie ripped it up in 1978, then Leppard mauls the tune in 2006. “Waterloo Sunset,” from the Brothers Davies, a.k.a. The Kinks, never sounded sweeter. Speaking of Sweet, what would any respectable cover album from Sheffield be without at least one choice Sweet track? Personally, I still like Retroactive’s “Action” better, but the band sufficiently rails out “Hell Raiser.” ELO’s “10538 Overture” eerily grabs onto the listener – not unlike “Desert Song.” Again, the guitars scorch! Joe Elliot turns in one fine vocal performance on Roxy Music’s “Street Life.” Then he out does himself. The band’s faithful cover of David Bowie’s “Drive-In Saturday” drips with the soul that would become the Thin White Duke from the transition period between “Diamond Dogs” and “Young Americans.” Just when you think, “No way, can Joe top those vocals,” he does. His bluesy pop chops are thoroughly satisfying on Free’s “Little Bit of Love.” Def Leppard oozes Mott the Hoople from the chunky guitars to the layered harmonies. “Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll” is raucously fun – like it should be. A personal thanks to the band for including a remixed “No Matter What.” I didn’t plunk down my cash for this Badfinger song on Rock of Ages. Although it is a little too paint-by-numbers, it’s cool. I never heard John Kongos’ “He’s Gonna Step on You Again,” so now it’s Leppardized. Thankfully, the next song also, falls into the paint-by-numbers category. For pure vibe, it is spooky how close the boys play Thin Lizzy’s “Don’t Believe a Word” – Joe channels Phil Lynott, while the band pays homage. As I said before the album closes with Phil Collen wailing The Faces’ “Stay with Me,” but Vivian Campbell’s slide guitar really brings this fine collection of cover tunes to a close.
Is Def Leppard’s latest album worth your money? Simply: YEAH!
The only thing wrong with Def Leppard’s cover album is that it wasn’t a double album. Sure, some of their song choices wouldn’t have been mine. I may have chosen “Telegram Sam” or “All the Way from Memphis” or “Starman” or “Fox on the Run,” but the band will need some B-sides… And then there might be a Retroactive-Revisted. Also, there should have been a Led Zeppelin song, perhaps, “D’yer Mak’er,” and I would have thoroughly enjoyed The Hollies’ “Long Cool Woman.”
For those who are too young to remember the album jackets depicted in the liner notes – Here we go: Rick Savage: Freddy Mercury on Queen II; Vivian Campbell: Marc Bolan on Electric Warrior; Joe Elliott: David Bowie on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars; Rick Allen: Lou Reed on Transformer; and Phil Collen: Iggy Pop on Raw Power. The album wear on Joe’s photo is a nice touch.
One final comment: I got the Wal-Mart bonus disc, so Joe, how about a video for “Space Oddity.” I envision you, as Major Tom… And wouldn’t it be a kick, if David Bowie reprised the role of Ground Control. I believe the world needs to hear you sing with one of your greatest influences. It would be an instant classic, like Bing and Bowie!