I’ve never completely understood why classic-rock artists with catalogs as deep as Styx and Toto feel compelled to record an album of covers. But among the latest bands to pay tribute to their musical influences is Def Leppard, and Yeah! actually makes far more sense than either Styx’s Big Bang Theory or Toto’s Through the Looking Glass. In fact, it’s easy to hear Def Leppard’s roots in these 14 British pop-rock songs from the early and mid-1970s – including fully Leppard-ized versions of the Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset,” T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy,” David Essex’s “Rock On,” the Faces’ “Stay With Me,” Free’s “Little Bit of Love” and Sweet’s “Hell Raiser.” The members of Def Leppard have always proclaimed their debt to that glam-slammed era, and not a single one of their choices sounds out of place here. It’s just too bad they didn’t do even more with ELO’s “10538 Overture” and Badfinger’s “No Matter What.” Notably absent is anything by Queen.
Despite the limitations of recording a covers album – the band has to remain at least somewhat true to the originals to make its point – these songs are a natural fit, and Yeah! comes off sounding almost like a traditional Def Leppard album which evey they were having trouble producing. Of course, by the time this thing played out, I was ready to slap on High ‘N’ Dry, Pyromania or Hysteria. Don’t get me wrong: This is a fitting tribute to the artists who inspired Def Leppard to become Def Leppard. But the band’s own distinct brand of music speaks for itself — and, in turn, has influenced countless other artists so much that a Def Leppard cover will one day belong on some other band’s own version of Yeah!.