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Playing a set of covers that all but completely copies the exact style of the band’s who wrote the songs is something that is expected out of a band that makes a living playing small clubs and bars or is the starting point for a band looking to get their name out. However, it’s not the sort of thing that lends itself to extended enjoyment through repeated plays in your stereo system, and it’s definitely not something that a well established band that’s been in existence for the better part of 30 years should be passing off as a studio album. And this is exactly what Def Leppard did here, essentially reliving the early 70s at it’s most obsolete blandness, throwing in a few occasional token songs from the 60s and later 70s to remind us that they’ve not living in just one isolated quadrant of hard rock’s past.
I can understand Yngwie Malmsteen putting out a collection of covers and adapting them to his style, coming out with something that sounds very different than what was originally put out by bands like Kansas, Rainbow, Jimi Hendrix and Deep Purple. Naturally with the selection that Def Leppard went with here there wasn’t a whole lot to do aside from updating the recording sound to fit something closer to what’s been going on of late, but given that most rock bands today are also living in the past this likely isn’t an option for something that is expected to go multi-platinum, ingenuity and creativity be damned.
There are occasional instances where this is augmented a little bit by a tinge of artistic liberty, but mostly in ways that are to the detriment of the song. They threw in a few fancy feedback effects and a video game sounding drum track to make “Rock On” sound even more processed and lame than the original version, which is quite an accomplishment. They completely butcher the vocal sound of the ELO song, turning it into what sounds like a really goofy knockoff of a Beach Boys cover. “Drive-In Saturday”, which is one of my least favorite David Bowie ballads, is poorly produced and made even duller by a completely unemotional performance out of Joe Elliot, whose all but on the verge of coughing up a lung given how shot his voice is.
The bright spots on here are few and far between, as many of these alleged classic songs aren’t very good and haven’t been updated at all. The remake of “Waterloo Sunset”, one of the lesser appreciated yet better songs by The Kinks stands out in that the arrangement is exploited a little more and we get a glimpse of the same Def Leppard who put together “Pyromania” and “High And Dry” adding a few good twists to things. The Thin Lizzy cover is really good in the sense that their songs basically play themselves and kick ass by virtue of the band’s knack for writing riffs with punch, and the band does little to change the song. “Stay With Me” is the vocal highlight of the album because Joe Elliot’s aging voice is given a rest and Phil Collin takes the helm, resulting in something that doesn’t sound like a bunch of old guys playing covers of even older guys’ songs. For 1972 this was a pretty hard rocking song, and the band has made the right decision not to mess with perfection, although if Vivian Campbell keeps up with this slide guitar stuff he may have to change his name to Bonnie Raitt.
The fact that this was considered a landmark rock album of 2006 is a testament not so much to the decline of Def Leppard, but the decline of rock journalism and the musical genre itself. Considering all of the underground rock groups putting out entire albums of original stuff that might actually be attempting to expand the genre, it insults the intelligence of any person spending money on CDs to assume that this album was so lauded for any other reason than that it has Def Leppard’s name on it. If you haven’t bought this cash grabbing beer coaster of a CD yet, save yourself the frustration and try something less painful like getting a nose job without the anesthesia.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on November 29, 2008.