In a surprise, Def Leppard rekindled their classic-era sound with covers-focused Yeah!

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Def Leppard was my first musical love. They were the first band I fell really hard for. I bought everything I could find — singles, stickers, shirts, patches, you name it. They were my first “by choice” concert, meaning they were the first concert that I wanted to go to.

I followed them through the mid-1990s and then just lost touch with them as my tastes changed and I grew. Their CDs drifted out of my collection piece by piece as I stopped listening, replaced by other things I regarded as more important. Until a few years ago, that is. Maybe it was the introduction of the little bundle of joy that is Amanda, but I’ve recently just wanted to get back to fun music.

And, really, what Def Leppard did in the 1980s with Pyromania and Hysteria was nothing short of astounding: These two albums are absolute rock classics that deserve to be held in high regard. More than that, I can see no reason why there is any shame in loving Def Leppard’s take on the same 1970s glam rock that everyone considers iconic today.

Yet, there certainly is a stigma attached to that name. We all know what happened to rock in the 1990s, how grunge came along and pretty much wiped clean any traces of anything that happened to contain (gasp!) a guitar solo. Much of it deserved to be swept away and forgotten, but unfortunately some bands fell victim undeservingly.

Then came news in 2006 that Def Leppard was working on an all-covers album. You know the cliché: Covers albums are an artist’s last gasp. It seemed a really sad step for them. I gave them another shot when 1999’s Euphoria came out, which was being touted as a return to the Pyromania days, but it felt hollow to me. I didn’t even hear, let alone buy the follow up to that, X, but gathered that it left most fans unhappy.

After that, a covers album? Of a bunch of bands that Def Leppard already sounded a lot like to begin with? And it’s called Yeah!? And the cover looks like this?

This must clearly be a band on the verge of calling it quits, right? Until I heard Yeah!, released May 23, 2006, I’d have said yes. I was prepared for something really embarrassing — a bunch of tired-sounding covers, surely. Wow, was I blown away when this thing started playing. I found myself unable to stop listening, in fact, and when the album was done, I was in shock.

Yeah! was the best thing they’d done in years, but that sounds like a back-handed compliment — and it’s not meant to be. The energy of the band here was the same as back in the 1980s, ranking right up there with Pyromania and Hysteria. It is that good. Def Leppard did the almost impossible: They were able to do an entire album of covers that not only works as a tribute to their favorite artists but also remains true to their own sound.

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