Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Youth Rediscovered

Today in Music History:

In 1969 the number of British singles in Billboard's Top 100: 8
Def LeppardIn 1982 Def Leppard toured the states in support of their High N Dry album. A buddy of mine had an extra ticket when they were appearing in our city. They were playing in the college gymnasium, that seated around 1500 people. When my buddy asked me if I wanted to go, I said no. I had to work that night and besides I had never heard of these guys, and I wasn't about to lose hours over some band I had never heard of, and besides even he wasn't sure what they sounded like. He had just "heard" they were pretty good. Jumping Jeebus on a pogo stick, what a missed opportunity that was. After the concert he was telling me how great it was and he had picked up the album and was playing it for me. Two years later the Leppards were taking over the 80's. I never got a chance to see them again until last year in August. For me it was finally a dream come true after pissing away a golden opportunity in my youth. Made so much sweeter by winning tickets to the show and not having to shell out 90 bucks a piece to see them. They rocked hard and nearly blew the roof off of our new 8,000 seat arena.

Def Leppard is one of only five rock bands with two original albums selling over 10 million copies each in the U.S. The others are The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Van Halen. Good company. The band's songs generally feature simple guitar hooks and catchy, melodic choruses. The Def Leppard sound is also characterized by its combination of hard rock and polished melodic backing vocals. They are the creators of some of the best and most recognizable riffs of the last 25 years. Whether you want to classify them as hard rock, glam rock, AOR, pop metal, heavy metal or part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. You can't deny the massive amount of records sold. By the mid-90's, the music scene had virtually erased the band from existence. But talent holds true and most of the grunge bands that had supposedly signaled the end of Def Leppard are now defunct. And really that whole grunge scene was worse than the disco era back in the 70's. Whereas some critics wished to pass off Def Leppard as only a guilty pleasure, their songs had in fact set a standard for rock bands who wanted to incorporate a melodic edge into their otherwise heavier style of rock with little artistic compromise. In recent years, newer stars such as Nickelback, System of a Down, The Darkness, All-American Rejects and even artists in other genres like Justin Timberlake, Allison Krauss and Faith Hill have expressed admiration for the Leppards.

Def Leppard has endured death, dismemberment, drugs, alcohol and are still kicking ass today, almost 30 years since their formation. On May 23 2006, Def Leppard released an all-covers album titled Yeah!. The disc pays homage to the musical heroes of their childhood, including David Bowie ("Drive-In Saturday"), The Kinks ("Waterloo Sunset"), Blondie ("Hanging On The Telephone"), Electric Light Orchestra ("10538 Overture"), among others. It debuted at #16 in the states (their tenth consecutive Top 20 album). After listening to the disc and reading the liner notes it's obvious that the band has put a lot into this effort. It's not a reinvention of the wheel or a trip into groundbreaking new territory. An all out rock n roll record that shows exactly what their roots and influences were. The CD's liner notes are extensive with lengthy commentary on each track. There are photos of the band members posed on classic album covers, which look worn and used, complete with the worn spot where the round vinyl was. Joe ElliottThe notes even have smudges and stains as if they have been handled and read numerous times over the years. I think this is a cool touch. I remember back in the seventies that whenever I would get a new album, I used to sit for hours and listen and hold the album cover and read it over and over again. With only am radio, two, maybe three TV stations and an occasional purchase of a music magazine such as Creem or Rolling Stone, these album covers were our only link with our favorite bands. This is cool because they remember how it was, sitting in your room with your favorite album. Just like I used to. I realize that the youth of the digital age have no clue what this was like, but it was all we had. I remember when I was ten and hearing Hello Hooray, the first cut off the Billion Dollar Babies album by the Alice Cooper Band and holding that faux paper snakeskin album cover in my hands, with the punch out cards of the band members inside and oh my God, lyrics on the album sleeve and the billion dollar bill inside. I was absolutely giddy. If I had the money and could play, that would be one of the first songs I would record.

Rick AllenThis is a project that Joe Elliott has been wanting to do for about for 26 years. All the tunes are British pop rock from the early to mid 70's. Except for the one Blondie tune, which was originally recorded by The Nerves. A couple of the tracks are instantly recognizable for us Yanks. Most are not, as half the lot were not major players in the US market. The covers of T Rex, Mott the Hoople and Badfinger are to be expected. The covers of Roxy Music, The Kinks and ELO are unexpected. Also it was nice to see Phil taking the lead vocal on one track (you guess which one). Hell this album is worth the price of admission just to hear the reinvention of the obscure Sweet classic, Hell Raiser. If I had to pick a low point of this album it would be Drive-In Saturday, a Bowie cover. Not because it's bad. It's just probably my least favorite Bowie song. Honestly, their interpretation of that song makes me think that maybe it wasn't that bad. Meanwhile their version of Rock On kills.

The track listing for YEAH! is as follows:

10538 Overture (originally recorded by Electric Light Orchestra in 1972)
20th Century Boy (originally recorded by T.Rex in 1973)
Don't Believe A Word (originally recorded by Thin Lizzy in 1976)
Drive-In Saturday (originally recorded by David Bowie in 1973)
Hanging On The Telephone (originally recorded by The Nerves in 1977, and Blondie in 1978)
He's Gonna Step On You Again (originally recorded by John Kongos in 1971)
Hell Raiser (originally recorded by Sweet in 1973)
Little Bit Of Love (originally recorded by Free in 1972)
No Matter What (originally recorded by Badfinger in 1970)
Rock On (originally recorded by David Essex in 1973)
Stay With Me (originally recorded by Faces in 1971)
Street Life (originally recorded by Roxy Music in 1973)
The Golden Age Of Rock & Roll (originally recorded by Mott the Hoople in 1974)
Waterloo Sunset (originally recorded by The Kinks in 1967)

Over the course of their career, Def Leppard has produced a series of classic groundbreaking albums that set the sound for generations of music fans and artists. Not to mention more than 65 million albums sold. This album is definitely a labour of love for the band, and it shows. Is it just a cop out and a push for money with no creative input for this band? Nope. They honestly believe in these songs and are giving them new life. No klunkers here, but are they as good? You be the judge. I'll say this though, if one kid picks up this album and rediscovers Sweet and Mott the Hoople, his life will be changed forever and he'll be forever thankful to Def Leppard for reminding us of the really great music. I know I was, I had forgotten some of these classics. That's a bit dramatic, but is it?? Remember when you first heard them? Helluva lot better and exciting than most of the crap that passes for music these days eh? If you're a Leppard fan, Buy It. If you're a fan of 70's Brit pop metal, buy it. If you're a hip hop fan and have no clue who these artists are, then I truly feel sorry for you.
You can stream 20th Century Boy here. For more streaming go to the sidebar and look for that Yeah picture and click it.

For a very, very limited time here is

Hell Raiser
by Def Leppard
Rock On Indeed.
Buy It

Funny Toon