The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis

Def Leppard recruits Alison Krauss for 12th album

- Melissa Ruggieri

Def Leppard wasn’t plotting to record a full-length studio album.

Nor was the band thinking about naming it after a lyric in T. Rex’s 1971 glam-rock stomper, “Bang A Gong (Get It On).”

But as the enduring rockers have proven repeatedly during their 40-plusyear tenure, plans and Def Leppard are incongruou­s terms.

On May 27, the quintet releases “Diamond Star Halos.”

It’s the band’s 12th full-length album, first new material since 2015 and their inaugural effort of recording in separate corners of the globe during the early days of the pandemic.

“Everyone was due to come to my studio in Dublin the day lockdown kicked in,” singer Joe Elliott tells USA TODAY in a video chat from London. “We made the decision to record remotely because we had no option. We had seven songs to start with and we wrote eight more and not once did we see each other.”

Elliott is joined by bassist Rick Savage and guitarist Phil Collen as he recounts the process of fashioning the album and says that their recent media gatherings mark the first time they’ve seen each other in person in more than two years.

“But we spoke on the phone more often than we have in the previous 40 years,” Elliott says. “The lines of communicat­ion were open wider. It freed us up and made us more expressive. We talked, old-fashioned on the phone, and did emails. We didn’t do Zoom once.”

Savage jokes that since he and Elliott were on U.K. time and Collen, guitarist Vivian Campbell and drummer Rick Allen worked from the U.S. West Coast time zone, “while we were working, they were sleeping and while they were working we were sleeping. It’s like we were working 20 hours a day (collective­ly).”

Among the 15 tracks on the upcoming release, led by the anthemic single “Kick,” is a pair of songs featuring Alison Krauss.

As a frequent musical partner to Robert Plant, the Grammy-winning bluegrass veteran excels at hopscotchi­ng genres.

“We’ve known Alison for a long time. She’s a big fan. And a lot of people don’t realize that when we worked with (producer) Mutt (Lange), a lot of the harmonies had a bit of a country tinge to them. … I was texting with Robert Plant about soccer when he asked what we were up to and he said, ‘Alison is going to love this because you’re her favorite band,’ ” Elliott recalls with a laugh. “So I texted her and asked if she fancied singing on one of our tunes and she texted me back within 30 minutes and said, ‘Oh my God, I can’t pick one; I love them both.’ So we said how about you do them both?”

On “This Guitar,” which Collen wrote 17 years ago, Krauss and Elliott share vocals over pedal steel guitar and a swaying backbeat, while “Lifeless” incorporat­es Def Leppard’s trademark layered harmonies with a prominent assist from Krauss’ angelic voice.

While the rest of the album includes sprinkles of the glam rock sound that has always pervaded Def Leppard’s music, the band didn’t write the songs on “Diamond Star Halos” with the intent to title the album as an homage to the genre.

“A lot of these songs had a thread and a theme to them and we felt attached to that era that we experience together,” says Collen. “We actually use ‘diamond star halos’ as a reference to the era and we’re always saying it, so it seemed appropriat­e.”

Def Leppard kicks off The Stadium Tour, which they’re co-headlining with Motley Crue and joined by Poison and Joan Jett & The Blackheart­s, June 16 in Atlanta.

 ?? ANTON CORBIJN ?? Def Leppard (from left), Rick Savage, Rick Allen, Joe Elliott, Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell recorded their upcoming 12th album, “Diamond Star Halos,” in separate quarters during the early days of the pandemic.
ANTON CORBIJN Def Leppard (from left), Rick Savage, Rick Allen, Joe Elliott, Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell recorded their upcoming 12th album, “Diamond Star Halos,” in separate quarters during the early days of the pandemic.
 ?? ANTON CORBIJN/MARYAM MALAKPOUR/MUNDEN BROTHERS ?? Def Leppard’s 12th studio album is titled “Diamond Star Halos.”
ANTON CORBIJN/MARYAM MALAKPOUR/MUNDEN BROTHERS Def Leppard’s 12th studio album is titled “Diamond Star Halos.”

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