AC/DC

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High Voltage

AC/DC - High Voltage ©1976 Atlantic
1. It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n Roll)
2. Rock 'n Roll Singer
3. The Jack
4. Live Wire
5. T.N.T.
6. Can I Sit Next To You Girl
7. Little Lover
8. She's Got Balls
9. High Voltage

Erupting from Australia to ultimately establish themselves as the world's premier hard rock band, AC/DC's international debut, High Voltage, finds the group still in scruffy, road weary and hungry form. The band had spent the early part of the seventies gigging around, recording and getting themselves in place to make their mark on the international level. High Voltage had been debuted in different form in Australia in 1975, with an alternate track listing and cover art. This particular version is the one most fans are sure to be familiar with, swapping the Australian version's explosives cover for the cartoon of guitarist Angus Young. That probably did more than anything else to establish Young's schoolboy look and gimmick. The international High Voltage culled its tracks from the Australian version plus the Aussie follow-up, T.N.T..

The album finds the band singing and playing about they know best: rock 'n roll and then further down the list of priorities, women. The first two tracks seem somewhat autobiographical, as Bon Scott waxes poetic about the difficulties of being in a touring, but fairly unestablished rock band. However, despite the hardships, he still wants to be a "Rock 'n Roll Singer". A star, to boot. Naturally, as with just about every AC/DC release from that point until presumably eternity, there are a bevy of songs about women, such as the devious one in "The Jack" or the one who appropriates part of the male anatomy ("She's Got Balls").

High Voltage has its fair share of classics, including the aforementioned album opener, the title track and "T.N.T." For the hard rock listener around the globe, it also firmly established the band's songwriting formula and approach, a style from which the band has rarely wavered. Not many bands have ever created a paradigm for themselves yet succeeded in having a multi-decade career without completely going stale. High Voltage might have some minor flaws, but on the whole it's a very solid worldwide debut for a band that would go on to rewrite the sales ledgers with later releases.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/2009

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Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

AC/DC - Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap ©1976 Atlantic
1. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
2. Love At First Feel
3. Big Balls
4. Rocker
5. Problem Child
6. There's Gonna Be Some Rockin'
7. Ain't No Fun (Waiting Round To Be A Millionaire)
8. Ride On
9. Squealer

Come on, admit that you're an AC/DC fan. No other band in metal (or hard rock) quite pulls down the groove, good times and dirty fun that AC/DC has for the past twenty some years. Though their music is basic, the lyrics base, and the singing a bit cheesey (well, maybe after Bon Scott died and was replaced by Brian Johnson), there is nothing like driving down the freeway at night, windows down, and AC/DC blasting on the car stereo. And of course screaming along and causing other drivers to lock their doors and roll up their windows and fear. That, my friend, is what rock is all about and this album is one of the stellar examples of why AC/DC understood what rock (the pure form, not that hybrid, laboratory-created stuff passed off these days) is all about. Admit it, the title track is one of your favorite AC/DC songs. And of course you've enjoyed the double entendre of "Big Balls" (it's about fancy parties, right?) And don't forget their one "ballad" song "Ride On". Certainly somewhere in your town there is a record store that carries this album, if you don't already have it. You need it more than you need oxygen to breathe.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/1997

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Let There Be Rock

AC/DC - Let There Be Rock ©1977 ATCO
1. Go Down
2. Dog Eat Dog
3. Let There Be Rock
4. Bad Boy Boogie
5. Problem Child
6. Overdose
7. Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be
8. Whole Lotta Rosie

Of the earlier AC/DC albums (which could also be translated into "AC/DC when Bon Scott was still alive"), Let There Be Rock has always struck me as the grittiest and rawest of them all. Perhaps it's just the live-in-studio recording feel or a certain extra degree of guitar distortion, but the album definitely lacks any sense of overpolishing or overproduction that plagued many seventies rock albums. In fact, the album almost feels like it was recorded quickly and efficiently, thus capturing the band's famous live appeal.

That said, Let There Be Rock has never been my favorite album from the early years. The title track is easily a true rock and roll anthem, but the rest of the other songs tend to drop down a notch to secondary status in the AC/DC echelon. This is not to say they are bad songs, or completely lack the ability to rock your socks off. Rather, these songs sound as though the band had already recorded all their earliest great songs and were having a slight slump on their next round of songwriting. "Problem Child" and "Bad Boy Boogie" sufficiently paint the tale of precisely what a roughhousing tough guy Bon Scott purports himself, but it doesn't make you want to floor the accelerator on your Camaro and flip off law enforcement authority figures.

Bon Scott pleads "Let There Be Rock" and in fact, there is a reasonable amount on this record. However, it simply is not the first one I'd reach for when I'm in the mood for this band.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/2009

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Powerage

AC/DC - Powerage ©1978 ATCO
1. Rock N Roll Damnation
2. Down Payment Blues
3. Gimme A Bullet
4. Riff Raff
5. Sin City
6. What's Next To The Moon
7. Gone Shootin'
8. Up To My Neck In You
9. Kicked In The Teeth

Overall, this is one of my favorite AC/DC albums as it was more based in blues than anything else they have ever done. Not to say that they could have shared a stage with John Lee Hooker, but there's a lot more anthems that would appeal to the down and out. In "Down Payment Blues", singer Bon Scott laments that he "Can't afford to feed my cat". Elsewhere, Superman and Lois Lane make an appearance on the excellent "What's Next to the Moon". While not packed with the hits that most people think of when thinking of AC/DC, Powerage is a very fulfilling member of the band's extensive catalogue and one that should be in your mandatory AC/DC collection.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/1997

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If You Want Blood You've Got It

AC/DC - If You Want Blood You've Got It ©1978 Atlantic
1. Riff Raff
2. Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be
3. Bad Boy Boogie
4. The Jack
5. Problem Child
6. Whole Lotta Rosie
7. Rock 'n Roll Damnation
8. High Voltage
9. Let There Be Rock
10. Rocker

As the upward trajectory of AC/DC's career continued, the band either chose or was talked into the most cliche of hard rock standards: a live album. The resulting album, If You Want Blood You've Got It, was recorded in 1978 and put out by the year's end. It provides a perfunctory glimpse at the live band and serves no other purpose than to pad a record collection. For the most part, AC/DC runs through their set with vigor, vim and energy. The band sticks to the studio interpretations of their songs but do some typical crowd pleasing deviations. "Bad Boy Boogie" is extended while "The Jack" is given a thoroughly naughtier set of lyrics that I believe imply social diseases and loose women. One half of that equation is good and it is up to the listener to figure out which is which.

Ironically, for a band that has owned the live arena for their entire existence, their live albums have never been more than a mere document and one that does not capture just how good these guys are onstage. Motorhead was defined by their blistering No Sleep Till Hammersmith, but AC/DC's signature has always been the ability to step into the studio and perfectly capture what they're about. As a result, there's nothing particularly spectacular about this live album that makes it a required purchase for fans.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/2009

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Highway To Hell

AC/DC - Highway To Hell ©1979 ATCO
1. Highway To Hell
2. Girls Got Rhythm
3. Walk All Over You
4. Touch Too Much
5. Beating Around The Bush
6. Shot Down In Flames
7. Get It Hot
8. If You Want Blood (you've Got It)
9. Love Hungry Man
10. Night Prowler

Apparently around 1979, Satan himself lent AC/DC just a little extra moxie and allowed the band to first write one of their best and most consisently hard rockin' albums as well as find massive sales a year later, in exchange for Bon Scott (who would pass away in 1980 from tipping the bottle extra hard one night). Regardless of possible demonic help, Highway to Hell is one exciting roadtrip, one of the most solidly paved thoroughfares for AC/DC. Scott's vocals are their fiercest and most aggressive yet, especially on "Girls Got Rhythm". The band naturally remains firmly planted in typical rock cliches of fast girls and hot times. But if AC/DC ever wrote a song on preserving the environment, the United Nations would quite possibly decree that an international task force would need to take away the guitars from the Young brothers and ask them to become harmless farmers somewhere. Anyhoo, even though the cliches are in full force, the band has captured them in their three chord, predictable glory that also meant catchy and timeless rock songs. Face it. Rock is a simplistic genre for the most part and AC/DC merely were more appealing and fun than most. Highway to Hell is the sort of album that air guitars were made for. Excellently produced, energetically performed and devastatingly rocking, get into your convertible carriage and tear down this road.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2000

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Back In Black

AC/DC - Back in Black ©1980 Atlantic
1. Hell's Bells
2. Shoot to Thrill
3. What Do You Do For Money Honey
4. Givin' the Dog a Bone
5. Let Me Put My Love Into You
6. Back in Black
7. You Shook Me All Night Long
8. Have a Drink on Me
9. Shake a Leg
10. Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution

If, for some wacky reason, you don't know the story behind AC/DC's Back in Black, it is advisable to crawl back under your rock and never, ever venture near any sort of rock music ever again. Or, you're under the age six. I'm pretty sure that AC/DC is taught in kindergarten, so that might not even be an excuse either.

The circumstances behind Back in Black are a mixture of tragedy and a rock band about to peak. In early 1980, singer Bon Scott died by "misadventure" (ie: boozin' a bit too much). AC/DC gathered themselves up, found a new singer in Brian Johnson, and proceeded to record an album which now ranks as the second best selling record of all time. How's that for a comeback? Apparently the remaining guys in the band took Scott's early passing as motivation and inspiration to do him proud.

If you grew up in the eighties, there was no escaping Back in Black. The title track and "You Shook Me All Night Long" blared from cars in every high school parking lot, usually with somewhat scruffy, marginally dangerous looking young men wearing blue jeans leaning against the trunk. Often, they smoked. This was the element of danger AC/DC provided the fans back then. Teachers denounced the possibly satanic content of "Hell's Bells" and parents were told "Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution". And everything in between was a thundering rock anthem.

While I'm not entirely positive this is AC/DC's best album in a critical sense, it remains a multi-generation landmark. Its staying power is evident in the fact it still sells copies hand over fist. Kids wearing emo band shirts to aging 7-11 clerks all will attest to this album, offering confessionals and testimonials about it. The good news is that as an all-time classic record, it still rocks your foundations and delivers just as much fun as it did all those years ago upon its release. No self respecting music fans should go without a copy.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2009

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For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)

AC/DC - For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) ©1981 Atlantic
1. For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)
2. I Put the Finger On You
3. Let's Get It Up
4. Inject the Venom
5. Snowballed
6. Evil Walks
7. C.O.D.
8. Breaking the Rules
9. Night of the Long Knives
10. Spellbound

Although 1980's watershed Back in Black may stand as one of the best selling records of all time, its 1981 follow-up, For Those About to Rock (We Salute You), became the band's first number one record. Naturally, those with any ability to reason will realize that it was hot on the heels of a massive record. But regardless of its high placing chart position and its ubiquitous title track, For Those About To Rock is a bit of a letdown from Back in Black. While the album contains more than a few pretty darned good songs, the problem is that the band essentially only had a "pretty darned good" album in them following Back in Black. Even when you take its predecessor out of the equation, For Those About to Rock still only achieves "above average, but not great".

Other than the lead off title track, the album doesn't contain too many knock-em-dead singles. It does, however, work well as a complete album. Unlike the previous two releases, which contained practically nothing but a series of highlights, For Those About to Rock takes a middle path. While there aren't so many absolute gems, there aren't bummer tracks either. "Pretty darned good" keeps popping up as the descriptive phrase.

I can't exactly picture any longterm AC/DC fans pulling this one off the shelf and saying, "AC/DC has a bunch of classic rock albums, but this one...this one is by far their best." Considering the two releases before it, Back in Black and Highway to Hell, represent the best this band had to offer, there is no denying For Those About to Rock will forever lurk in their extensive shadows. But despite the minor descent into "pretty darned good", it's still a strongly recommended and enjoyable AC/DC album.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2009

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Flick Of The Switch

AC/DC - Flick of the Switch ©1983 Atlantic
1. Rising Power
2. This House is on Fire
3. Flick of the Switch
4. Nervous Shakedown
5. Landslide
6. Guns for Hire
7. Deep in the Hole
8. Bedlam in Belgium
9. Badlands
10. Brain Shake

Flick of the Switch is the album that resulted when AC/DC went to the well and forgot to bring along their canteen. Having soared to the heights of rock stardom in the early 80s, one had to assume that eventually they would plummet from their perch, complete with the various trappings that go along with stardom. Drummer Phil Rudd was fired during the recording sessions, partly due to his own problems with alcohol and partly because he apparently got into fisticuffs with guitarist Malcolm Young. His drum tracks were still used, but it'd be a decade before he returned to the drumstool in the band. The band also produced the record on their own, stepping away from the talents of Robert Lange. Although the record sounds good, there's definitely something odd about the mix. I personally feel the snare has a very strange boxy sound and wish to lodge my complaints right here in this highly esteemed review. Now that this flaw has been noted, we can move along.

Although Flick of the Switch may as well be the lost AC/DC album, there's a handful of rockin' numbers: "Landslide", "Rising Power" and the title track are all above average. However, the lyrical obsession with gun slingin' strikes me as out of place. Other songs simply sound as though AC/DC was going through the motions on their formula, which either is ironic, very telling or expected depending on your point of view. There certainly aren't career highlights appearing on Flick of the Switch.

That said, it still contains enough hard rock energy and just enough decent songs to demand inclusion in the ardent fan's catalogue. For those seeking career peaks and wish to stick to the greater hits, it isn't at all a required purchase.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2009

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'74 Jailbreak

AC/DC - '74 Jailbreak ©1984 Atlantic
1. Jailbreak
2. You Ain't Got A Hold On Me
3. Show Business
4. Soul Stripper
5. Baby, Please Don't Go

A quickie stopgap EP of early AC/DC tracks, some of which represent the band at their best. Sounding quite raw but still from the gut, there isn't a weak track among the bunch. The title track is the semi-dramatic tale of a man caught in a passionate struggle (well, not quite, but it sounds good from a literary perspective). "Show Business" describes the seedier side of their pursuit, "Baby Please Don't Go" is a cover of the blues classic (exceptionally done, I might add), and "You Don't Got a Hold" on me is also excellent. Since the album features Bon Scott, you must have it.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/1997

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Fly On The Wall

AC/DC - Fly on the Wall ©1985 Atlantic
1. Fly on the Wall
2. Shake Your Foundations
3. First Blood
4. Danger
5. Sink the Pink
6. Playing With Girls
7. Stand Up
8. Hell or High Water
9. Back in Business
10. Send for the Man

Continuing with their mid 80s doldrums, AC/DC's Fly on the Wall finds the band spinning their collective wheels yet again. Much like 1983's Flick of the Switch, Fly on the Wall sounds like AC/DC going through the motions on their songwriting formula and only coming up with a few actual winners, with a considerable amount of filler material. If you want to be petty, you could point out that this is the first album recorded without drummer Phil Rudd and blame his replacement Simon Wright. However, he does a credible job of sticking to the rhythmic storyline. If you're the type who puts dead rockstars on untouchable pedestals, you could remark that Brian Johnson's vocal delivery is a bigger scandal than Watergate or the fact that the Monkees were originally actors. But really, the truth is that for a period of time, AC/DC sounded as though they were growing weary of the touring musician lifestyle and just simply didn't have it in them to keep coming up with big rock anthem after big rock anthem.

"Shake Your Foundations" and "Sink the Pink" are the two most well known tracks from the album. The former seems to be designed to get stadiums to roar "ay-ee-ay-ee-oh!" while Brian Johnson then informs them they should "shake your foundations". Fist pumping may ensue. "Sink the Pink" strangely almost sounds like the guitar line from Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" during the chorus. Beyond that, Fly on the Wall has songs that either are middling AC/DC affairs or entirely forgettable altogether. Which tracks fall into this category? I sincerely don't recall. And I'm listening to one of those tracks as I write this paragraph!

Fly on the Wall obviously was not a career killer, as the band is still selling out concert venues nearly a quarter of a century later. But it definitely lingers in the background like a socially awkward cousin of the real AC/DC classic albums. Whatever the cause, AC/DC was running thin on good songwriting ideas around this point of their career.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2009

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Who Made Who

AC/DC - Who Made Who ©1986 Atlantic
1. Who Made Who
2. You Shook Me All Night Long
3. D.T.
4. Sink the Pink
5. Ride On
6. Hells Bells
7. Shake Your Foundations
8. Chase the Ace
9. For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)

In 1986, AC/DC lent some of their best known songs to the soundtrack for Stephen King's Maximum Overdrive. In that movie, appliances, machines and very large trucks mysteriously became homicidal and spent a considerable amount of time trying to mutilate Emilio Estavez. Frankly, the only good thing to come out of the movie was this soundtrack, as Maximum Overdrive was mostly maximum garbage.

The album contains three new songs specially for the film: the title track and two instrumentals, "Chase the Ace" and "D.T." The rest of the tracks serve as a brief, but solid "best of" for the 80s. The album also includes a single inclusion from the Bon Scott years, "Ride On". The remainder of the Brian Johnson tracks wisely stick to some of their best hits. Moreover, the lead off "Who Made Who" is one of the band's best songs to date. The instrumental tracks are both pretty good, particularly for a band that always found the room for lurid, puerile lyrics no matter what the situation.

Despite the redundancy (I suspect anyone who bought Who Made Who already had at least one copy of Back in Black at his or her disposal), the album is actually a pretty good purchase for any casual AC/DC fan. The movie might have been an embarrassment for all involved, including Teddy the Toaster and Stanley Peterbilt, but you can't argue with a rocking release such as this.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2009

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Blow Up Your Video

AC/DC - Blow Up Your Video ©1988 Atlantic
1. Heatseeker
2. That's The Way I Wanna Rock N Roll
3. Meanstreak
4. Go Zone
5. Kissin' Dynamite
6. Nick Of Time
7. Some Sin For Nuthin'
8. Ruff Stuff
9. Two's Up
10. This Means War

Modern AC/DC (namely everything after For Those About to Rock We Salute You) hasn't been the prettiest thing in the world. Each album has contained a few good songs, but a lot of the material is just ho-hum filler. This particular specimen is great when they're on and pretty boring when they're not. "Heatseeker" (which may have been one of my favorite songs when I was 14) is completely in tune with AC/DC's best stuff: jamming guitars, high-pitched screaming about sexual innuendo, and all that. "That's the Way I Wanna Rock n Roll" is homage to their lifestyle and it does rock. "Meanstreak", one of the most unique AC/DC songs (considering their lack of change over the past couple decades, this song is monumental) ever, as it has a down n dirty feel of a hustler. Well, maybe it's not ALL that different, but it's a keeper. Then you have to suffer through a side and a half of drivel and riffs that sound like they were discarded from Powerage sessions before getting to the awesome "This Means War", which ruled my 14 year old world. After this album, AC/DC went straight downhill as their good song quotient dropped dramatically. And besides, Brian Johnson never did fully fill Bon Scott's shoes, but could any mere mortal?

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/1997

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The Razors Edge

AC/DC - The Razor's Edge ©1990 Atco
1. Thunderstruck
2. Fire Your Guns
3. Moneytalks
4. The Razors Edge
5. Mistress for Christmas
6. Rock Your Heart
7. Are You Ready
8. Got You By the Balls
9. Shot of Love
10. Let's Make It
11. Goodbye & Good Riddance to Bad Luck
12. If You Dare

1990 found AC/DC reestablishing themselves as the premier hard rock band for arenas. 1988's Blow Up Your Video found the band regaining their direction and 1990's The Razors Edge (sans apostrophe to indicate possessiveness by the noun) turned out to be their best selling album since For Those About to Rock. You couldn't go near any radio in 1990 or 1991 and not hear their massive singles, "Thunderstruck", "Are You Ready" or "Moneytalks". Despite the album highlights, I've always found The Razors Edge to be nothing more than a few great track surrounded by some incredibly subpar material.

The Razors Edge found AC/DC with yet another drummer (Chris Slade replaced Simon Wright and would ultimately be replaced himself by original drummer Phil Rudd). Despite that, there's no particular change in AC/DC's sound and approach. However, it's evident from the first vocal note that singer Brian Johnson sounded a bit haggard and as though a decade of his peculiar style was causing havoc on his throat. Yet considering his first note is on the fantastic single "Thunderstruck", it's pretty easy to forgive it. Without a doubt, "Thunderstruck" is one of the most arena pleasing songs the band has ever come up with, even with its rather silly lyrics. The other two most well known tracks, "Are You Ready" and "Moneytalks", also are quite good. But the problem is the rest of the album comes across as either plain-jane AC/DC or worse, total filler. Frankly, at least five of the songs could be omitted and no one would ever really miss them. "Mistress for Christmas" is simpy awful. When compared to the excellent "Thunderstruck", you have to wonder how they could have been written in the same songwriting session.

Although the album was far from great from beginning to end, The Razors Edge kicked off a massive tour and sold out arenas worldwide, putting AC/DC back at the forefront of hard rock. I still recommend this album because of the good tracks on it, but it does not rank as one of their classics in my book.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2009

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Black Ice

AC/DC - Black Ice ©2008 Columbia
1. Rock 'n Roll Train
2. Skies on Fire
3. Big Jack
4. Anything Goes
5. War Machine
6. Smash 'n Grab
7. Spoilin' for a Fight
8. Wheels
9. Decibel
10. Stormy May Day
11. She Likes Rock 'n Roll
12. Money Made
13. Rock 'n Roll Dream
14. Rocking All the Way
15. Black Ice

Unlike their dirtier, stinkier counterparts in Motorhead, AC/DC has spent their twilight years in relative peace and quiet, having released precisely three studio albums in the past twenty years (1995's Ballbreaker, 2000's Stiff Upper Lip and now this current offering). Of course, when you've already sold hundreds of millions of records during your music career, there's probably not a huge hurry to slap some songs together and get thee into a recording studio.

So after an eight year gap, AC/DC's Angus and Malcolm Young apparently got the itch to write a bunch of tunes, get the old band together, and sell out arenas worldwide. This resulting effort, Black Ice, proves that old dogs have no interest in learning new tricks, but are quite adept at the ones they've known all along. Every review of Black Ice is sure to point out this fact. Perhaps the hack journalists among us (myself included) find it cute to point out that AC/DC does one thing and does it well. Or maybe we're being paid by the word. Nevertheless, AC/DC sticks to their guns to present a platter wherein Brian Johnson sings about women, rock 'n roll, fighting and more rock 'n roll. Is there really anything else? Granted, the idea of the elder statesmen of rock engaging in fisticuffs and pugilistic arts is rather amusing. It is evident from the lyrics that the last eight years have not been spent reading Martin Heidegger or engaging in the midlife ritual of becoming a Buddhist. Can you imagine Brian Johnson singing about inner peace? Would you want that?

That's precisely what I thought.

Black Ice checks in as the longest album AC/DC has ever released, clocking in at fifty-five minutes and fifteen songs. Fortunately, unlike Metallica's tendency to wear out their welcome within the first eight minutes of the first song on their album, AC/DC breezes along the duration with nary a misstep or dud. In fact, a few of these songs rank up there with some of the best this band has written in ages. Nevermind that it's been ages since they were regularly issuing new albums. "Big Jack" and "Anything Goes" are as much fun as you can ask for from AC/DC. As expected, the production is precisely tailored for this band, giving everyone plenty of room to do their thing. Granted, the rhythm section remains understated and straight ahead as ever. But most importantly, Brian Johnson sounds far less wheezy than the last couple of albums.

It goes without saying that Black Ice will sell a ridiculous amount of albums, a bunch of t-shirts, and whatever other merchandise the AC/DC franchise can dream up. Thankfully, the album lives up to expectations (such as they are with AC/DC) and is a rockin' good time to be had by all.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/2009

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