AC/DC

"Rock Or Bust" (Columbia; 2008)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

A ripple of sadness and fear passed through the minds of hard rock and heavy metal fans earlier this year when it was announced that the band's legendary rhythm guitarist, Malcolm Young, would be retiring from the band due to various health reasons. Fans of the band will tell you Malcolm's monster riffs drove AC/DC as much as any other aspect of the band, if not more, and there was plenty of well-founded concern that AC/DC wouldn't be the same without him.

Unfortunately, there hasn't been a lot of good news regarding Malcolm's apparently failing health, but the new AC/DC album, "Rock or Bust" is here and the good news for fans of the band's classic sound is that the new album sounds just like ... well, like AC/DC.

"Rock or Bust" is solid AC/DC from beginning to end, with crushing riffs, blistering leads and Brian Johnson's legendary cat scratch vocals. It's the kind of album that will put a smile on your face from the very first note. You know what you want when you play an AC/DC album, and "Rock or Bust" delivers that in spades. Plus, how can you resist songs with titles like "Rock or Bust," "Rock the Blues Away," "Got Some Rock and Roll Thunder" and "Rock the House" (yes, there are that many "rock" titles on the new CD). My favorite is "Rock the Blues Away" which sounds to me like AC/DC meets Bob Seger, if you can believe that.

There are those who will automatically dismiss "Rock or Bust" as inferior because it's the first AC/DC album not to feature Malcolm Young, despite the stellar performance put on here the Young's nephew, Steve Young. That isn't fair. Malcolm has been and always will be a part of AC/DC and "Rock or Bust" is as much a tribute to the sound helped found as it is another great record from a deservedly legendary band.

For more information, check out http://www.acdcrocks.com

"Back Tracks" (Columbia; 2009)

Reviewed by Snidermann

I really dig box sets. You get a lot of different music from the same band and also you usually get rare or unreleased tracks. Well, AC/DC's "Backtracks" is just such a collection.

First off, you get a CD full of rare studio cuts, songs written and recorded but never put on an album. Most of the tracks on this CD are great, with both Bon Scott and Brian Johnson on vocals. However, there is one called "Love Song" (with Bon Scott on vocals) that is so bad, I could only listen to it once and then only just.

The next CD is rare live cuts and finally the last disk (a DVD) is the third installment of the "Family Jewels" DVD.

"Back Tracks" is a terrific box set, full of great music from one of the greatest rock bands of all times. Any AC/DC fan worth their salt should buy this release if only to get a deeper picture of one of the worlds greatest rock'n'roll acts of all time.

For more information, check out http://www.acdcrocks.com

"Black Ice" (Columbia; 2008)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

As soon as I heard "Rock N Roll Train," the first single from AC/DC's first album in eight years, I knew that "Black Ice" was going to be ... well ... an AC/DC album. Now, after hearing all fifteen tracks, I can confirm that my initial thought was correct. It may have been eight years since we last heard from AC/DC but this veteran band stills knows how to kick ass.

Packed to the gills with killer riffs, driving rhythms, raunchy solos and Brian Johnson's trademarked crunchy gravel vocals, "Black Ice" delivers exactly what AC/DC fans have been waiting almost a decade for. Heavier than 2000's bluesy "Stiff Upper Lip," and with a little more attitude as well, "Black Ice" is fifteen tracks and almost an hour of great rock'n'roll from one of rock's greatest bands ever.

Sure, there are a couple of tracks that feel a little like filler but most of the songs here are very good (if not great) AC/DC tunes. But I'll take a couple of mediocre tunes to get more than a dozen good ones.

The release of this CD is bittersweet, however. Based on their history, this might very well be the last AC/DC studio album. That would be terrible news indeed. In fact, if all I have to do is wait another eight years to be guaranteed another AC/DC CD, I'll take that over their retirement any day!

AC/DC: Angus Young, lead guitar; Malcolm Young, rhythm guitar; Brian Johnson, vocals; Cliff Williams, bass guitar; Phil Rudd, drums. 

For more information, check out http://www.acdcrocks.com

"Black Ice" (Columbia; 2008)

Reviewed by Snidermann

Life is good whenever new music hits the streets; however, this day is extra special because AC/DC has just released a new recording, "Black Ice," their first in eight years. After only a few spins, I know that this is something very special. 

This fifteen song mega-release is powerful and full of great AC/DC type music that has changed little since the early 70s. And I ask you why? Well, why would the band who has sold millions of recordings and filled stadiums to the brim worldwide change anything? 

I am also very happy that Angus and Malcolm like to write music with a bunch of power chords, hard-driving bass and guitars and that Brian Johnsonís unique vocals are there to drive everything forward. That is the way they have written music for decades and it works just as well now as it did in the 70s. 

"Black Ice" is very much the work of AC/DC: hard-driving and it truly sounds better when the volume is set to loud! "Black Ice" reminds what I like about heavy music: It's simple, loud, in-your-face music with no regard for what people think. You either like it or you do not understand. The legions of AC/DC fans worldwide know what I mean. AC/DC always kicks major ass and "Black Ice" is just another in a long line of great releases. 

For more information, check out http://www.acdcrocks.com

"No Bull: The Director's Cut" (Columbia/CMV; 1996 / 2008)

Reviewed by Mark McKinney

The concert included on "No Bull" was filmed on the band's "Ballbreaker" tour at a bullfighting arena in Madrid, Spain back in 1996. Now I will have to admit that I have never seen the original release of this DVD and this is completely due to the fact that almost every review I read mentioned that it had poor sound quality. Apparently, some people involved with the film were not entirely satisfied with the original results either as they have now re-edited the film and remixed the sound for this "Director's Cut" version. 

The concert opens with a giant wrecking ball knocking down a prop wall which results a huge wave of cheers form the crowd and the band emerges to start off with "Black in Black." The set includes a few songs from the "Ballbreaker" album but the huge majority of the material is comprised of Bon Scott-era tracks and several off of the 1980 "Back in Black" album, of course. Not a lot of surprises in the set list, but the fans were largely clamoring for greatest hits and the band obliged. 

The sound quality, even on this remastered edition, is really just okay as the band sounds a little low and the vocals can't always be heard like they should. The picture is of fairly high standard, although maybe a little grainy at times. I did however think that the camera worked very well in keeping up with the action; there weren't too many really quick cuts and there are enough scenes of the audience. 

Although AC/DC give us a lot of their classics here and the fans are really into it, I still got the impression that the band was running a little sluggish throughout the show. Yes, I know they were not exactly spring chickens even then, but they seemed far more energetic on the "Stiff Upper Lip" DVD that was filmed like half a decade later. Angus goes through his standard routine and is soaked in sweat before long yet the fire seems a bit subdued throughout their entire set. 

So really "No Bull: The Director's Cut" is a fair enough DVD that die-hard AC/DC fans will likely be into, but it's not exactly the best AC/DC DVD that I have seen. 

For more information, check out http://www.acdcrocks.com

"Stiff Upper Lip" (EastWest; 2000)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

AC/DC was the first real hard rock band I listened to as a young kid. The first time I heard the seductive, irresistible riffage of "Highway To Hell" on the radio I was hooked. By the time "Back In Black" came out I was hopelessly devoted. I wasn't long before I had AC/DC's entire catalog (on vinyl no less). 

Even today I remain hopelessly devoted to AC/DC. Except now I've replaced the vinyl with CDs and still anticipate each new AC/DC release with excitement. Although, I must admit, five years is long enough of a wait, don't you think?

Let's be clear about one thing: "Stiff Upper Lip" is no threat to the memory of "Back In Black" or "For Those About To Rock." I doubt you'll find many hard rock fans willing to classify "Stiff Upper Lip" even remotely in the same league as some of the band's classics from the late '70s and early '80s. Yet, there is a certain charm about "Stiff Upper Lip" disc that recalls the days when AC/DC were cranking out blues-based hard rock songs like those found on 1978's "Powerage." 

Just hearing the vintage AC/DC tone on these new tracks is enough to satisfy my cravings for the classic AC/DC sound. Even if the new songs aren't up to par of the band's best work, the brothers Young can do more with simple bar chords than most bands can do with years of formal training. Malcolm's rhythm guitar is typically dependable and serves as a platform for Angus' bluesy, if subdued solos. Just hearing the familiar guitars on the upbeat is enough to make me happy. The lack of surprises from the rhythm section of Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd means all is well with the world. Brian Johnson's vocals are a bit understated this time around, but the vocals fit the songs perfectly.

The songs here are compact numbers that may just show the band's age a bit, but are more a reflection of older brother George's no-nonsense production. The swamp boogie of "Safe In New York City" is killer with down-to-business attitude while the title track makes hard rock a staple on the radio again (for once!). "Satellite Blues" has sufficient kick as does disc-closer "Give It Up." "Damned," although it sounds like a "Flick Of The Switch" outtake, is subtly effective. 

On the downside, there are blues shuffles aplenty ("Hold Me Back," "Come And Get It," "Can't Stop Rock 'N' Roll") but these aren't really anything to write home about. 

The ferocity of AC/DC's former glory days might be waning, but the confident swagger of this formidable veteran act still shines through.

"Stiff Upper Lip" was produced by George Young; Young produced some of AC/DC from their inception until 1978. AC/DC are the brothers Young (Angus and Malcolm), Cliff Williams, Phil Rudd, and Brian Johnson.

For more information, check out http://www.acdcrocks.com

"Stiff Upper Lip" (EastWest; 2000)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

We've all waited a long time for this album, pining for the glory days of "Back In Black" and "For Those About to Rock." We've endured some entertaining yet less-than-spectacular albums ("Razor's Edge" and "Fly on the Wall" come to mind) but we always had that hope in the back of our minds that when AC/DC came out of their "retirement," they would blow us all away.

Alas, that isn't what "Stiff Upper Lip" does at all. In fact, if anything, the band sounds tired on this CD. There's no spark, no power, no pizzazz. The drums plod along, the guitars buzz and chunk and even Brian Johnson - who you would think couldn't possibly ever sound relaxed - does. Compared to "Stiff Upper Lip," "Razor's Edge" is a head-banging classic.

Maybe that isn't what the band wanted to do this time out. Maybe instead of banging our heads, they wanted us to hear the blues in music, to marvel at their knowledge and expertise therein. If that is indeed the case, they have succeeded with "Stiff Upper Lip."

But that's not what we want. We want to bang our heads. We want to pump our fists in the air. We want to scream "Fire!" and have our ears blasted with a cannonball salute.

Don't get me wrong: Many, if not all of the songs on "Stiff Upper Lip" are listenable. They're just not very strong rockers. They're closer to ZZ Top than what you'd expect from AC/DC. When I think of AC/DC, I think of really strong rockers, like "Highway to Hell" and "Whole Lotta Rosie." Ain't nothin' like that on this CD.

The good thing about "Stiff Upper Lip" is that it will bring AC/DC back on tour and the band is awesome live. Unless they really are as tired as "Stiff Upper Lip" makes them sound. But I don't even want to think about that.

AC/DC is: Angus Young, lead guitar; Malcolm Young, rhythm guitar; Brian Johnson, vocals; Cliff Williams, bass guitar; Phil Rudd, drums. 

For more information, check out http://www.acdcrocks.com

"Bonfire" (EastWest; 1997)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

"Bonfire" is four CDs of 'new' Bon Scott-era AC/DC material (there is a re-mastered version of "Back In Black," but any self-respecting hard rock fan should already have this classic). "Bonfire" is meant to be a tribute to Bon Scott and this aptly titled box set in remembrance of the brief but very illuminating career of a headstrong vocalist who came from modest means yet yearned to play the part of rock 'n' roll star.

The first disc is radio broadcast of AC/DC's performance of eight songs from the Atlantic Recording Studio. The songs are presented in a raw straight-forward way - sometimes it sounds like a rehearsal ("The Jack"), but other times it gets really fired up ("Whole Lotta Rosie") or even inspired ("Rocker"). Unfortunately, the sound on these tracks is dull (no doubt due to the small confines of the room they were in), but AC/DC nonetheless plays with reckless abandon.

The second and third discs are the live performance from Paris stop on the "Highway To Hell" tour that become the "Let There Be Rock" movie - you may remember this as "the only movie powered by AC/DC." The tone on these two CDs is magnificent and almost worth the purchase price of the box set alone. The sound of "Shot Down In Flames" is enough to make you think AC/DC sold their souls to the devil to sound that good. All of Bon Scott's great features, obvious flaws, and sheer exuberance are here in mega-doses. Basically, this two CD set just goes to prove that some of the best live albums have been recorded by AC/DC ("If You Want Blood," "AC/DC Live," and now the "Let There Be Rock" movie soundtrack).

The fourth disc is a collection of odds and ends. Included are four early demo versions of songs that ended up on "Highway To Hell," a demo of "Dirty Eyes" which become "Whole Lotta Rosie," and live versions of "Sin City" and "She's Got Balls." Inexplicably included here are two songs as they appeared on the normal release, "It's A Long Way To The Top If You Wanna Rock 'N' Roll" and "Ride On." Perhaps they are included because they were so closely identified with Bon Scott's voice and rock'n'roll ideology. What is most disappointing is that I fully expected "Cold Hearted Man" to be included here - if there was ever a song that deserved to be on a collection of Bon Scott-era odds and ends it is "Cold Hearted Man." Hopefully this means that we might someday hear more Bon Scott-era material from AC/DC. 

The fifth disc is the aforementioned re-mastered version of "Back In Black." Nothing really new here except to say the revamped sound really leaps out of the speakers and that the packaging is made to look and feel as much as the old vinyl records did. Since the work of "Back In Black" was so inspired with new vocalist Brian Johnson it is a fitting end to this box set. 

All in all this is a great box set, but is probably only of interest to die-hard AC/DC fans.

For more information, check out http://www.acdcrocks.com

"Who Made Who" (Atlantic; 1986)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"Who Made Who" is, according to the CD cover, "the official soundtrack of the Stephen King Film 'Maximum Overdrive.'" King, an avowed AC/DC fan, asked the band to perform the score for the film that he wrote and directed.

First, let's talk about the movie. Although King himself calls it the modern version of classic bomb "Plan 9 From Outer Space," "Maximum Overdrive" is actually a real B-movie blast. It's about a group of people, stranded at a truck stop, who are trying not to be murdered by everyday machinery (such as trucks, lawnmowers, etc.) that have suddenly gone wild. "Maximum Overdrive" is filled with dark, Stephen King horror and humor and stars Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle and Yeardley Smith.

The soundtrack to the film is a blast as well. It's a combination greatest its package combined with a couple of new tracks that were used as background music in the film. There are 9 tracks on "Who Made Who," one of which was original for the film, six of which were greatest hits, and two which are instrumental movie score tracks.

The original song, "Who Made Who," fits right in with the AC/DC catalog and, in fact, has become a staple of live AC/DC shows. The original score tracks, "D.T." and "Chase the Ace" are both heavy metal instrumentals that sound okay on this CD but sounded even better in the film where they were tied into the action. The greatest hits songs include the AC/DC classics "You Shook Me All Night Long," "Sink the Pink," "Ride On," "Hells Bells," "Shake Your Foundations" and "For Those About to Rock, We Salute You."

"Who Made Who" is a great collection of AC/DC classics, if nothing else. And completists will want to have the instrumental tracks in their collection as well.

For more information, check out http://www.acdcrocks.com

"Flick of the Switch" (Sony; 1983)

Reviewed by Snidermann

After two widely successful releases ("Back In Black" and "For Those About to Rock (We Salute You))", AC/DC made a conscious effort to get back to basics. "Flick of the Switch" was the result of that thinking.

Produced by the band, "Flick of the Switch" is a gritty rock performance that reminds me of the band's earlier releases (from the Bon Scott era). Each tune is straight-shooting, hard-driving rock'n'roll that I have grown up with. I hadn't listened to this CD for years until I found a used copy at my local record store and, after playing it about fifty times in a row, I realized I had forgotten just how strong this CD really is. 

The tracklisting here is a tour de force and, if the band were to play just this release at a live show, I would consider it ticket money well spent. 

For more information, check out http://www.acdcrocks.com

"Highway to Hell" (Atlantic; 1979)

Reviewed by Snidermann

"Highway To Hell" was released in 1979 and was to be vocalist Bon Scott's last studio release before his untimely death on February 19, 1980. Two songs from this CD got major airplay on classic rock stations (and do to this day): the title track "Girl's Got Rhythm."

But it's not just those two songs that makes "Highway to Hell" so great. The entire CD is jam packed with classic AC/DC tunes with impossibly tight guitar licks among the brothers Young (Malcolm and Angus), the raspy guttural vocals of Bon Scott, the thundering drums of Phil Rudd and Cliff Williams laying down solid bass lines. 

This is timeless rock'n'roll to the core and it's as relevant and powerful today as it was in 1979. 

"Highway To Hell" was the release that hooked me deep into AC/DC and they remain one of my very favorite bands today. Not only was Bon Scott a great vocalist, he was an outstanding songwriter as well. If there are any questions of that issue, just check out this release ... and any other AC/DC album released before 1979 ... and see for yourself. Bon Scott may be gone, but his music will live on forever. 

For more information, check out www.ac-dc.net

"Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" (Atlantic; 1976)

Reviewed by Snidermann

The oft-asked AC/DC question is this: Bon Scott or Brian Johnson? That question will never be answered and, frankly, it is unfair to judge. Each version of this band is epic is its own way. 

There's no need to separate them here, however, because Brian Johnson was the only vocalist on "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap." Originally released in 1976, this CD is a vibrant look back in time to the middle of the 70s. I remember listening to this recording and being instantly and forever hooked. 

Several cuts from this nearly thirty year old recording are still staples on rock stations around the country, most notably the title track and "Problem Child." My parents hated "Big Balls," with its over-the-top sexual innuendo (it's about high society dances!), but that's the way it's supposed to be! 

AC/DC: Angus Young - lead guitar; Malcolm Young - rhythm guitar; Bon Scott - vocals; Phil Rudd - drums; Mark Evans - bass (he was sacked in 1977). 

"Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" is just what its title implies: It's pure and simple rock'n'roll with no bullshit, no gimmicks, just good hard rockin' music. 

For more information, check out http://www.acdcrocks.com

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

Back to CD Reviews Home

Back to RoughEdge.com Home

Copyright © 2014 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 09 Apr 2017 12:09:58 -0400.