Thursday, August 23, 2007

AC/DC-Back in black

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Atlantic
1980

AC/DC wasted very little time in replacing the late Bon Scott and releasing a new album. Oftentimes considered one of if not their best album. Undoubtedly the album that broke them into being huge in commercial terms particularly in North America. To me, the music here is fairly similar to the previous album "Highway to hell". I think that by this point the music was similar in pace to their outputs from the 1970's but perhaps a little less raw and they had a little more polish here and there. Yet a lot of that approach may have started with "Highway to hell" and just continued on this one. A large part of the success is due to the fact that around 1980 hard rock and metal was rising back into focus after several years of decline and competing with other musical genres. So in some ways this album may have really hit at the right time and right place. The biggest change is obviously the vocals and Brian Johnson is quite a bit different from Bon Scott. Neither singer had a great range, but both fit in with the music of AC/DC. However, I love Scott's vocals and found Johnson's approach to be a bit screechy and hard to take at times. There are times where Johnson's vocals work such as "Givin the dog a bone", the great "Rock and roll ain't noise pollution" and the good, but hugely overplayed "You shook me all night long". Yet other songs like the title track and "What do you do for money, honey" have vocals that are hard to take. Since Johnson's vocals are not quite as easy to take as Scott's, this perhaps put more pressure on the rest of the band to step up. They do step it up enough as I think the sound here is extremely tight. The band was fairly confident in what they were doing by this stage of the game. Above all else they control the pace and don't rush anything. They do have an overall style that prevails in the album, but they mix up the tempo perhaps more than in some of their previous efforts. Easily their best album with Brian Johnson and definitely a top five out of the band's large catalog. Still I have to say that it's a little overrated because I can't see it as being the band's best album. Best known album perhaps, but I think that has quite a bit to do with the timing issue I mentioned earlier. Still it's held up reasonably well and I listen to it fairly often even today.

***Powerage review coming up Friday as AC/DC week draws to a close.

20 Comments:

Blogger David Amulet said...

The production on this album is truly outstanding, part of the reason it has held up so well for so long. I agree about Johnson's vox, which sometimes annoy me. But it's still one hell of an album.

-- david

3:24 AM  
Blogger Andre du Plessis said...

I like this album, but I was surprised it did so much better than their previous ones. a Great song for me is the one most people like - "You shook me all night long"

4:36 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Besides being a great album, you have to credit them for being able to move on without Bon and becoming as sucessful as they were.

I'm enjoying AC/DC week.

5:59 AM  
Blogger RockDog said...

One of my all time favorite albums! Great songs from start to finish!

7:18 AM  
Blogger aXe mAn said...

This is THE album that got me into the "hard rock" genre. I think this is a solid album all the way through.
My favorite AC/DC album is always a toss up between this one and "Highway To Hell".
I think this was a great comeback..considering the circumstances.

8:37 AM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

Brian Johnson makes this pretty much unlistenable. I appreciate that you haven't given in to completely accepting its greatness, but I do think you give it too much credit. If AC/DC ever had anything to offer (and that's debatable at best), it was the loose swagger of their early albums. You're right that they tightened up their sound by this point, but that hurt them rather than helped. It drained even the bar band level fun out of the music. Over the years, I've come to realize that the title track isn't such a bad song, just poorly performed. Oddly enough, I've never heard a good version. I guess I should give AC/DC some credit for being a dirtier, grittier bore than the lightweights that would follow them in the pop metal genre.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Phiff said...

Enjoyed your review. Don't ya just cringe when you hear someone say Bon and Brian sound the same?

Bon Scott Club

10:55 AM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

Phiff - I cringe when someone suggests that Bon Scott is rock's greatest frontman. Of course, I'd cringe even more if they suggested the same about Brian Johnson.

10:58 AM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

David-The production is very good, but I think that's the case on most of their albums.

Andre-I am also surprised that this was the album that broke them, but I think the timing had a lot to do with it.

Mike-I think following up on the success of Highway to hell so quickly helped them a lot.

rockdog-It's good.

axe man-AC/DC were one of the first bands I got into.

Bob-AC/DC are often copied, but very few bands come close to what they have done. You would think a band whose music was so simple would be easy to copy. That says a great deal about possibly their attitude and approach. I don't think tightening up hurt them and it likely would have happened even if Bon had lived. I think the record label knew they were one the brink of breaking it big and invested more money in the production.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

phiff-I have never heard many people say that.

Bob-I have never heard anyone say Bon was the greatest frontman of all time. I am sure he was great though.

11:13 AM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

Mark - AC/DC is often copied and none of those bands are much good either! The fact that a slew of rotten bands have tried to copy their sound doesn't argue very well for their greatness. As always, the record company saw an opportunity to sell an inferior product to an unsuspecting public and invested a lot in the marketing and payola schemes.

12:36 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

bob-Yes, yes, blah, blah, blah. I am still waiting for you to give me those albums you hate so much.

1:03 PM  
Blogger Hard Rock Hideout said...

Back in Black will always be my go to AC/DC album. I have heard the songs a thousand times, and yet I never tire of them.

It was definitely the best rock album of 1980. The only one that remotely comes close that year was British Steel by Judas Priest, and Van Halen's Women and Children First.

What a great year it was to be a rock fan in 1980.

Rob Rockitt
Hard Rock Hideout
www.hardrockhideout.com

2:00 PM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

Mark - As I said before, I'm sparing the world a little more embarrassment by letting them gather dust on my shelf.

Rob - AC/DC has nothing to do with why it was great to be a rock fan in 1980. It was great, because the Clash had released London Calling (2xLP) just a few weeks before the year began and then, as if that weren't enough, they released Sandinista (3xLP) just a few weeks before the year ended. Yes, that's 5 LPs worth of the greatest rock band since the Beatles within the space of a year! Amazing! There's a reason they were "the only band that matters." Even Back in Black couldn't sour that!

7:10 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

HRH-Actually I think there were several albums in 1980 better than Back in black. Permanent waves, British Steel, Wheels of steel, Blizzard of Ozz, Heaven and hell and Iron Maiden's debut all come to mind. That was a good year though.

Bob-Never heard those Clash albums. I think I have two Clash albums, but have never listened to them.

The New Wave of British of heavy metal was breaking out and rock music was coming back so 1980 was indeed a great year.

7:36 PM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

Mark - I pulled out my AC/DC LPs (all ten of them), but I quickly returned them to the shelf before the dust got on some good records.

7:41 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Bob-Oh, I'll bet you were singing Back in black in the shower this morning.

3:44 PM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

If I had been, it would've been better than Brian Johnson singing it.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Bob-Maybe so, but he has gold and platinum albums. All you have are gold fillings.

6:26 PM  
Blogger :P fuzzbox said...

I always kind of thought of Highway to Hell and Back in Black as a set. The first part slightly better than the second.

4:02 PM  

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