AC/DC – Live (1992, 2003 Epic remastered collector’s edition)
AC/DC and their label did something very clever for their first live album with Brian Johnson in 1992. Instead of putting out a full-on and expensive double live album (well over $30 on CD in the 90’s) they allowed fans to choose a more economic option. A single “highlights” version of AC/DC Live was released simultaneously with 14 of the 23 tracks on one disc. AC/DC must have been one of the first bands to release a “collector’s edition” of an album with an extra CD at a higher price.
Of course to a real AC/DC fan, the single disc is for rookies. Sure, its firepower can’t be denied, but anybody with the dollars and a hard-on for AC/DC shelled out for the double. Their last live release was 1978’s If You Want Blood You’ve Got It with Bon Scott, a mere single disc.
Here’s the only serious flaw with AC/DC Live (either version). Like The Razors Edge, it was produced by Bruce Fairbairn. Why would AC/DC need a studio guy like Fairbairn to produce a live album? Astute fans have picked apart the release and compared it to bootleg recordings from the same shows. Like most live albums, even AC/DC succumbed to post-concert studio overdubs. This is not particularly obvious on one listen, but it was always suspected due to the clean and near-perfect sound of AC/DC Live. Where is the raunch? Mixed out and overdubbed. That’s unfortunate. More bands should just pick the version of a song they like best, suck it up and put it on the album as-is.
Since 1992, AC/DC have released a lot of live material, both current and from the Bon era. Notable is Live at River Plate (2012), another double, with Phil Rudd on drums. A valid question would be, “How badly does a fan really need AC/DC Live in 2016?” With so much to choose from, especially on DVD, AC/DC Live serves today as an historic document. The Razors Edge album was a huge comeback for a band that never stopped, the tour was massive, and the resultant album is a document of this period. With period hits like “Moneytalks” and “Heatseeker”, there are a few songs you won’t get live on some other releases. (These two are even on the single CD version.) There are also a couple nice long extended Angus jams, if you’re into the solos. Lastly, AC/DC Live is the only live album with then (and present) drummer Chris Slade. While no one will deny that Phil Rudd is “the man” when it comes to AC/DC, Chris Slade is well-liked and deserves his place in history. He’s even on the album cover.
Of note, the original (non-remastered) printing of AC/DC Live came with a neat bonus: a little Angus $1 bill, like the ones they used to drop on the crowd during “Moneytalks”. This memento was not included in the remaster, so when I traded my original copy in for a remaster I said “fuck it” and kept the $1 bill. It’s too cool to throw away, and I’m sure many of those old Angus bills have been lost or destroyed since.
Ever so lucky, the Japanese fans received a bonus track: “Hell Ain’t A Bad Place to Be”. Fear not, everyone else. This track was included on the live 1992 “Highway to Hell” single, which is fairly common. Worth tracking down; it’s also on the Backtracks box set.