AC/DC Live

#830: 1992

1992

I’ve never been much of a winter guy.  I get that from my dad.  The winter of ’92 was long with a number of serious snow days.  I had just learned how to drive and it was certainly a challenge.  Details are not important.  You don’t need an accounting of times my little Plymouth Sundance got stuck or struggled to make it home from school.  All you really need to know was what was in my tape deck.

I was still digesting a lot of the music that I received for Christmas at the end of ’91.  The live Poison and Queensryche sets got a lot of car play once I dubbed them onto cassette.  At this point my attention to detail was becoming overwhelming.  I painstakingly faded in and faded out the sides of the live albums onto cassette.  This had to be done manually as you were recording.  If I missed the cue I’d do it over again until I got it right to my satisfaction.  I should have known there was something wrong with me!

We had one serious snow day that year, and although class wasn’t cancelled I stayed home.  My school friend Rob V made a tape for me of David Lee Roth live in Toronto on the Eat ‘Em and Smile tour.  I know that I played that tape on that day because the memory is so clear.  It was a great concert.  Roth and Steve Vai had a fun interplay, where Steve imitated Roth’s vocal intonations with his guitar.  Vai followed his voice as Roth told the crowd, “Toronto kicks ass, because the girls are soooo fiiiine!”

Time flies, and 1992 didn’t take long to kick into gear with new releases.

I had just discovered Queen.  Suddenly here comes this new movie Wayne’s World which made Queen a worldwide phenomenon for a second time.  More important to me though was the fact that the soundtrack CD included the first new Black Sabbath track with Ronnie James Dio in a decade:  “Time Machine”!  My buddy Peter didn’t care — he was strictly an Ozzy Sabbath fan.  No Dio!  (And certainly no Tony Martin!)  But I was excited.  I wanted to get that soundtrack as soon as possible.

There was a new music store that had just opened at the mall about six months prior.  The very first tape I would ever buy there was the debut album by Mr. Bungle in late ’91.   It would be the very Record Store that I would later dedicate years of my life to…but not yet.  When it opened, I recall my sister and I being glad that there was finally a music store at the mall again, but disappointed in the prices.  $14.99 for a tape was a lot of cash.  CDs were unfortunately out of our price range.  New cassette releases like Wayne’s World were cheaper at $10.99, so I went to the mall before class one morning to get a copy.  And this is a funny memory as you’ll see.

When I worked at the store, the boss would give me shit if he thought I was talking to someone too much.  I think he would have preferred good old fashioned silent labour, but I don’t know that.  He also drilled into us to pay attention to every customer and don’t ignore anybody.  So it’s quite ironic that he lost a sale that day by ignoring me and talking it up with some hot girl visiting him!

I was standing there in front of his new release rack looking for Wayne’s World.  I knew it was out, but didn’t see it anywhere.  I checked his soundtracks and it was missing in action.   I wanted to ask him if he had it, but he was chatting it up with this girl.  Eventually I caught his attention, but only because as I stood there waiting, I thought he did ask me a question.  So I said, “Pardon me?”  But he wasn’t actually talking to me, he was still talking to the girl.  Once he noticed me, he informed me that Wayne’s World was sold out but he could hold a copy for me as soon as the next shipment arrived.  I was ticked off so I said no thanks, and picked it up at the Zellers store down the hall instead.

Wayne’s World in the deck, I happily rocked to Queen, Sabbath, Cinderella, and hell even Gary Wright.  Peter and I saw the movie one Saturday night at a theater in Guelph, and liked it so much that we went back to see it again the following afternoon.  I saw Wayne’s World four times that winter!

I got my fill of Queen with the recent Classic Queen CD, released later that March.  I got the CD for a good price at the local Costco!  This enabled me to get a good chunk of Queen hits all at once in glorious CD quality.

The next big release to hit my car deck was a big one.  A really big one.  An album five years in the making through triumph and tragedy.

On March 31 I went back to the Record Store on my way to class, and the new release I was waiting for had arrived.  I left gripping Adrenalize in my hands.  An album I had been waiting for since highschool and even had actual dreams about!  It was finally real.  Into the tape deck it went as I drove to school.  Less riffy…more reliant on vocal melody…not bad?  I’ll let them have it though.  After what they’ve been through?  Yeah, I’ll cut them some slack.

Two weeks later, I was digesting another massive chunk of music.

I didn’t get Pandora’s Box in 1991 when it was released.  There was so much going on.  But my parents bought it for me as an Easter gift in April ’92.  That Easter I was “Back in the Saddle” with three CDs of Aerosmith!

It was a bittersweet gift.  Traditionally the family spent Easter at the cottage.  I have lots of happy memories of playing GI Joe in the fresh Easter afternoons up there.  This time I had to study for final exams and stayed home with my gift.  I must have played that box set two times through while studying that weekend.

Exams were over by the end of April and suddenly…it was summer holidays.  In April!  It was…incredible!  I stubbornly refused to get a summer job.  I have to say I don’t regret that.  I had savings from my previous job at the grocery store and I was getting Chrysler dividends cheques (yeah, baby).  Between that, Christmas & birthday gifts, I got most of the music I wanted.  And I got to spend that summer just enjoying it all.  It felt really good after such a long and frankly lonely winter.

Pandora’s Box tided me over.  After all, it was a lot to absorb having heard very little “old” Aerosmith up til that point.  My favourite track was “Sharpshooter” by Whitford – St. Holmes.  I liked that they included a sampling of solo material by various members.  These were new worlds to discover, but what about the next big release?  Who would be the one to spend my valuable savings on?

Iron Maiden were back on May 11 after a very short absence with Fear of the Dark, their second of the Janick Gers era.  But I needed to save my money, and wait one more week for something even more important to me.  It was Revenge time.

Speaking of triumph and tragedy, it was time for some overdue spoils for Kiss.  Having lost drummer Eric Carr to cancer in late ’91, Kiss deserved to catch a break.  Fortunately Revenge turned out to be a far better album than the previous few.  I recall getting over a really bad cold, and my lungs were still congested on that spring day.  The outdoor air felt amazing.  I walked over to the mall on release day and bought my CD copy at the Record Store.  I probably ran all the way home to play it, lungs be damned.

To say I was happy was an understatement.  In 1992 you had to come out with something strong or you would sink.  It was a more vicious musical world than just a year ago.  Fortunately Kiss did not wimp out and came out with an album just heavy enough, without following trends.  It would be my favourite album of the year, though a few strong contenders were still lined up.

My birthday was coming and I would have to wait a little while to get some more essential tunes.  Fear of the Dark was on the list.  So was Faith No More’s Angel Dust, which was a must.  And, of course, rock’s ultimate royalty returned in 1992.  A band that rock history cannot ignore, though it arguably should.  A band that defined the term “odorous”.  A band with a colourful and tragic backstory.  A band making its long feared return with its first album since 1984’s Smell the Glove.  And with their new album Break Like the Wind, they proudly proclaimed, yes indeed, this is Spinal Tap.

Once again, quite a bit of music to absorb.  I had been anticipating the Iron Maiden.  I heard the first single “Be Quick or Be Dead” on Q107 late one night, and didn’t think much of it at first.  I was concerned that Bruce Dickinson’s voice was becoming more growly and less melodic.  The album helped assuage these concerns with a number of melodic numbers including “Wasting Love”, “Afraid to Shoot Strangers” and “Fear of the Dark”.  But the album was infected with lots of filler.  “Weekend Warrior”, “Fear is the Key”, “Chains of Misery”…lots of songs that were just not memorable.  Fear of the Dark sounded better than its predecessor but could you say it was better than Seventh SonSomewhere in Time Powerslave?  No.

Though it was murky and dense, the Faith No More album blew me away.  The M.E.A.T Magazine review by Drew Masters gave it 2/5 M’s.  I gave it 5/5.  I wanted something heavy and weird from Faith No More.  I got what I wanted.  Peter was a big Faith No More fan too, but I don’t think he dug Angel Dust as much as I did.  We both appreciated the comedic aspects but I really got into the samples, nuances and rhythms.  It was, and is, a masterpiece.  I believe I can say that I was of that opinion from the very beginning.

And Spinal Tap, dear Spinal Tap.  The Majesties of Rock took a little longer for me to fully understand.  And no wonder, for Spinal Tap are playing musical 4-dimensional chess inside your ear canals.  I simply had to accept that several years had passed since Spinal Tap last recorded, and they had grown in their own stunted way.  I’ve always thought that the title track was sincerely brilliant.  But I never liked that Nigel Tufnel had so few lead vocals.  I have long appreciated bands that had multiple lead singers.  While this time even bassist Derek Smalls stepped up to the microphone, it was David St. Hubbins who sang lead on 11 of the 14 tracks.  Now, this is certainly not to criticise the enviable lead pipes of St. Hubbins, but merely to state that there wasn’t enough Nigel.  Having said that, Nigel did branch out by employing a new guitar playing technique — doubling his solos with vocals, like Gillan used to do with Blackmore.  He also got to unleash his new amps that went up to infinity, which debuted live at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert in April.

Like all things, summer eventually came to an end and it was back to school once again.  That fall and into Christmas I got some of the last new releases that were on my radar.  I missed Black Sabbath when Dehumanizer came out in June.  That one took a long time to really like.  While the production was incredibly crisp, the songs didn’t seem up to snuff to me.  At least at first.  In time, it became a personal favourite album.

That Christmas came the new Bon Jovi album Keep the Faith, Queen’s new Greatest Hits, and of course AC/DC Live.  It was also the Christmas that I first realized there was something wrong inside my head, and I realized it because of those albums.  It was partly the obsessive-compulsive disorder, but also a massive hangup about being ignored.  I wanted the AC/DC double Live, but was given the single.  I wanted Keep the Faith and Queen on CD but got cassette.  As I grew older and learned more about myself, I realized that I became very upset if I felt like someone was not listening to me or understanding me.  Nobody seemed to get why I wanted specific versions (because of my OCD actually), and I couldn’t explain it, so that set me off even further.  I became extremely grumpy that Christmas over these gifts, and it was ugly.  I isolated myself to stew in my own negativity.  It’s not something I’m proud of, and you can call me a spoiled brat if you want to (you wouldn’t be wrong).  At least I’ve worked at trying to figure out my defects.

It’s not like any of it mattered in the long term.  I have re-bought all of those albums twice since, each!

1992 went out much like it came in, cold and snowy.  Canadian winters are hard.  Some people have the DNA for it, but I don’t.  I’m half Italian.  I wasn’t designed for snowy, damp winters.  That’s why music is so important to me in the winter months.  Music can be a completely indoor activity and I had a continually fresh supply.  1992 was a big year for heavy metal even though the grunge revolution had already started.  Of course, things were not to stay as they are.  Iron Maiden and Faith No More were about to hit some major speedbumps, and Black Sabbath had already split in two by the end of the year!  1992 was the last time we could pretend heavy metal was still in good health.    Hard rock was about to endure further challenges and hardships.  At least we had ’92.

 

REVIEW: AC/DC – Live (Remastered 2 CD collector’s edition)

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.

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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.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: AC/DC – Live at River Plate (2012 German edition with bonus tracks)

ACDC FRONT

AC/DC – Live at River Plate (2012 Sony Music Germany edition with three bonus tracks)

ACDC DOMESTIC STICKERTime moves agonizingly slow in AC/DC Land.  Witness the nine years between Stiff Upper Lip and the band’s latest studio album Black Ice.  Even more astonishing is the fact that Live at River Plate is AC/DC’s first live album in 20 years!  Granted, only three studio albums came between AC/DC Live and this record.  Still, most bands of AC/DC’s ilk tend to release live albums as if it’s an annual occasion.

I’ll give AC/DC credit for something:  value.  Of Live at River Plate‘s 22 tracks, only 12 were on the last live album.  Live at River Plate is a lot more Bon-heavy.  It also draws several tracks from Black Ice itself, which is nice, but you get the feeling that these were the “let’s go take a piss” songs in concert.

“We don’t speak very good Spanish,” says Brian, “but we speak Rock and Roll pretty good!  Let’s go!”  Then the band tear into the golden oldie, “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be”, which last time, was relegated to B-side status, on the 1992 live “Highway to Hell” single.  Brian Johnson’s voice is noticeably more whispery.  This is inevitable, singing this kind of music.  Considering this, it’s astonishing to hear Brian as ferocious as ever on “Let There Be Rock”.  How the man still has a voice after all these years is a mystery to science.

Hit after hit with new tracks mixed in, AC/DC roll ’em out:  “Black in Black”, “Dirty Deeds”, “Thunderstruck”, “Hells Bells”, “The Jack” along with newbies like “Black Ice”.  Meanwhile, Angus struts out his unmistakable guitar glee in extended solos and trade-offs with Brian.  The most exciting thing about AC/DC on stage remains Angus Young.  Even without the visuals of the shorts and the stomping, Angus continues to entrance, just doing what he does and making it all sound easy.

Disc 2 is just as heavy on the hits:  “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Rosie”, “T.N.T.”, “Highway”, “For Those About to Rock”.     “War Machine” from Black Ice gives the audience a chance to get a beer, even though it’s as menacingly good as classics like “The Razors Edge”.

One thing that hasn’t been highly publicized is that the German edition of this album includes three bonus tracks.  These bonus tracks are real treats, of the underplayed AC/DC variety!  All three are taken from the Live at Circus Krone DVD, which was only available with the massive AC/DC Backtracks box set.  Sweet.

COLOURSEverybody loves “Rock ‘N’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, and it’s still as entertaining as ever, if a little less energetic.  “If You Want Blood” is another favourite, from the Bon era.  Bon used to sing this one at maximum lung power, but Bon was a 33 year old man.  Brian was 55 when he sang this.  I’m glad for its inclusion, as it’s still a high voltage head banger.  But the real treat is “What’s Next to the Moon”, an oldie from Powerage that isn’t on any AC/DC live album except this German edition.  And it prowls like a wolf, with teeth.

Live at River Plate was released in three colours (red, yellow, blue) in North America, but I don’t know about this German edition.  The only pictures I’ve seen of it were red, like mine.

The single from this album was the Record Store Day 2011 exclusive “Shoot to Thrill” / “War Machine”.  I don’t have anything in particular to say about the single, except it sure took them long enough to put out a full live album!

4/5 stars