AC/DC Live

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

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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