AC/DC

RIP Malcolm Young (1953-2017)

Beloved brother of Angus and the recently departed George, Malcolm Young has passed away at age 64.  Malcolm is, of course, best known as AC/DC’s founder.  This is devastating news to fans of the band, even though Malcolm was suffering from dementia for several years.

Rest in peace, Mal.

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#585: Days Full of Music

Getting More Tale #585: Days Full of Music

I might not rock and roll all night, or party every day.  I do, however, sleep well at night because I rock and roll most of the day.

I play music every day.  I have played music every day with only a few exceptions for the last 30+ years.  A grade 8 weeklong Catholic school retreat at Mt. Mary meant a week of no music, so I listened to as much Kiss as I could beforehand.  I hoped to have the tunes in my head all week.  Unfortunately that’s not a substitute for the real thing, but I did survive Mt. Mary.

I have always said that listening to the radio at work is a much better fate than listening to whatever was popular at the Record Store in the later days.  Better for me, anyway, rather than being force-fed Franz Ferdinand, Alicia Keys, or Big Shiny Tunes all day.  I’d much rather check out what’s on the local rock airwaves.  The higher-ups at the Record Store didn’t like my kind of music much, so when they were around I stuck to the stuff they wanted played.  I didn’t want to get in shit for playing Kiss in store anymore.

Below you’ll find what a typical happy day at work sounds like today.  I used July 5 2017 as a sample date.  There are a few readers here who listen to the same radio station I do (107.5 Dave Rocks where I have done guest shots in the past) so some will know these songs well.  Then there are others who loathe the radio (which is fine) and they can skip this one.

I started my daily commute that day with the second disc of Rush’s 2112, the 40th anniversary edition.  The drive to work consisted of the cover tunes by Foo Fighters, Billy Talent, Steven Wilson, Jacob Moon and Alice in Chains.  On this trip I was struck by how little like Alice in Chains they sounded.   I was also very impressed (as usual) with Jacob Moon.  I’m almost embarrassed to add that Billy Talent is gradually growing on me, and this Rush cover doesn’t hurt their case.

When I got into the office I turned on the radio to hear One Bad Son.  They are a new hard rock band from Saskatoon, but they sound international.  A band to keep an ear to the ground for.  The day went on as you see it below.  I have marked all Canadian Content songs with a red CC, since radio stations in Canada must play certain percentages of CanCon.

Here was my music for the day of July 5:


Car:  Rush – 2112 40th anniversary edition (first half of disc 2)

1. One Bad Son – “Raging Bull” – Great rock reminiscent of Skid Row! CC
2. Spacehog – “In the Meantime”
3. Alice in Chains – “Check My Brain” –Killer track, it’s been a while.
4. April Wine – “Weeping Widow” – I’ve never heard this smoking track before. CC
5. Motley Crue – “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)”
6. Age of Electric – “Ugly” – Vintage Canadian alternarock! CC

7. The Cars – “Just What I Needed” – I will never get tired of this.
8. The Struts – “Kiss This” – I  absolutely hate this song.
9. The Tragically Hip – “Fully Completely” CC
10. Bon Jovi – “Born to Be My Baby” – Old classic back in circulation.
11. Soundgarden – “Rusty Cage”
12. U2 – “Beautiful Day”
13. The Guess Who – “American Woman” CC
14. Bryan Adams – “Kids Wanna Rock” CC
15. Foo Fighters – “All My Life”
16. Bachman-Turner Overdrive – “Hold Back the Water” CC
17. Papa Roach – “Help”
18. J. Geils Band – “Love Stinks”
19. The Trews – “So She’s Leaving” CC
20. Aerosmith – “Back in the Saddle” – I did air guitar in my office for this song.
21. Metallica – “Until it Sleeps”
22. Harlequin  – “Thinking of You”— A great old tune that deserves your attention. CC

23. Monster Truck – “The Enforcer” CC
24. The Kinks – “You Really Got Me”
25. Sublime – “Santeria”
26. The Killjoys – “Today I Hate Everyone” CC
27. Led Zeppelin – “Night Flight” – Points for a more obscure song!
28. Pop Evil – “Footsteps” – Sorry Pop Evil fans. I can’t get into this band at all.
29. The Cult – “Wildflower”
30. The Wild! – “Living Free” – Tyler Generoux is into these guys. CC
31. Kaleo – “Glass House”
32. Moist – “Resurrection” CC
33. Guns N’ Roses – “You Could Be Mine”
34. Rush – “The Big Money” CC
35. The Rolling Stones – “Rocks Off”
36. Soundgarden – “Burden In My Hand”
37. The Who – “I’m Free”
38. Blink 182 – “Bored to Death – I’ve really been enjoying their new songs with Matt Skiba.
39. Nirvana – “Breed”
40. Neil Young – “When You Dance You Can Really Love” CC
41. Sloan – “She Says What She Means” CC
42. Our Lady Peace – “Supersatellite” CC
43. AC/DC – “Rock N’ Roll Train” – It’s nice to hear “newer” Black Ice material.

44. Led Zeppelin – “Four Sticks” – The second Zep of the shift.
45. Stone Sour – “Bother”
46. Scorpions – “The Zoo”
47. Jimi Hendrix – “Fire”
48. Metallica – “The Unforgiven”
49. ZZ Top – “Sharp Dressed Man”
50. Nickelback – “Feed the Machine” – First and thankfully only Nickelback of the shift. CC
51. Max Webster – “Paradise Skies” CC
52. Sam Roberts Band – “If You Want It” CC
53. Foo Fighters – “D.O.A.” – Second Foo Fighters of the shift.
54. Van Halen – “Hot For Teacher”
55. Hole – “Awful” – Ironically not awful!
56. Rush – The Analog Kid”  – Second Rush of the shift. CC
57. The Guess Who – “Bus Rider” – Second Guess Who of the shift. CC
58. 311 – “Down” – I hated them then, and I hate them now.
59. The Glorious Sons – “Mama” CC

60. Big Sugar – “Dear Mr. Fantasy” CC
61. Led Zeppelin – “Rock and Roll” – Third Zep for the shift and the most typical.
62. The Offspring – “Gone Away” – A band I never ever liked.
63. Def Leppard – “Hysteria” – Their greatest ballad ever.
64. Bon Jovi – “Lay Your Hands On Me” – Second Jovi of the shift and second from New Jersey.
65. The Trews – “Lotta Work Little Love” – Second Trews of the shift. CC
66. Soundgarden – “Blow Up the Outside World” – Second Soundgarden and second from Down on the Upside.
67. Triumph – “Lay It On the Line” (remixed) CC
68. The Rolling Stones – “Gimme Shelter” – Second and best Stones of the shift.
69. Green Day – “Revolution Radio”
70. The Clash – “Rock the Casbah” – Booooring.
71. The Standstills – “Orleans” – Great Canadian blues rock duo.  Check them out.  CC

72. Van Halen – “Unchained” – Second Van Halen of the shift.  It’s the Craig Fee Show!
73. AC/DC – “Who Made Who” – Second AC/DC of the shift.
74. Bryan Adams – “Summer of ‘69” – Second Bryan of the shift. CC
75. Big Wreck – “You Don’t Even Know” CC
76. Foreigner – “Hot Blooded”

And that was it.  That’s 7:30 to 4:30 right there, not a bad shift to work.  I went home resuming the Rush, and that got me to the door.

Car:  Rush – 2112 40th anniversary edition (live songs from disc 2)


How do you like that day?  There were very few stinkers in that list of songs.  I could leave behind the Nickelback, the “Rock the Casbah”, and the Struts among others.  Those tracks aside, this was a very solid day of great rock and roll, new and old.  No repeat.  Only a few bands had more than one song played.  A good number of songs were off the beaten track.  Pretty good for a full day at the office, right?  I count my blessings every day, believe me!  I am very grateful I get to listen to such great music at work.

I’m the office Milton. I even have the red stapler.

REVIEW: AC/DC – The Razors Edge (1990)

AC/DC – The Razors Edge (1988, 2003 Epic remaster)

The 80s were bumpy for AC/DC.  Back In Black was massive.  For Those About to Rock was almost as big.  Flick of the Switch was a solid ball of rock, but things were uneven and some songs were filler.  Fly on the Wall has its detractors for its muddy sound, and Blow Up Your Video was mostly a snooze.  For their 1990 comeback, AC/DC got Canadian mega-producer Bruce Fairbairn involved.*  He had a huge run of hit albums most notably by Bon Jovi and Aerosmith.  Could he work his magic with AC/DC?

Bruce was one of the biggest names around, but having a hitmaker like him working with AC/DC was bound to affect their sound.  Not too much of course; this was AC/DC after all.  But Bruce did offer a cleaner sound, and there is no question it worked. To the tune of five million copies!  Another change was bringing in ex-The Firm drummer Chris Slade after the departure of Simon Wright, who joined Dio.  The bald-headed beat keeper became a fan favourite very quickly.  (Slade is once again the drummer of AC/DC today after replacing Phil Rudd.)

Debut single “Thunderstruck” has deservedly become a classic in the pantheon of AC/DC classics.  It was immediately obvious that AC/DC toned down the bluesy leanings of Blow Up Your Video in favour of rock and even arguably metal.  “Thunderstruck” is heavy metal, especially with that fluttery Angus Young lick that dominates the song.

Chris Slade’s hyper-caffeinated drum stylings really impact “Fire Your Guns”, one of the fastest and most fun AC/DC tracks in recorded history.  Any AC/DC song that involves them yelling “fire!” is guaranteed to thrill.  Not to be ignored is bassist Cliff Williams who is effortlessly locked in with Slade.  And sonically this is the best sounding AC/DC stuff since Back in Black.  Singer Brian Johnson said at the time that Bruce Fairbairn encouraged him to scream more like the old days.

Another huge single was the plucky “Moneytalks”, bringing the groove down to a perfect mid-tempo.  The main thing is the hook of the chorus.  Though all songs were written solely by the Brothers Young, you can hear Bruce Fairbairn’s impact.  It’s tight and focused more than AC/DC had been last time out.  No doubt Bruce acted as a brutal editor in the studio when necessary, and must have had a role in shaping the songs to their final form.  Listen to the layers of vocals on the chorus and tell me that’s not Bruce’s doing.

Some of the best AC/DC tracks in history have been deeper album cuts.  The title track is one such song, an ominous almost-epic.  “The Razors Edge” refers to a storm front on the horizon, and the song has that kind of foreboding feel.  Unfortunately this friggin’ incredible construction of guitars and screams is followed by a novelty track.  A seasonal novelty track.  “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all day the day.  I can’t wait til’ Christmas time when I roll you in the hay.”  This song should have been axed and saved for a compilation or single, where it actually could have had some impact.  Not that it’s not fun; it is!  But who wants to listen to jingle bells on track five of an AC/DC album?  “Rock Your Heart Out” closed the side with the dubious distinction of being the first obvious filler song.

The third single “Are You Ready” was the opening track for side two.  Good tune, nothing particularly special, but good enough for an AC/DC album.  “Got You By the Balls” is an amusing title, but not a memorable song.  It has a menacing bite, but not enough hooks.  There’s a definite “side two slump” as none of these songs are as good as the first batch on side one.  “Shot of Love” is OK.  Things get back on track with “Let’s Make It” which might have made a great single itself.  It has an old-timey rock and roll feel, and a slow groove.  That classic rock and roll sound isn’t heard frequently on The Razors Edge.  “Goodbye and Good Riddance to Bad Luck” isn’t shabby but veers close to that filler territory.  Finally The Razors Edge comes to a campy end with the unusual “If You Dare”.  Fortunately it’s a great, hooky little closer.

As it turns out, The Razors Edge was a one-off of sorts.  It spun off a successful live album, also produced by Bruce Fairbairn, but that was the end of their partnership.  A 1993 single called “Big Gun” sported a ballsier sound provided by Rick Rubin who went on to do their next album as well.  The Razors Edge is also the only studio album with Chris Slade.  Phil Rudd returned, reuniting the classic Back In Black lineup.  No one will question that Rudd is the best fitting drummer that AC/DC have ever had, but that doesn’t negate Chris Slade’s contribution.  Slade and Rudd do not sound alike, and therefore AC/DC acquires a different flavour with him in the band.  His cymbal work is enviable and nobody can play “Thunderstruck” like Chris Slade, period.

3.5/5 stars

*Much to the upset of the Scorpions who had tapped Bruce to do their next album Crazy World.  That didn’t happen because of the AC/DC job.

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 – Who Made Who (1986 soundtrack to Maximum Overdrive)

movie-soundtrack-week

Today’s movie soundtrack comes by no coincidence.  Today’s my birthday!  And I got this album on this day in 1987 from my partner in crime for many years, Bob!

 


AC/DC – Who Made Who (1986 Epic soundtrack to Maximum Overdrive, 2003 remaster)

As a movie director, Stephen King is a great novelist.

30 years ago, Maximum Overdrive was King’s directorial debut.  The movies based on his books had been box office gold so far, but King always complained about the adaptations of his original material.  So why not hand the reins over to him?

King’s goal was to make “the loudest movie ever made”, and part of that was leaving the soundtrack to AC/DC.  King issued the film with instructions that “this film is to be played as loud as possible.”  The funny thing, according to him, was that most theaters did it.

AC/DC did the entire soundtrack, a mixture of old and new material.  It was an unorthodox move and it left AC/DC with what some consider to be their first real “greatest hits” album; this coming from a band who in 2016 has yet to issue an actual greatest hits album!

The robotic pulse of “Who Made Who” commences the affair, a massive hit still a radio staple today.  One of AC/DC’s most recognisable tunes, “Who Made Who” was a bigger smash than the movie that spawned it.  That’s Simon Wright on drums, emulating the perfect beats of Phil Rudd before him, creating a fine facsimile.  The keys to the song though are the simple and catchy guitars of Angus and Malcolm Young.  Having nailed down the art of writing catchy bases for songs, the brothers Young really perfected it here.

They also perfected it on 1980’s “You Shook Me All Night Long”.  Placing the biggest AC/DC hit of all time second in line is almost like nailing the coup de grâce prematurely, but there is plenty more firepower on the album.  It works in the second position, cleaning up anyone left standing and getting them shakin’ on the dance floor.

AC/DC added two brand new instrumentals to this soundtrack (“Johnson was sick that day”, joked Angus).  “D.T.” is the first of them, somewhat unremarkable and echoey on the drums.  But this is designed as background music for movie scenes, so it really shouldn’t be measured by the same yardstick as, say, a Rush instrumental.  The second on side two is the peppier “Chase the Ace”.  Punctuated with some cool Angus licks, “Chase the Ace” is simple and effective like “D.T.”.

There were a few tunes from the recent Fly on the Wall album, all killers.  “Sink the Pink” (oh, Brian!) is recorded so muddy that you can’t hear the words, but it does rock.  Angus’ guitar break is pure fun, and the song gets your ass moving.  That leads into the sole Bon Scott inclusion, “Ride On”, from a quieter moment in the film.  What’s really cool is that even though these songs are from all over the place, Who Made Who sounds like a fairly cohesive trip.

Side two commences ominously with “Hells Bells”, a fine way to distribute classic tunes evenly across the sides.  “Shake Your Foundations” is on its tail, hitting you with another blast of AC/DC right in the face.  One of the better tunes from Fly on the Wall, “Shake Your Foundations” does its advertised job.  Yet, I do believe there was only one way to properly end this album.  That would have to be the cannon-fire of “For Those About to Rock”.

Who Made Who was actually my first Johnson-era AC/DC album, given to me by my buddy Bob on this day in 1987.  If this review is slanted ever so slightly in the “pro” direction, so be it.

4.5/5 stars

#481: Hang It Up

AXL DC

GETTING MORE TALE #481: Hang It Up

Rock fans are a fickle bunch, aren’t we?  We will openly praise our rock heroes, placing them upon mighty pedestals.  We will proclaim that our love for said bands trumps anyone else’s; we are truer fans than the average wannabe.  Then at the drop of a hat, when our bands take an action we don’t approve of, we suddenly become the authority on what that band actually should have done.  We’re the experts after all, right?

Most commonly, we are quick to judge when a band has passed its prime.  We have all done it.  “They need to hang it up and call it a day, go out with some dignity,” we proclaim, pretending that we actually have a clue of what goes on in their creative or financial headspaces.

Why do we think we know what’s best?  Certainly, we are opinionated on what we like and what we don’t.  Let’s say a certain band “jumps the shark” a little bit, to use the TV vernacular.  For example, Aerosmith.  A lot of fans, this one included, feel that Aerosmith’s best days are long behind them.  As fans, we don’t want to see the band continue to sink further into a crapslide of mediocrity.  Mediocrity, that is, defined by us.

Certainly, Aerosmith have no problems selling out arenas even after several patchy discs and gigs.  Go and see them live and you will meet fans who have seen them dozens of times in their lives.  They have a blast doing so, and they don’t care if Tyler can’t jump around like he used to.   What makes one group of fans (the ones that cry “hang it up!”) right, but the others who will gladly go see them live again tomorrow, wrong?

Nothing.  It’s all personal taste.  You may fall on one side of fence with Aerosmith, but another side with the Stones, or the Who.  Look, I love Kiss.  I always have.  I loved when they were great, and I loved when they were shit.  Now that the original members are down to just Gene and Paul, and Paul’s struggling with his voice, do I think they should hang it up?  Absolutely not.  I still look forward to whatever Paul, Gene, Eric and Tommy have cooking next.   But I don’t necessarily feel that way about Aerosmith, or even AC/DC.

I saw Gordon Lightfoot perform about 10 years ago.  His voice is reduced to a quiet whisper now.  Years take their toll, but Gordon and his band still played a set of unforgettable music.  Was it a harsh reminder of the years gone by?  Sure, but I can say I’ve seen Gordon Lightfoot now, an experience I wouldn’t trade in for a cash refund, no way.

To compare an artist to their younger selves is almost universally unfair.  I can’t run the 100 meter dash like I used to.  Ian Gillan can’t hit the high screams like 1969 either.  That’s OK.  Ageing is a part of life.  It is also a part of music, even rock and roll.  Rock music used to be about celebrating youth, but today it is a far more diverse field than it was in the golden years.

On the other hand, take a group like AC/DC.  For all intents and purposes, they were still going very strong with the classic five members until very recently.  Then Malcolm got sick – irreversibly so.  Phil Rudd had his problems and was let go.  Now Brian Johnson is gone and Axl Rose is in.  At what point does a band become a parody of itself?  More importantly, who gets to decide that?  I’d prefer if AC/DC were able to continue with Brian; I don’t want to adjust to an AC/DC with yet another new singer.  But I don’t get a say, do I?

But we do get to vote on this, in one way:  the capitalist way.  We vote democratically with our dollars.  People who don’t want to see Axl Rose fronting AC/DC are offered full refunds, and by taking the refund, a fan can voice his or her displeasure.  If the tour continues beyond these dates, we will still be able to vote with our wallets.  There is no deception here.  Surely anyone in the market for AC/DC tickets knows what’s going on now.

Speaking personally, I would go see Axl/DC.  Who knows how long this aggregation will last?  It’s a possible chance to see history in the making.   Even if they suck absolutely (doubtful), I would still be able to say “I saw that.  I was there.”  So, given the chance, even if I don’t like the idea of Axl fronting AC/DC, I would still use my money to vote “yay”.  Even just out of curiosity, it would be worth it.

The single instance that I feel is universally appropriate for a band to retire is the sad day they find themselves without any original members.  Take Quiet Riot for example.  Nobody currently in the band played on the first two Quiet Riot albums.  Two of the members who did are now dead, and there is no connection at all to the earliest recordings of the group.  In cases such as this, what separates a band from a mere tribute?  Call it what it is, in my view.

Who do you think should hang it up?  And if they do, how long before the reunion tour?  Time will tell!

DVD REVIEW: AC/DC – No Bull: The Director’s Cut (1996)


Scan_20150926AC/DC – No Bull: The Director’s Cut (originally 1996, DVD 2008 Sony)

The Plaza de Toro in Madrid is an incredible looking venue.  “Nice place you got here!” understates Brian Johnson.  To film a concert video here seems an easy decision.  A crane and giant wrecking ball dominate the scene.  The ball swings and bowls over the backdrop!  Enter:  Angus Young!

“Back in Black”* is a natural opener:  Everybody knows it, and the groove is impossible to ignore. Johnson’s voice is ragged and weak compared to the old days, although I think Brian sounds better in general today.  A pre-crystal meth Phil Rudd dons spectacles, and hammers out the beat that, truthfully, he invented and does best.  Having Phil back for that period of the band was a coup.  It’s back to the Bon Scott years then, with “Shot Down in Flames”.  Now Brian sounds more in his element, somehow seeming more in control on a Bon song.  As if it took them one song to warm up, everything feels in gear now.  Then, “Thunderstruck” is an interesting take, because Phil didn’t play this song before.  Chris Slade was in the band at that time, and Phil doesn’t even try to imitate his style.  He plays “Thunderstruck” his own way, which is fine.  There’s a live version, with Slade, on AC/DC Live.  With Phil on the kit, “Thunderstruck” is no longer filled with nervous energy, but is more in the pocket.  It’s an interesting evolution.  Contrast this with any live video of the current lineup playing the song with Slade today.

“Girls Got Rhythm” is an easy classic, which warms the crowd up with a newbie:  “Hard as a Rock”*, the single from Ballbreaker.  All but instantly, it sounds like a familiar classic.  This is high quality rock, with Johnson’s voice in full shred.  Colourful lights illuminate the stage, but only Brian and Angus are really mobile.  Cliff Williams and Malcolm Young rock steadily, sticking to their respective sides, and stepping up to the mic for the big chorus.  The crowd goes nuts when Angus himself speaks.  The stage is huge, but Brian Johnson runs across every inch, interacting with the massive crowd as a veteran frontman can.  Then AC/DC knock ’em down (down down) easily on “Shoot to Thrill”.  There is a rock and roll purity to this show:  A bunch of guys in jeans (Angus excepted), playing hard rock and roll, but contrasted with that is the massive stage.  AC/DC can do it because people love the personalities of the band.  Angus doesn’t miss a note, no matter where he’s running off to next.

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Phil smokes a cigarette during the blues number “Boogie Man”. Starting sluggishly, “Boogie Man” nails it as soon as Brian gets screaming.  I’m sure AC/DC can play this kind of thing in their sleep!  Angus has an extended solo during which he gets the crowd riled up and ready with his strip-tease moment.  When he finally drops his drawers, his undies have the Spanish flag on them.  Madrid eats every bit of it up.  AC/DC clustered a bunch of new songs close to each other at this point, and “Hail Caesar”** is next.  It’s time for a heavy prowler, and Caesar brings it on.

When the bell tolls, you know what’s happening. “Hell’s Bells”!  Songs like this, “Dog Eat Dog”** and “The Jack” require no commentary.  The sight of Johnson descending from a giant iron bell is pretty cool.

Last newbie of the night is “Ballbreaker”* itself, a blast of “shut the fuck up and listen t0 this” right in the face.  This time, Brian is swinging from the wrecking ball, singing the whole time, kicking his feet in the air.  AC/DC have crushed it…but there’s still lots more to go.  “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, “Dirty Deeds”, “You Shook Me All Night Long”**, “Rosie”*, “T.N.T.”…it’s all a good time, and you know them all.  The only real critique is there is a gap in the setlist, with no songs from 1983-1988 appearing anywhere.

“Let There Be Rock” is, as usual, extended to epic length with Angus’ brilliant solo.  First of all, it’s incredible that Angus still has this much energy after playing and stomping through a show this long.  What’s really amazing is that everybody in the band is fully fueled for this full-speed song.  Malcolm sips from a water bottle — that’s the key, folks.  Hydration.

The cool part here is when Angus departs the stage (band playing on), to re-emerge atop the massive shoulders of a bodyguard and taken to a flying platform in the middle of the crowd!  Many thrills later, Brian says goodnight, but you know he’s teasing.  “Highway to Hell” commences with explosions, flames and Angus’ devil horns.  And then, finally,the cannons”  “For Those About to Rock” is the salute to Madrid , who witnessed an absolutely incredible AC/DC concert.

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The DVD bonus features are cool, as you should expect.  The “Angus Cam” versions of four songs is plenty fun, by focusing solely on Angus in the edit.  It’s quite incredible to just watch the man play, because it seems as if he is entranced, on auto-pilot, but totally in command.  If there wasn’t a guitar around his neck you might think he’s having a seizure!  Then come the moments when he looks the crowd in the eye, and the playing only gets more intense!  Like I said: this is plenty fun.

Then we have two bonus tracks not included in the Madrid set:  “Cover You in Oil” (Sweden) and “Down Payment Blues” (Florida).   “Cover You in Oil” is raw and sweaty.  I don’t think the song is particularly strong, sounding a bit like a Blow Up Your Video outtake.  Still, it’s always nice to get another new song on the DVD, since it’s doubtful a track like this will ever re-enter the setlists.  The stupid music video footage that is editing into the tracks is annoying, however.  Instead of watching Angus take a solo live, I’m watching him doing it in a music video.  Bad editing decision.  I like how Brian introduces “Down Payment Blues”:  “This is from one of the albums…back in the 70’s…”  Shit, he doesn’t know, he wasn’t there!  But he gets the job done anyhow.  And guess what?  Brian Johnson is wearing the same damn blue shirt and hat at every show!  His snarl adds to this version of the song.

What’s with the “Director’s Cut”?  It seems the original 1996 VHS release (which I never saw) was rushed out for the Christmas season to the dissatisfaction of award winning director David Mallet.  He did a new edit, and new stereo and 5.1 mixes for the DVD release.

4/5 stars

*Indicates this version is available in audio form on the 2 CD edition of Stiff Upper Lip.

**Indicates this version is available in audio form on the deluxe Backtracks box set.

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REVIEW: AC/DC – Rare…Rarer…Rarities (bootleg)

Scan_20150818AC/DC – Rare…Rarer…Rarities (Flight records bootleg CD, year unknown)

Rare…Rarer…Rarities, huh?  Indeed, this is a bootleg CD that includes rarities that most fans don’t have on an official release.  The pretty comprehensive Backtracks box set, which came out later, covers most of these songs…but not all.

Most of these tracks are either single B-sides or songs that were exclusively released on the Australian versions of albums.  Until Backtracks came out, those songs were very hard to find in North America.  The only one I had was “Rock in Peace”, from Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.  I couldn’t believe my luck in scoring the Australian CD of that album.

There are, however, two songs that none of us are likely to ever own an original physical copy of.  These two tracks alone make the bootleg CD purchase worth considering, since they are AC/DC’s first single from 1974, featuring original singer Dave Evans.  Most fans have never heard anything with Dave Evans singing.  These are ripped from an original 7″ single.

“Can I Sit Next to You Girl” is a song every AC/DC fan knows, because this golden oldie was re-recorded on T.N.T. (1975).  Bon Scott’s cheeky delivery made all the difference in the world.  Dave Evans is just some guy, asking to sit next to you.  Bon was Bon fucking Scott asking to sit next to you…who do you think gets the girl?  This early single was issued in the summer of ’74, and it has a completely different, much more laid back intro.  It’s not nearly as heavy as it would later become.  Evans does have a fine vibrato, I must say!

Every single has a B-side, and “Rockin’ in the Parlour” was AC/DC’s first.  It’s much more “rock and roll” than you expect from AC/DC, but it’s catchy and melodic.  Angus and Malcolm have yet to fully develop their styles, but you can certainly tell its them.  You can hear for yourself, that Dave Evans was not the lyricist that Bon Scott was.  “She said, ‘I got some booze, around at my place, so come along and have some fun!'”  Sorry Dave, but that just won’t cut it when the band is AC fucking DC.

The rest of these songs are all in print today, so they can be acquired on official AC/DC releases.  “Love Song” (High Voltage) shocked me on the first number of listens.  Is this AC/DC’s one and only ballad?  I guess so!  “Oh Jean, Oh Jean!” sings Bon, seemingly heart broken.  Once you get used to it, and accept the fact that there are no other AC/DC songs that sound anything like it, you might enjoy it.  I know that I do, from time to time.

I’m not sure what makes “She’s Got Balls” and “Little Lover” qualify as rarities.  As far as I can tell these are the album versions.  Next!  “Stick Around” (High Voltage) is a cool tune, a laid-back AC/DC rocker with lots of space between the instruments.  You can hear the air sizzle!  The riff is about as simple as it gets: two chords.  But they are the right chords!  “High Voltage” is slightly longer than the album version, and this is also on Backtracks.

“School Days” is a Chuck Berry cover, one of very few covers AC/DC recorded.  Chuck Berry is the prototype of AC/DC anyway, so this version fits like a glove.  Hail hail rock and roll, indeed!  This was originally on T.N.T., but you can get it on the Bonfire box set too.  The aforementioned “Rock in Peace” is a shorty, heavy with that AC/DC stomp and the same damn riff they’ve been playing for 40 years.

AC/DC have always had tongue firmly in cheek, but “Crabsody in Blue” is probably the jokiest song they ever recorded.  A slow blues similar to “Ride On” deserves to have some down-and-out lyrics. Bon takes that to a descriptive extreme!

“Oh, and when they start to bite,
Then it’s time you saw the light,
For an appointment.
Before you start to scream,
That’s when you apply the cream,
Blues ointment.”

Only Bon Scott can really write a lyric about venereal disease. Nobody else seems quite as qualified.

“Carry Me Home” was the heavy and instantly likeable B-side to “Dog Eat Dog” (1977).  Using his speaking voice to full effect, Bon proves to me why he is one of rock’s all time greatest frontman.  His animated vocal performance here is something that very few singers can pull off.  (Ian Gillan is one such singer — think “No Laughing in Heaven”.)  Then, “Down on the Borderline” is Brian Johnson’s only showing on this CD.   This was the B-side from “Moneytalks” (The Razors Edge), but it sounds little like that album.  Sonically and vocally, it resembles Blow Up Your Video, right down to the muddy finish.  I have no doubt it was recorded for that album.

“Fling Thing” is AC/DC’s take on “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond”, which they cheekily credited to Young/Young! It sounds like quite a party was going on during the recording, which falls apart after a mere two minutes! This was originally the B-side to “Jailbreak”. The final song is “Cold Hearted Man”, which was recently dusted off for the Iron Man 2 soundtrack album.  It was on Powerage (1978) first, and a dark prowler it is.

A lot of people like to joke that all of AC/DC’s songs sound the exactly the same.  This CD of also-ran’s has proven otherwise, and “Cold Hearted Man” is a perfect closer for a solid collection of rock.

3.5/5 stars

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#398: New Rock, Old Rock

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#398: New Rock, Old Rock

A selection of songs I’ve been rocking out to on the radio lately, for your consideration and perusal.

ROYAL BLOOD – “Figure It Out”
It seems that bass/drums duos are all the rage. I like this awesome, aggressive groove from the English duo of Royal Blood. Just slammin’! Proof that you don’t need more than two people to make good heavy rock!

DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979 – “Trainwreck 1979”
Having ignored these two Canadian guys for years, I have recently become infatuated with “Trainwreck 1979”. I could do without the piano touches and the “woo ooo ooo’s” but it’s hard to deny that this is a slamming song living up to its name. Well done, Death From Above 1979.

THE TREWS – “New King”
This aggressive riff-based song combines three elements I love about the Trews – guitar hooks, memorable melodies, and a great singer. Bonus points for cool lyrics like, “A bitter hipster hick, Can’t stop talking shit, The F’N idiot, Don’t know when to quit.”

DANKO JONES – “Do You Wanna Rock”
No surprises here! Danko Jones = Danko Jones = Danko Jones, but it’s always nice to hear a new track. This one’s pretty simple — it’s about rocking! More cowbell!

I MOTHER EARTH – “The Devil’s Engine”
Different from anything I’ve heard this band do before, “The Devil’s Engine” combines traditional IME percussion with metallic riffs and licks. With the prior single “We Got the Love” out in 2012, it would be nice to get a new album by I Mother Earth.

THE PRETTY RECKLESS – “Follow Me Down”
I haven’t been a fan of the Pretty Reckless. Until now I’ve found their music to be tiredly generic. This track, however, kicks it! Taylor Momsen’s turned herself into a metal howler, in her natural environment. Her songs can get repetitive but I’m not bored with this one yet.

I’ve also recently rediscovered some of these tracks that I knew very well, but have been dusted off on the radio recently.

AC/DC – “Rock the Blues Away”
I’m glad that after “Play Ball” and “Rock Or Bust”, this excellent AC/DC track has been chosen as the newest single from AC/DC’s latest. It’s absolutely a favourite of mine! Great choice for a single.

NEIL YOUNG – “Downtown”
I’m pleasantly reminded of this collaboration between Uncle Neil and Pearl Jam, showcasing their kickass new drummer Jack Irons. A great, simple little rock tune.

TRIUMPH – “Lay It on the Line”
This is undeniably a Canadian classic of double-necked guitar majesty. I noticed that the version getting airplay today is the beefier remixed version, from Greatest Hits Remixed. (I was the only listener that noticed, I know because I wrote in to ask about it!)

REVIEW: AC/DC – Iron Man 2 (2010 deluxe CD/DVD)

AC/DC – Iron Man 2 (2010 Columbia deluxe CD/DVD set)

For the second time, AC/DC have supplied the soundtrack to a movie (see: Who Made Who, the soundtrack to Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive). This release basically amounts to a cool “best of” CD. While Who Made Who had some new material, Iron Man 2 is the straight oldies, with a few unexpected surprises thrown in. Since AC/DC have never released a proper “best of” CD, this is about as close as you’re likely to get. And it’s just fine.

I’m guessing Jon Favreau had a lot to do with the picking and choosing and sequencing of songs, and he’s obviously an AC/DC fan. I mean, “Evil Walks”? There is even a song (“Cold Hearted Man”) from the Backtracks box set and one from the more recent AC/DC opus, Black Ice. As such, Iron Man 2 is a pretty damn good single disc overview of the whole AC/DC shebang. It flows well, it has an excellent mix of Bon and Brian, and the sound is as good as any of the AC/DC remasters available. Lyrically, it even (very) loosely relates to Iron Man 2 (“Shoot to Thrill”, “War Machine”, “Evil Walks”, “Back In Black”; use your imagination). In short, it rocks. Buy this with Who Made Who, and you will essentially have all the AC/DC that a newbie needs to get kickstarted, with a fair chunk of deep cuts as well.

The deluxe edition packaging is awesome to behold, with (very fragile) shiny cover art, a generous booklet (loads of Iron Man and band photos in here) and a DVD. The DVD is nothing to write home about: the new video of “Shoot To Thrill” and a making-of featurette being the main draw. The live stuff is great, but a fair bit has been previously released on official AC/DC DVDs before (including the aforementioned Backtracks box set). Still, I have no complaints.  It’s just a bonus DVD from a soundtrack representing a Hollywood action movie; it’s not meant to cater specifically to me.  It’s good viewing and you may as well consider it a freebie at this price.

Die hard fans who already own the whole AC/DC back catalogue won’t need this, but I bought it anyway. As a car disc it’s fun due to the inclusion of obscure tracks. But it works. The album flows and rocks, and those obscure tracks deserve a second look-see. I’d forgotten how cool the song “The Razors Edge” is, and it totally fits the Iron Man vibe.

If you need some more AC/DC in your life, some more iron in your blood, go for it. You won’t be let down. Personal highlights for me include:

  • “The Razors Edge”
  • “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)”
  • “Cold Hearted Man”
  • “Rock n’ Roll Damnation”

But the whole thing is great, not a weak track in the bunch!

4/5 stars