angus young

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

REVIEW: AC/DC – Rock or Bust (2014)

NEW RELEASE


IMG_20141227_171303AC/DC – Rock or Bust (2014 Columbia)

We all know the story, now.  Malcolm Young, felled by dementia, and his brother Angus carrying on without him (and possibly without drummer Phil Rudd).  AC/DC don’t want to dwell on the negative, and neither do I.  Angus assembled 11 new songs from parts that he and Mal had worked on together before he was too sick to continue.  Nephew Stevie Young, who filled in for Uncle Mal in 1988, stepped up again to do so, this time in a permanent capacity.  But you wouldn’t know any of that by hearing Rock or Bust.

Sharp as ever, “Rock or Bust”, the current single boasts one of those menacing AC/DC riffs paired with that slow groove they do so well.  “In rock we trust, it’s rock or bust”.  Nothing has changed!  There is little difference between Rock or Bust and the AC/DC back catalogue since 1980 in general.  New batch of riffs, songs, and melodies.  That’s about it!  “Play Ball” has that familiar “AC/DC single” vibe.  Not too heavy, not too fast, but just right for radio.  Brian Johnson’s voice has changed very little since the 1990’s.  He doesn’t screech like it’s 1981 (duh), but he gets the job done fine.  Johnson reported that he found it hard to continue on without Malcolm but his performance is full of the joi de vivre that you need in an AC/DC song.

IMG_20141227_171334“Rock the Blues Away” has future single written all over it.  This old-timey AC/DC riff is one of those classic rock and roll licks that they used to do with Bon Scott on albums like Dirty Deeds.  True to its title, the song does indeed rock the blues away and I can’t wait to give it a test run in the car.  This is a summer time song, not a December song!  However I should point out that it’s more or less the same song as “Anything Goes” from Black Ice.  A left turn on “Miss Adventure” yields some funky AC/DC grooves not unlike what they were doing in the mid 1980’s.  It’s unfortunately the first dud on the album for me.  “Dogs of War” redeems it, with a “Razor’s Edge” dark vibe.  The only real noticeable difference from past AC/DC albums is a slicker production on the backing vocals.

Do you need some rock & roll thunder?  AC/DC got it.  “Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder” has one of those jangly AC/DC riffs, backing a catchy chorus.  This sounds a bit like material from Stiff Upper Lip, which is a good thing to me.  “Hard Times” also sounds similar to that era.  They’re good enough songs to serve as AC/DC album tracks.  Then there’s “Baptism of Fire”, back to those fast AC/DC beats that you need every once in a while.

ROCK OR BUST_0001A track that I think should be played live is “Rock the House”.  This has classic written all over it.  Taking on a “Whole Lotta Love” groove, it’s hard to resist the urge to bang your head.  Go ahead, try.

“Sweet Candy” is an ode to strippers, of course.  What did you expect?  Look forward to another singalong slow AC/DC groove.  I have a feeling a few strippers are going to add this song to their repertoire next year.  Then, ending the album on a funky note is “Emission Control”.   There are also nods and winks to the Mutt Lange era of AC/DC with the thick backing vocals.  The song throws me for a loop a bit; I’m not sure if I like it or not.

I found Brendan O’Brien’s production to be a bit thuddy and less bright than Black Ice.  It still gets the job done, as does Rock or Bust.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: AC/DC – “Play Ball” (2014)

Thanks to Superdekes for sending this!

AC/DC – “Play Ball” (2014 Columbia)

Holy shit, AC/DC’s back. When we all heard about Malcolm’s health problems, I thought that was it. I really didn’t expect them to carry on with Stevie Young — but here he is, on AC/DC’s great new single “Play Ball”.

Judging by “Play Ball”, not much has changed in AC/DC land.  The flavour is still distinctly AC/DC: upbeat, great mid-tempo groove and solid riff.  And I swear you can hear some different fingers on the strings.  Listen carefully.  Yet regardless of losing arguably the most important member of AC/DC, it sounds like nobody else.  Brian’s still growling, his voice pretty much unchanged since the Ballbreaker album in ’95.   Musically, I’m thinking in territory similar to 2000’s Stiff Upper Lip.  I’ve heard the song six times as of this writing (three on the radio, three on my PC).  It’s nothing that will go down in AC/DC history as one of their greatest singles, but I can’t say anything bad about it either.

4/5 stars

Rock Or Bust tracklisting:

01. Rock Or Bust
02. Play Ball
03. Rock The Blues Away
04. Miss Adventure
05. Dogs Of War
06. Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder
07. Hard Times
08. Baptism By Fire
09. Rock The House
10. Sweet Candy
11. Emission Control

REVIEW: AC/DC – ’74 Jailbreak (1984)

Welcome back to the Week of EPs! Each day this week, I’ll be checking out a variety of EP releases, both famed and obscure.

MONDAY: Aerosmith – The Other Side (1990)
TUESDAY: Wolfsbane – All Hell’s Breaking Loose Down at Little Kathy Wilson’s Place! (1990)

AC/DC – ’74 Jailbreak (1984 Epic)

As most AC/DC fans are aware, their Australian and American discographies differed greatly in tracklists and cover art.  Australia also got one more record (T.N.T.) than we did.   This amounted to a number of Bon Scott tracks that were left off the original American releases.  It made sense to eventually release them, so in 1984, five tracks were released on the tenth anniversary EP, ’74 Jailbreak.  Of note, none of these songs are actually from 1974.

The track “Jailbreak” itself didn’t become a hit until this compilation was released.  It was originally on 1976’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap in Australia.  It definitely sounds from that era, and it’s long been one of my favourites.  I found that little riff irresistible, then and now.  I love Bon Scott’s storytelling lyrics, still cool today.  “Big man lying on the ground, with a hole in his body where his life had been.” And c’mon, you have to love the music video, or you have no sense of fun in your rock!

The next four tracks were all from High Voltage, another favourite album of mine. “You Ain’t Got a Hold on Me” is one of those slinky Bon Scott rockers. I like the spare riff and Angus’ bluesy playing. Uptempo “Show Business” is a wry dig on the business side of rock and roll. “You’re smoking butts, they smoke cigars.” Angus’ playing here is especially tasty as he takes his Gibson SG for a ride. Then “Soul Stripper” takes it to a dirty place. AC/DC return to that slinky territory they used to do so well with Bon. “Soul Stripper” is a highlight among highlights, with those quieter bass-driven verses. “Pulled out a knife and flashed it before me, stuck it in and turned it around.”

A cover of “Baby, Please Don’t Go” closes the EP on a frenetic extended jam. Bon shrieks as if in agony. The band blast away as only one of the greatest pure rock and roll bands can. This is rock and roll 101, your teachers are in class, so pay attention to Mr. Young and Mr. Young!

None of the songs on ’74 Jailbreak are outtake quality. I never fully understood who decided what songs were to be left off American releases and why. Some of these songs were singles in Australia! As mentioned, these are only some of the songs unreleased on American albums. There were more and they too were pretty damn good. They are “Stick Around” and “Love Song” from High Voltage, “R.I.P. (Rock in Peace)” from Dirty Deeds, “Crabsody in Blue” from Let There Be Rock, and “Cold Hearted Man” from Powerage. All these songs can be had on the Backtracks box set today.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: AC/DC – Back In Black (2004 DualDisc edition)

AC/DC – Back In Black (originally 1980, 2004 Epic DualDisc)

How many times have I bought Back in Black?  How many times have you bought it?  I know that I purchased it on CD first in 1990, and then four more times since.  I currently own two copies:  this DualDisc, and the one that came in the Bonfire box set.  I don’t think I have it on vinyl, but I could be wrong.  The DualDisc has a DVD side with some neat stuff including a documentary.

“The Story of Back In Black” begins in 1979, with Highway to Hell,  fame and glory.  New interviews with all five AC/DC members (Angus & Malcolm Young, Cliff Williams, Phil Rudd and Brian Johnson) provides a little bit of insight.  We all know the story: February 19 1980, the death of Bon Scott, and the brave decision to carry on have become rock legend.  But according to Angus, it was Malcolm who kept the band playing, if only to distract them from the pain of their loss.  The band continued to jam and write without a singer, but producer Mutt Lange knew of one from a band called Geordie.  Brian recalls a hilarious story of being invited to audition for the band.  He went down to London and played “Whole Lotta Rosie” with AC/DC for the first time.  They then went to the Bahamas with Mutt to record.

ACDC BIB DUAL_0005The band tells the stories behind several songs:  “Hells Bells”, “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Back in Black”, and “Shoot to Thrill”, while Angus and Malcolm demonstrate the riffs up close.  Brian reveals “Back in Black” was a challenge, since it was intended as a tribute in song to Bon.  No small feat to get the mood right.  The 30 minute mini-doc ends with Back in Black selling 10 million copies.  I guess they got it right!

You know the songs.  You’ve heard ’em the radio, seen ’em on the video, hummed them in your sleep.  “Hells Bells” is one of those archetypal AC/DC songs.  When one pictures the “ominous AC/DC headbanger” song, “Hells Bells” should certainly come to mind.  Then you can get your stompin’ shoes on for “Shoot to Thrill”.  I do miss Bon Scott’s sly playfulness, but there’s nothing wrong with Brian Johnson’s full-speed-ahead screech either.  “What Do You Do For Money Honey” is as catchy today as it was then, and has the benefit of being one of the songs that doesn’t get played every single day on the radio.  I’m not as burned out on it.  Same with “Givin the Dog a Bone”, but on that song all I can do is wonder what Bon would have done with that groove.

One truly outstanding track is the last song on side one, “Let Me Put My Love Into You”.  Yes, that title is hardly clever.  But the song kicks ass all over the place.  It’s one of those late night prowls that AC/DC do so well, and it perfectly closes the first side.

ACDC BIB DUAL_0004

The title track opens the second side with a bang.  Then “You Shook Me All Night Long”, a classic that also needs no introduction.  If you don’t know this song then you probably don’t listen to rock music.  I can’t add anything to the discussion there.

“Have A Drink On Me” and “Shake A Leg” are both fine AC/DC songs.  Nothing wrong with ’em, nothing exceptional about them.  Thankfully they saved one of the best songs for last:  “Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”.  This has been my favourite track since first getting the album 24 years ago.  It’s an anthem, the kind of thing we can all agree on.  Rock and roll ain’t noise pollution, baby.  I’ll drink to that.

I don’t think Back In Black is the best AC/DC album, but it might be the best Brian Johnson album.  It’s certainly the most important AC/DC album historically, and it’s a must for any serious rock fan to own.  Choose your format according to your own wishes, but this DualDisc edition satisfies me fine.

4/5 stars

For those times when you can’t use the internet to tell you what songs are on what albums.

Part 271: The Stamp

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 271:  The Stamp

The year:  1997.

We had just started repairing scratched CDs via a GTA-based third party contractor.  They were able to remove a miniscule layer of plastic from the playing surface, rendering a smooth surface that would not deflect your CD player’s laser.  The result was a playable, sellable CD, with a clouded appearance on the CD itself.  The cloudy look was usually very minor, although it was sometimes enough to turn a customer off of buying the CD.

After repairing the scratched discs, they would be put in brand new CD cases and then on the shelves to sell.  But we also had to mark each disc as “repaired” somehow, so that if any were returned as defective, we would know they had been fixed.  We could then get the fee for fixing the disc credited back to us, or the contractor could try to fix it again and buff it deeper.  Either way, we needed to mark them, somehow.

The best way to fix a surface scratched CD

We agreed that the least problematic way was to stamp the inner (usually blank and hidden) sleeve of the CD, the part underneath the plastic tray.  We stamped it with our store logo.  For most discs at the time, nobody would ever notice the stamp unless they pulled the case apart.  The only problems were with discs that had inner picture sleeves under clear trays.  We were forced to put the stamp directly on the artwork in those cases, a process that killed me every time.  I hated defacing a CD.  It’s not something I would ever do to my own property.

IMG_00001317Around this time, AC/DC just released the luxurious Bonfire box set, a monolith of rock containing many separate additional treats:  A pick, a bottle opener/keychain, a sticker, and a temporary tattoo.  This was high on my priority list, so I put my name in our store’s computer reservation system for the first used copy that showed up.

It was only a few weeks before a used copy did show up.  One of the higher-ups decided to work in my store that day.  A man came to the counter with some CDs to sell, and the Bonfire box set.  It was mint, complete, everything intact.  However the higher-up didn’t consider the set as “mint” as I did; she determined that one of the CDs from the Let There Be Rock set was scratched.  It had a tiny nearly invisible mark on it not even the size of a hair, but not a scratch.  She dutifully stamped the inner tray and put the CD in the pile to be sent out and fixed.

I was disappointed that the tray had been defaced, but there was no way I was letting that disc get sent out and fixed.  It would look worse, with the cloudy finish.  I preferred the un-fixed finish with that tiny hairline mark that I could barely see.  I can see the scratch even less today with my aged eyesight!

I bought the set but that stamp is still there.  I covered it up with a white sticker, and was grateful that the box set didn’t have clear CD trays with artwork underneath.

That stamp still bugs me.  I still see it there, and it still bugs me!  How do you feel about things like this?  Defects in the physical musical product that you love?  I know I can’t be alone.

Postscript:  Years later some damn rat kid stole the stamper.  On my watch!!

REVIEW: AC/DC – Stiff Upper Lip (Bonus CD)

AC/DC – Stiff Upper Lip (Bonus CD edition, 2000 Warner)

So much music, so little time! I reviewed the AC/DC album Stiff Upper Lip months and months ago. Previously, I only owned the single disc version of Stiff Upper Lip. I knew of the 2 CD Australian version, but I didn’t own it.  I thought and assumed all those bonus tracks were included on the massive AC/DC Backtracks box set. It has pretty much everything else.  However I was wrong, and I promptly bought a copy of the 2 CD version from Discogs, with plans to review it shortly after I reviewed Stiff Upper Lip itself.  That was in July.  Like I said, so much music, so little time!

Backtracks is missing two songs from the bonus CD: “Back In Black”, live from Madrid, is exclusive to this set. So is the 11 minute “Let There Be Rock”. (Meanwhile, Backtracks had plenty more songs from the Madrid show that are not on this bonus CD. Those songs are “Dog Eat Dog”, “Hail Caesar”, and “You Shook Me All Night Long”.

Confusing, huh? That’s why I’m here. To help the fans and collectors out there.

The Stiff Upper Lip bonus CD has a mix of live tracks, videos, and one rare studio recording:

      1. “Cyberspace” (Non LP Track)
      2. “Back in Black (Live – Plaza De Toros, Madrid, 1996)”
      3. “Hard as a Rock (Live – Plaza De Toros, Madrid, 1996)”
      4. “Ballbreaker (Live – Plaza De Toros, Madrid, 1996)”
      5. “Whole Lotta Rosie (Live – Plaza De Toros, Madrid, 1996)”
      6. “Let There Be Rock (Live – Plaza De Toros, Madrid, 1996)”
      7. “Stiff Upper Lip” (Music video)
      8. “Safe in New York City” (Music video)
      9. “Satellite Blues” (Music video)

I don’t care so much about music videos on a CD. Since the early 2000’s, bands tend to include a bonus DVD with their albums instead of videos on an enhanced CD. Plus we have Youtube now, most music videos are available online 24/7 on demand.

Skipping the videos, the most interesting track here is “Cyberspace” which was also a B-side to the “Safe in New York City” single. I hate songs about the internet (see: “Virtuality” by Rush) but thankfully “Cyberspace” kicks real ass. Sonically it’s the same as the rest of Stiff Upper Lip: hard, loud, stripped back. It’s also fast and memorable, making it one of the most interesting Stiff Upper Lip songs. Highly recommended to fans of this album.

Then you get the five live songs, originally from the 1996 concert in Madrid that was released on DVD as No Bull. I always prefer an audio format to a video one. I’ll tell you that the “new” songs from Ballbreaker were awesome live! In particular the title track, but “Hard as a Rock” is relentless and classic sounding. Meanwhile you can’t say anything bad about “Back in Black” or “Rosie”. You could argue that you didn’t need more live versions; I’d argue just to not buy this CD.

Finally “Let There Be Rock” is present in full-on extended live version. Angus wails away like a man possessed, a man in a trance, a man at one with the rock! With the rest of AC/DC behind him, you couldn’t ask for a more solid backing band, which makes the whole thing work.

As a companion piece to the whole Stiff Upper Lip album, I give the bonus CD:

4/5 stars

More AC/DC at mikeladano.com:

Live at River Plate (German import, 3 bonus tracks) – Backtracks (3 CD/2 DVD guitar amp box set) – Bonfire (5 CD box set)- Stiff Upper Lip

REVIEW: AC/DC – Bonfire (5 CD box set with extras)

AC/DC – Bonfire (1997 EastWest)

Bonfire is less of an AC/DC box set, but more of a tribute to Bon Scott.  LeBrain readers know that Bon was the late great second AC/DC lead singer.  (They did one single, “Can I Get Close to You” / “Rocking in the Parlor” with original singer Dave Evans.)   In every other meaningful way, Bon Scott is the first and best lead singer. That’s not a slight against Brian Johnson because he’s proven himself and then some.  I don’t always listen to AC/DC, but when I do, I prefer Bon Scott.

Featuring four special albums spread over five CDs, Bonfire is largely live. Early versions of this box, which I am lucky enough to own, were loaded to the gills with extras. More on that later, but I highly recommend the original box set rather than the reissue that comes in a digipack book.  Still, the music is what most people will buy this for, and most of it is previously unreleased.

BONFIRE_0006Part 1 – Live at Atlantic Studios. This was an old live set once released as a promotional LP to radio stations. As much as possible was remastered from the original tapes, which were partially erased. The rest of the music was taken from an actual LP and spliced. Sounds as great as can be expected, and I love the sound of AC/DC playing away in a small venue. This disc is more proof that AC/DC could gel like no other.  This is really an outstanding disc.

BONFIRE_0008Part 2 – Let There Be Rock: The Movie. Spread out over 2 CDs, this is the complete concert. It is heavy, it is fast, and it is awesome. To hear the old band jam away on a 10 minute + version of “Rocker” is simply amazing.  It’s this kind of thing we’ll never hear again.  It’s a good thing they recorded it, and the audio on these discs is perfect.  The concert was recorded in France mere months before Bon’s death.  I would consider this set to be the definitive live AC/DC album.

BONFIRE_0010Part 3 – Volts. This was the disc I was most interested in, and it’s a little strange. It’s partly rare and demo material, with a couple album hits (“Ride On” and “It’s A Long Way”) sprinkled in. Obviously AC/DC cleared out their vaults of rare stuff with the Backtracks box last year, but this is a fun taster. I’m not sure how they arrived at this track listing, considering how much material they had to pick from, and the disc’s running time is fairly short. The end of the disc has hidden stuff, interviews with Bon himself.

As for the rarities, five are early AC/DC demos, some with alternate titles and lyrics.  Two are more tracks are live rarities. Among the demos, there are some songs here that I like better than the released versions — “Back Seat Confidential” is superior to “Beating Around ths Bush” to my ears.

BONFIRE_0012Part 4 – Back In Black. Including this disc on Bonfire, I have bought Back In Black on CD five times. (Original CD issue, first remaster, Bonfire, second remaster, dual disc.) I’m sure if you’re reading this, you own Back In Black too.  I believe this to be the same music tracks as the first Back In Black CD remaster. It comes in a little digipack, which is unique to this set, although similar to later releases. I’m not going to review Back In Black here. It’s a great album, albeit I’m bored to death with hearing most of these songs over and over today. I don’t think it’s as good as the early Bon stuff, but it was a remarkable comeback. It was included here as a tribute to Bon, as a final coda for this box set. I guess.  But seriously, what AC/DC fan was buying Bonfire that didn’t already have Back in Black?  This is completely redundant.  I think the set would have been better off if they didn’t include it.  Cheaper at least.

And, the box.  The first release of Bonfire was loaded with great fun extras. There’s a long and informative book full of photos. There’s a poster. A bottle opener/keychain thingy.  On used copies, this is almost always missing.  Most people kept the good stuff, and sold the box set assuming the kid at the CD store wouldn’t notice.  There was also a sticker, a rub-on tattoo, and a guitar pick. Be careful when buying this used and make sure all this stuff is present, particularly the ever-popular pick. If it’s not, ask the clerk for a discount.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: AC/DC – Stiff Upper Lip (2000)

Part 1 of a 2-part series on this album.  Part 2 will come when I acquire the version with the bonus live disc!

AC/DC – Stiff Upper Lip (2000 Warner)

One doesn’t so much review an AC/DC album as just tell the listener what the songs are called.  Stiff Upper Lip is a bit of an exception to that rule for me, as it seemed to be a really solid return to an early-1970’s form.  Just listen to the irresistible “Hold Me Back”.  Can’t you imagine Bon singing this one?

STIFF UPPER LIP_0004My first AC/DC album was Dirty Deeds Done Dirty Cheap.  I grew up listening to Bon, and Stiff Upper Lip is the most rock n’ roll sounding AC/DC album since his death.  It seems they dropped some (but certainly not all) of the heavy riffing, leaving room for Malcolm and Angus to weave together some tasty guitar lines into song.  Phil Rudd’s simple metronomic rhythms are perfectly suited to this approach.

When they do get their riff on, it’s on tracks like the relentless “Safe in New York City”.   Yet I keep coming back to the laid back picking style of tunes like “Can’t Stand Still”.  It doesn’t get much simpler nor satisfying.

The album was produced by Harry Vanda and George Young, much like the classic of old.  They captured great performances, clear and uncluttered. Not every song here is a winner, most Johnson-era albums have filler.  Stiff Upper Lip‘s filler ratio is remarkably low.

A European/Australian exclusive “tour edition” contained a bonus CD with an unreleased track (“Cyberspace”) and five live tracks.  Most of this material is also available on the massive Backtracks box set.  But we’ll talk about that bonus disc another time…

4/5 stars

When I need to hear some more recent AC/DC, 9 times out of 10, I reach for Stiff Upper Lip.

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

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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