41 minutes is all it takes to rock the world. We needed AC/DC in 2020, and we got it. This isn’t the first time AC/DC have put guitars on magnetic tape without Malcolm. That era began with 2014’s Rock Or Bust, but this album is better. The riffs are Malcolm’s, and nephew Stevie Young performs them admirably as he always has. As for Brian Johnson, he sounds as if time stopped back in 1995.
“Realize” is catchier than the average AC/DC, with a few guitar overdubs to sweeten it up. “Rejection” is similarly fun, despite its title. Good tunes. Not immortal classics in the making, just good album cuts as AC/DC have done for decades. Even the first single “Shot in the Dark” doesn’t sound like the kind of AC/DC tune that radio will be pounding out in 10 years, even though they sure are playing the crap out of it today. Good songs all, but comparison to the back catalogue is a doomed endeavour.
The one tune that does sound like a future staple is “Through the Mists of Time”, a title that seems more like Zep than Acca Dacca. Focused on melody and spare guitar picking, it’s a bit softer than what most people expect. The “Ahh-ah” backing vocals sell it. This is probably the song you’ll remember years from now.
Moving on down the tracklist, we have a few songs with potential to grow. “Kick You When You’re Down” has some cool pickin’ rhythm. Also cool is “Witch’s Spell”, another title that doesn’t seem like AC/DC at first. It’s among the most memorable tunes thanks to a stuttery guitars and a fun chorus. The mood changes on “Demon Fire”, an excellent song similar in style to “Safe in New York City” from 20 years ago. It’s got that fast 4/4 beat, coupled with a low Brian Johnson growl (at first).
After “Demon Fire”, we’re in for a series of workmanlike AC/DC tracks without a lot of distinction. There’s “Bad Reputation” (mid-tempo), “No Man’s Land” (slow and menacing), “Systems Down” (mid-tempo), “Money Shot” (mid-tempo with bite), and “Code Red” (slinky). Power Up, like any AC/DC album since about Flick of the Switch, gets the job done. The only true classic is “Through the Mists of Time”, but there is plenty of strong material headlined by “Demon Fire”, “Shot in the Dark”, “Realize”, “Witch’s Spell” and “Money Shot”. It’s still early of course, and in three months you might have some clear favourites. This album has room to grow.
Now, the $60 “Light Box” is…disappointing. It’s a box, made of cardboard, with a sound chip that plays exactly 17 seconds of “Shot in the Dark” through a little speaker in the top, while flashing. (I call it a “Seizure Box”!) It stays lit for a few more seconds, and then stops. You can push the button as many times as you like, because it comes with a handy-dandy USB charging cable. (I bet you needed another one of those!) So that’s all it does. Inside is the standard CD digipack wedged between two sturdy foam slats. On the left hand side with the button and charging port, a cardboard strip is attached to prevent the button from being pushed in the stores. Removing this piece, which you need to do to recharge the box, is difficult and I tore mine. I glued it back, but you can still see it. $60 box, ripped just like that. Bummer.
AC/DC sound like AC/DC the most when Phil Rudd is in the band. With Phil, Brian Johnson and Cliff Williams all back for one more round, authenticity is not an issue. This is an album that deserves multiple listens. You’ll have your own favourites too.
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.
“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.
A 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.
Music fans love lists. Maybe it’s the Ten Best Bass Lines of the 1990’s or a list of the songs you wish you lost your virginity to. I have always been a lists guy as the whole Sausagefest Top 100 thing would attest to. So here is yet another list. The albums listed below are not my favorite albums of all time, even though many of my favorites are included. The point of this list is to possibly introduce to, or maybe even remind, this blog’s readers of 30 albums that I think need to be heard. Maybe an album that in my opinion was under-appreciated. Perhaps even an album that inspired me in some way. Anyways, here are 30 albums that Uncle Meat wants you to visit … or re-visit. They are in alphabetical by album title. Enjoy
A EULOGY FOR THE DAMNED – ORANGE GOBLIN (2012)
I could have easily listed several other Orange Goblin albums here, but their latest album is an absolutely killer album. Almost fusing some Black Crowes into their brand of Metal, these British stoner-rockers put out maybe the best Metal album of 2012. And considering that there are only 3 albums on this whole list that were released before the year 2000, it feels good to actually get some new content in here. The album ends with the title track, which almost plays out like its own Rock N’ Roll Western. The band finally tours Canada for the first time coming up in spring of 2013. As the late Billy Red Lyons used to say, “Don’t ya dare miss it!”
ACT III – DEATH ANGEL (1990)
Death Angel’s first two albums are pretty sloppy, sound-wise and in song structure. Some very heavy moments, but at times it just sounds annoying. On their third release, Max Norman (Megadeth) got his hands on them and it resulted in a polished sound and the best album of their career. Gone were the high-pitched shrieks of singer Mark Osegueda that littered their first two records. It really does seem that the band simply matured. One of the best Metal albums of the 90’s indeed. Definitely among the most progressive metal albums I can think of. A must-have album for every true Metal fan.
ARGUS – WISHBONE ASH (1972)
It is fair to say that Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy would never have the musical identity they have, if it wasn’t for Wishbone Ash. Innovators in twin- lead guitar harmonization, this band never really got its due. Interestingly enough, the sound engineer on this record is none other than Martin Birch. Coincidence? Meat thinks not. I remember this album sitting in front of my Dad’s stereo for years when I was very young, and then seeing Star Wars and thinking that Darth Vader looked a lot like the guy on the cover of Argus. Check this album out and discover a part of where it all came from. When you listen to the beginning of the song-clip included here, “Throw Down the Sword”, think “To Live is to Die” by Metallica. Sounds like Lars and the boys were paying attention as well.
ARGYBARGY – SQUEEZE (1980)
Think The Beatles meets The Clash. The first two songs on this album are both stellar pop moments. The melodies are McArtney-esque, and that is truly saying something. “Pulling Mussels From a Shell” is pure song-writing genius. “Another Nail in my Heart” is one of my favorite songs of all time. Check out the incredible guitar solo in this song. Funny enough, like the 2 previous albums listed, this was the band’s third album. Maybe a trend is happening here.
BIG WORLD – JOE JACKSON (1986)
For Joe Jackson’s 8th release, he decided to go all out. An original studio album, recorded live in front of a New York City audience who were told to be silent throughout. Capturing the excitement and spontaneity of a live performance, in which absolutely no post-recording mixing or overdubbing was done, this record is ambitious as it sounds. It is all here. You get Jazz, Pop, Punk and everything in between. Jackson possesses one of the classic all-time voices. When this double-album was released, it contained three sides of music, leaving the fourth side blank. A landmark recording.
BLUE – JONI MITCHELL (1971)
This album came in at Number 30 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All-Time chart, the highest placing for any female artist. So why is this album on this list? Honestly because I still believe this album is truly under-appreciated. Too many people do not realize how great this album is. Simply, some of the best lyrics of all time are here. If this album was any more personal it would contain a video of Joni Mitchell going to the bathroom. Listen to this front to back when you want to feel like someone understands your pain. A truly cathartic experience, when she played this album originally to Kris Kristofferson he was reported to respond, “Joni… You really should keep some of that to yourself”. I am glad she didn’t take heed of his advice.
DOGMAN – KING’S X (1994)
It seems as soon as Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam/STP/Black Crowes) got his hands on King’s X, the band’s sound fattened up. Thick, lush and pounding would be a good overall description of the sound on this album. The songs are great too. I saw King’s X at the legendary El Mocambo in Toronto and was standing literally beside Dimebag Darrell and the rest of Pantera. While I love almost every song on this album, the title track is an absolute killer. When the first Woodstock concert in 25 years began, it was King’s X who took the stage to kick it all off. Check out this live performance from the old Jon Stewart show from back in the day and crank it. One of my favorite youtube videos ever.
DUKE ELLINGTON & JOHN COLTRANE – DUKE ELLINGTON & JOHN COLTRANE (1962)
This might be my favorite jazz album of all time. Duke was 63 and Trane was 36 when this album was recorded. With a running time of 35:05 this album is short and oh so very sweet. Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” starts this album off and it never lets up. “Big Nick” is just a wonderfully happy shuffle. True story: I once got so fed up with Metal that I became a Jazzatarian for a few months, listening to nothing but old school Jazz. I started with John Coltrane and went from there. I never did find a jazz artist after him that I enjoy more.
EL CORAZON – STEVE EARLE (1997)
Simply put, this album is easily in my Top 3 albums of all time, of any genre. True storytelling at its finest, El Corazon is a complete masterpiece. It seems that sobriety allowed Steve Earle to realize how great of a songwriter he really is and on this album he branches out and removes any constraints of style. Of all the 30 records included on this list, this is the one I am not asking you to check out, but I am TELLING you to check out. Comparing the laid-back intensity of “Christmas in Washington” to the sheer power of “Here I Am” truly makes you appreciate the diversity of this record. Steve Earle is THE man. A lifetime Bro-mance going on here.
HEAD HUNTERS – HERBIE HANCOCK (1973)
Quite possibly the greatest jazz fusion record ever recorded. This record is a funk buffet. Only 4 songs and all of them are great. The YouTube clip here of “Watermelon Man” is the shortest song on the album, and is as original as it is velvety-smooth. I find it hard not to do some sort of jig when this I hear this song. “Chameleon”, “Sly” and “Vein Melter”complete one of the most influential jazz albums of all time. Half of this album made 2012’s SausageFest countdown. I suspect the other half will not be far behind.
I remember getting this for Christmas of 1994. “Blown away” about sums it up.
Is Dogman their best album? No, but it sure was a shock to my system when I first heard it. Back in the 1990’s, I skipped the previous (self-titled) album and picked this up based solely on the strength of the killer first single “Dogman”. I could not believe the song — groovy, basic, heavy, angry but loaded with soul and melody. Just like King’s X in general, but “Dogman” upped the heavy and downplayed some of King’s X whimsy.
When I got the album Dogman, one thing surprised me — not one song was sung by Ty Tabor! Except for the bridge on “Dogman”, all lead vocals were handled by Doug Pinnick. This was disappointing to me as I like bands with two lead singers. I never heard why Ty doesn’t sing on it, but I adjusted. Truthfully every song on Dogman is a winner, and are suited to Doug’s vocals. In hindsight, it fits the direction.
I mean, this band is so freakin’ talented! From the sheer unique sound of this band, mixing progressive rock with heavy metal and soul, mixed with the Beatles and so much more…you can’t see enough good things about King’s X. I love Doug’s bass, I think he’s playing 8 or 12 string in spots. But what makes this band unique is Doug’s voice. Nobody else has that.
Doug’s lyrics are quite obtuse (I don’t know what “Tide, underside my pillow, willow, whoa-oh, thundering” means) but the way he sings it sure sounds like he has something to get off his chest. “Passionate” might be one way to describe these songs. At the same time there are slower songs like “Flies and Blue Skies” that I won’t call a ballad, but have that ballady vibe.
Highlights: The title track, “Shoes”, “Cigarettes”, “Pillow”, “Pretend”, “Fool You”, “Go To Hell”, “Complain”, and…hell. All the rest.
I really like “Cigarettes”…it’s just mournful. “Shoes” is more upbeat and grooving, although still with dark undertones. Really, the whole album has darker undertones than previous King’s X releases. And that’s just fine. It was 1994. What are you gonna do?
Lowlights: None. There are no weak songs. Maybe just the live version of “Manic Depression” (Hendrix). I liked that they tacked on a live cover at the end of the album, it’s just not my favourite Hendrix tune by a good margin.
Notably, this is King’s X first album without Sam Taylor producing. It was crushingly produced for the 1990’s by Brendan O’Brien.