Chris Slade

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 – 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 – Backtracks (Deluxe Edition, the big one that comes with the amp!)


AC/DC – Backtracks (The Ultimate Box Set) (2009) currently selling for $236.08 at

When this arrived at the house, I couldn’t believe the size of the box! I opened the carefully packed box, and removed the ample cardboard protecting my precious investment. I then removed a plastic and cardboard monstrosity known as AC/DC Backtracks; or, the most awesome kickass box set I have ever seen in my life.

And, it sounds good too!

Before I get into the good stuff (the songs), let me tell you about the box. Yes, it is a working amp, but that’s just a novelty feature. I snapped in the provided 9 volt battery, plugged in my guitar and strummed a chord. Guess what! It sounds like an amp made of cardboard and plastic powered by a 9 volt battery. No big deal. It’s a coversation piece. Like, “Hey, wanna watch this awesome concert DVD from the AC/DC box? Oh, and check it out, I can plug my guitar in it too.”


Inside I discovered a really sharp hardcover photo book. This thing is huge, and loaded with photos of the band and memorability dating back to time immemmorial. Next to that, a nice big LP-sized case containing all the CDs and DVDs. (3 CDs, 2 DVDs). Up next, the LP:  the highlights from the Studio Rarities CD, in its own sealed sleeve. This was specially mastered for LP. I have not played this yet. I may not open it, I haven’t decided. There was also a poster, and a sealed cardboard envelope carrying mutiple goodies, including a guitar pick, a button, a sticker, and a temporary tattoo amongst myriad paper souvenirs.  (See below this review for a full gallery of photos)


The thing about this box set, compared to the regular retail version, is the inclusion of an additional DVD and a whole CD’s worth of additional rarities. What makes this especially cool is this: aside from one single (an early single that the band did with original singer Dave Evans), this box set seems to contain every B-side, every single Australian album track, every Japanese, special edition, import, promo, and otherwise non-album song that AC/DC ever released up to 2009. Whew.

I’ve read reviews that said, “The songs are disappointing because they’re not very good, they were left off the albums for a reason.” Not so. They are quite good. Just because some were released on the band’s albums in their home country and nowhere else is not a reflection on quality. Some of these songs are some of my favourites, such as the stompin’ “Rock In Peace”, the hilarious “Crabsody In Blue” and “Cold Hearted Man”. As for the live B-sides and rare tracks…man, I can’t believe how consistantly good this band has been over the decades! Friggin’ incredible that even when you get to songs recorded well into the 90’s, AC/DC still sounded just as good. A later example is the purely smokin’ “Safe In New York City”.

The first DVD is part 3 of the Family Jewels series. It contains a whole bunch of cool music videos that you probably remember from back when MuchMusic actually used to play music videos. These are mostly some of the more recent music videos from the Ballbreaker album and beyond. A few of these I had never seen before, or only once or twice. After those, are rare videos for early tracks with both Bon and Brian. The second DVD is an exclusive to this set, recorded live in 2003 in Germany.

If you’re a truely dedicated fan that eats, breathes, sleeps AC/DC…you’ll be very very happy with this one.

5/5 stars.

Disc 1 – Studio Rarities

No. Title Original release Length
1. “High Voltage” (deluxe edition only) T.N.T. (Australian-only release) (1975) 4:18
2. “Stick Around” High Voltage (Australian release) (1975) 4:40
3. “Love Song” High Voltage (Australian release) (1975) 5:15
4. “It’s a Long Way to the Top” (deluxe edition only) T.N.T. (Australian-only release) (1975) 5:16
5. “Rocker” (deluxe edition only) T.N.T. (Australian-only release) (1975) 2:55
6. “Fling Thing” Jailbreak (7″ single) (1976) 2:00
7. “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” (deluxe edition only) Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (Australian release) (1976) 4:11
8. “Ain’t No Fun (Waitin’ Round to Be a Millionaire)” (deluxe edition only) Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (Australian release) (1976) 7:30
9. “R.I.P. (Rock in Peace)” Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (Australian release) (1976) 3:35
10. “Carry Me Home” Dog Eat Dog (7″ single) (1977) 3:58
11. “Crabsody in Blue” Let There Be Rock (Australian release) (1977) 4:43
12. “Cold Hearted Man” Powerage (original European LP pressings) (1978) 3:35
13. “Who Made Who” (deluxe edition only) Who Made Who (7″ single) (1986) 4:50
14. “Snake Eye” Heatseeker (CD single) (1988) 3:16
15. “Borrowed Time” That’s the Way I Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll (CD single) (1988) 3:45
16. “Down on the Borderline” Moneytalks (CD single) (1990) 4:15
17. “Big Gun” Last Action Hero (official movie soundtrack) (1993) 4:20
18. “Cyberspace” Stiff Upper Lip (Australian bonus CD) (2001) 2:58

Disc 2 – Live Rarities I

No. Title Original release Length
1. “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” (Live in Sydney, 30 Jan. 1977) Long Live the Evolution (compilation LP) (1977) 5:02
2. “Dog Eat Dog” (Live in Glasgow, 30 Apr. 1978) Whole Lotta Rosie (7″ single) (1978) 4:30
3. “Live Wire” (Live in London, 2 Nov. 1979) Touch Too Much (12″ single) (1980) 5:05
4. “Shot Down in Flames” (Live in London, 2 Nov. 1979) Touch Too Much (12″ single) (1980) 3:39
5. “Back in Black” (Live in Landover, MD, 20 Dec. 1981) Let’s Get It Up (12″ single) (1982) 4:21
6. “T.N.T.” (Live in Landover, MD, 20 Dec. 1981) Let’s Get It Up (12″ single) (1982) 3:58
7. “Let There Be Rock” (Live in Landover, MD, 20 Dec. 1981) For Those About to Rock (7″ single) (1982) 7:30
8. “Guns for Hire” (Live in Detroit, MI, 17 Nov. 1983) Who Made Who (7″ single) (1986) 5:21
9. “Sin City” (Live in Detroit, MI, 17 Nov. 1983 – deluxe edition only) Nervous Shakedown (12″ single) (1984) 5:30
10. “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” (Live in Detroit, MI, 17 Nov. 1983) Nervous Shakedown (12″ single) (1984) 4:15
11. “This House Is On Fire” (Live in Detroit, MI, 17 Nov. 1983) Nervous Shakedown (12″ single) (1984) 3:25
12. “You Shook Me All Night Long” (Live in Detroit, MI, 17 Nov. 1983) You Shook Me All Night Long (12″ single) (1986) 3:30
13. “Jailbreak” (Live in Dallas, TX, 12 Oct. 1985) Shake Your Foundations (12″ single) (1986) 13:22
14. “Shoot to Thrill” (Live at Donington, 17 Aug. 1991) – deluxe edition only) Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (CD single) (1992) 5:30
15. “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be” (Live at Donington, 17 Aug. 1991 – deluxe edition only) Live (Japanese version) (1992) 4:37

Disc 3 – Live Rarities II

All of these tracks are on the deluxe edition only, except where noted.

No. Title Original release Length
1. “High Voltage” (Live at Donington, 17 Aug. 1991) Highway to Hell (CD maxi single) (1992) 9:25
2. “Hells Bells” (Live at Donington, 17 Aug. 1991) Highway to Hell (CD maxi single) (1992) 5:57
3. “Whole Lotta Rosie” (Live at Donington, 17 Aug. 1991) Hail Caesar (CD single) (1995) 4:45
4. “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” (Live at Donington, 17 Aug. 1991) Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (CD single) (1992) 5:00
5. “Highway to Hell” (Live in Moscow, 28 Sep. 1991 – standard edition also) 5 Titres Inedits En Concert (French 5-track CD) (1993) 4:00
6. “Back in Black” (Live in Moscow, 28 Sep. 1991) Big Gun (CD single) (1993) 4:10
7. “For Those About to Rock” (Live in Moscow, 28 Sep. 1991 – standard edition also) Big Gun (CD single) (1993) 6:50
8. “Ballbreaker” (Live in Madrid, 10 Jul. 1996) Stiff Upper Lip (Australian bonus CD) (2001) 4:40
9. “Hard as a Rock” (Live in Madrid, 10 Jul. 1996) Stiff Upper Lip (Australian bonus CD) (2001) 4:50
10. “Dog Eat Dog” (Live in Madrid, 10 Jul. 1996) 3 Live Tracks (No Bull promo CD single) (1996) 4:46
11. “Hail Caesar” (Live in Madrid, 10 Jul. 1996) 3 Live Tracks (No Bull promo CD single) (1996) 5:25
12. “Whole Lotta Rosie” (Live in Madrid, 10 Jul. 1996) Stiff Upper Lip (Australian bonus CD) (2001) 5:27
13. “You Shook Me All Night Long” (Live in Madrid, 10 Jul. 1996) Private Parts (official movie soundtrack) (1997) 3:58
14. “Safe in New York City” (Live in Phoenix, AZ, 13 Sep. 2000 – standard edition also) Safe in New York City (American promo CD single) (2000) 3:55

Family Jewels Disc 3 (DVD)

This DVD picks up where the original 2 DVD Family Jewels set left off (1991).

  1. “Big Gun”
  2. “Hard As A Rock”
  3. “Hail Caesar”
  4. “Cover You in Oil”
  5. “Stiff Upper Lip”
  6. “Satellite Blues”
  7. “Safe in New York City”
  8. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Train”
  9. “Anything Goes”

Bonus videos

  1. “Jailbreak”
  2. “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)”
  3. “Highway to Hell”
  4. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
  5. “Guns for Hire”
  6. “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (live)
  7. “Highway to Hell” (live)

Bonus features

  1. “The Making of “Hard as a Rock”
  2. “The Making of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Train”

Live at the Circus Krone 2003 DVD

  1. Introduction
  2. “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be”
  3. “Back in Black”
  4. “Stiff Upper Lip”
  5. “Shoot to Thrill”
  6. “Thunderstruck”
  7. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Damnation”
  8. “What’s Next to the Moon”
  9. “Hard as a Rock”
  10. “Bad Boy Boogie”
  11. “The Jack”
  12. “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)”
  13. “Hells Bells”
  14. “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”
  15. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”
  16. “T.N.T.”
  17. “Let There Be Rock”
  18. “Highway to Hell”
  19. “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”
  20. “Whole Lotta Rosie”

Rarities 180 Gram LP

Side A

  1. “Stick Around”
  2. “Love Song”
  3. “Fling Thing”
  4. “R.I.P (Rock in Peace)”
  5. “Carry Me Home”
  6. “Crabsody in Blue”

Side B

  1. “Cold Hearted Man”
  2. “Snake Eye”
  3. “Borrowed Time”
  4. “Down on the Borderline”
  5. “Big Gun”
  6. “Cyberspace”