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.
Part 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.
Part 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.
Part 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.
Part 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.