Mark Evans

REVIEW: AC/DC – Can I Sit Next to You Girl (1974 radio broadcast)

AC/DC – Can I Sit Next to You Girl (1974 radio broadcast on Laser Media)

Very few things in this world kick as much ass as vintage live AC/DC.  If you need a taste, or everything you can get your hands on, then Can I Sit Next to You Girl will help.  The sound quality is alright, feedback notwithstanding.  The five included tracks are solid classics.

“She’s Got Balls” takes too long to get going (two whole minutes) and suffers a bit from feedback throughout.  Once you tune out the noise, you can appreciate one of the greatest rock frontmen of all time in Bon Scott.  “Soul Stripper” is slinky good, with Bon at his sassy best and Angus ripping it up delightfully.  On with the show:  a very raw “Show Business”.  Angus Young has solos after every verse, the energy palpable.  Moving on, next it’s “Can I Sit Next to You Girl” (the band’s first single with Dave Evans on vocals).  Bon snarls and Angus shrieks.

Perhaps best of all is the extended jam of “Baby Please Don’t Go”.  When AC/DC play for 10 minutes straight, it’s not like other bands.  It’s the relentless AC/DC groove machine, with Angus doing his thing as no other guitarist can.

Pick it up (cheap) and rock on, baby.

3/5 stars

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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 – ’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

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 – 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