Shot in the Dark

REVIEW: AC/DC – “Shot in the Dark” (2020)

AC/DC – “Shot in the Dark” (2020 Sony single)

Be honest with me.  Until recently, did you really expect a new AC/DC album in 2020?  The notoriously private band were spotted at a studio in Vancouver a while ago, but aside from that it’s been total radio silence.

Until now.  Power Up!

Brian “Beano” Johnson found himself the recipient of brand new, high-tech in-ear monitors enabling him to sing live once again.  Phil Rudd put his past behind him.  This was enough to get Cliff Williams back on board.  Angus Young had been sorting through dozens of riffs written by Malcolm.  With nephew Stevie Young still in the fold to play those riffs, AC/DC were a band once more.

2020’s Power Up (or PWRϟUP) will be the first AC/DC album since the death of both George and Malcolm Young.

“Shot in the Dark” is the first single, available now on iTunes when you pre-order the album.  “Shot in the dark, beats a walk in the park.”  I highly doubt that it was a walk in the park, but the thing about AC/DC is that they make everything better.  (This week’s episode of the LeBrain Train was supposed to be about AC/DC bringing us exactly what we needed in 2020.  It has obviously been postponed so we can talk about Eddie Van Halen instead.)  If Black Sabbath’s “Rock and Roll Doctor” was a real person, there is little question that they would have prescribed us some AC/DC in 2020.  We needed this.  Like an Aspirin when your head is achin’, we needed a “Shot” of AC/DC.  Something bright and shiny to look forward to.

What AC/DC do, only they can do right.  There’s nothing even remotely unique about “Shot in the Dark”.  It’s AC/DC.  It is what it is and does what it does, and it’s pretty simple.  All you need is a beat, a catchy guitar lick, and a belting singer.  “Shot in the Dark” has all that.  The things that do jump out this time are Angus’ solo — slidey goodness — and the sheer joie de vivre of it all.  Brian is sounding great.  Some have noted that AC/DC sounds more like the genuine article when Phil Rudd is on drums.  His thrift and pocket groove are peanut butter and jelly.

Rating a new AC/DC song is kind of pointless.  They always come out with something good, albeit familiar, for a first single.  1990’s “Thunderstruck” was an exception.   It’s been this way since 1995’s “Hard As a Rock”.  AC/DC drop a new single, and it’s always the same.  Good and familiar.  Same thing here.  Ratings are meaningless so we’ll call it a perfect score just because we should all be happy as fuck that AC/DC are back.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – The Ultimate Sin (1986)

OZZY OSBOURNE – The Ultimate Sin (1986, 1995 Sony remaster)

I know Ozzy isn’t especially fond of this album (or anything about the whole Jake E. Lee period) but I love it.  Hell, Ozzy hasn’t even offered it in any of his reissue programs.  It’s out of print, and Ozzy never plays any of these songs anymore outside of “Shot in the Dark”.

I don’t know why I love it so much.  I get why some people aren’t fond of it.  Ron Nevison butchered the production, for one thing.  Randy Castillo was such a powerful drummer, with a recognizable style.  Here he sounds plastic with awful sounding cymbals.  It’s a shame because the drum parts themselves are great.  Ozzy acknowledges being in a real “down” state at this time, and it shows in the tired vocals.

Yet I love it!  Maybe it’s Jake E. Lee, who is incredible.  He’s flashy in that 80’s way, but with balls.  He’s not just fluttery solos, although he certain can do that.  His riffs are choppy his fills stunning and classy.  I think Jake was a great replacement for the late Randy Rhoads, even though his true self wouldn’t shine through until Badlands.

ULTIMATE SIN_0003I like every single song.  The title track, “Secret Loser”, “Fool Like You”, “Lightning Strikes”…these are punchy Ozzy rockers.  They are well written songs, and longtime contributor Bob Daisley has credits on 8 of the 9 songs.  To me, that speaks to a certain level of quality.  Verses and choruses are strong and melodic.  The guitar riffs, solos and fills are all equally catchy and adroit.  Even one of the less interesting songs, like “Never Know Why” is still listenable today due to the catchy melody, and Jake’s flange-y guitar part.

Many of the songs such as “Thank God for the Bomb” and “Killer of Giants” return Ozzy to the anti-war stance that Black Sabbath took in the 1970’s.  I remember the 80’s clearly, and it seemed like every other week, there was a TV documentary or movie about the Soviets and the nuclear threat.  To me as a kid, Ozzy’s voice of protest eased my mind! Surely, Mr. Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev would listen to Ozzy? “Killer of Giants” is quite an achievement musically, going from electric to acoustic to heavy all with Jake E. Lee at the rudder.  It’s an awesome song.

The big hit and first single was the last song, “Shot in the Dark”.  This is bassist Phil Soussan’s only writing contribution on his only Ozzy album.  Later, he’d go on to co-write the excellent Vince Neil album Exposed, which proved he wasn’t a fluke.  It’s a great mid-tempo rock song, although the video used to kinda frighten me as a kid.  Frighten and titillate all at once.  I was 13.

And on the topic of “Shot in the Dark”, why did bands in the mid-80’s always seem to wear sequined bathrobes? I’m looking at you, Mr. Simmons circa 1986…

I look at The Ultimate Sin as a 5/5 in terms of songs and musical performances.  I’ll dock it 1 star for Ron Nevison’s clunky production and Ozzy’s tired lungs.

4/5 stars

And maybe this is a good time to rant about these fucking 1995 Sony 22 BIt SBM Digital Remasters.  Oh, I have no problem with the sound of this CD.  It’s the fucking covers!  Why did they crop the awesome artwork and put that dumb OZZY along the side?  My Lord.  I had so many customers (Gord and Glen specifically) who refused to buy these remasters because the cover is dumb.  Not to mention putting the tracklist in a circle on the back cover, making it annoying to read.

  1. The Ultimate Sin (3:43)
  2. Secret Loser (4:08)
  3. Never Know Why (4:28)
  4. Thank God for the Bomb (3:53)
  5. Never (4:18)
  6. Lightning Strikes (5:13)
  7. Killer of Giants (5:41)
  8. Fool Like You (5:19)
  9. Shot in the Dark (4:16)