Monday, 16 November 2009

CD Review: Back In Black, by AC/DC (1980)

So what is a band on the verge of superstardom to do when their lead singer goes and dies from a drug overdose? To heck with superstardom -- Australia's AC/DC replaced the deceased Bon Scott with Brian Johnson and simply achieved immortality with Back In Black, one of the best and most influential heavy metal albums of all time.

According to Wikipedia, it is also the second best selling album of all time (more than 45 million sold world-wide, second only to Thriller), and the best selling album by a band ever.

Scott's raspy gravel throat must have seemed irreplaceable, but Johnson stepped into his shoes with remarkable ease and immediately gelled with the band's sound. Johnson's vocals and Angus Young's guitar were made for each other, and the result is a set of 10 songs that entered into heavy metal folklore. The CD features at least four classic tracks that became unmistakable anthems worldwide: Hells Bells, Back In Black, You Shook Me All Night Long, and Rock And Roll Ain't Noise Pollution. Thirty years on, there are few corners on the globe where these songs aren't instantly recognized and celebrated. The title track, in particular, is a defining moment in the history of heavy metal.

Not that the other tracks on the CD don't deliver -- barely concealed sex epics like Givin' the Dog a Bone and Let Me Put My Love Into You celebrate the adolescent party life and remain favourites for the many members of the early 1980's generation who never grew up. Overall, Back In Black is one of the very few CDs in any genre where almost every track is to some extent famous.

Part of the credit goes to producer John "Mutt" Lange, here relatively early in a career that would later help catapult Def Leppard and then Shania Twain into the stratosphere of global hyperstardom.

AC/DC's heavy boogie-woogie metal sound is not the height of sophistication, and that is the band's charm and their magic. Simple melodies and structures, few notes, shrill but confident vocals and straightforward rock'n'roll guitar work are combined to epic effect. Back In Black's lesson is that less is more, and a band that perfects its strengths and avoids pretensions can leave behind a massive legacy.


Brian Johnson - Vocals
Cliff William - Bass
Angus Young - Guitar
Malcolm Young - Guitar
Phil Rudd - Drums

Songlist (rating out of 10):

1. Hells Bells - 10
2. Shoot to Thrill - 9
3. What Do You Do For Money Honey - 7
4. Givin' the Dog a Bone - 8
5. Let Me Put My Love Into You - 9
6. Back In Black - 10 *See video below*
7. You Shook Me All Night Long - 10
8. Have a Drink on Me - 9
9. Shake a Leg - 7
10. Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution - 10

Average: 8.90

Produced by Robert John "Mutt" Lange.
Engineered by Tony Platt. Mixed by Brad Samuelsohn.

All Ace Black Blog CD Reviews are here.

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