All the rumours of a new album in the works are true, Power Up – out November 13th – will be the Australian riff mongers 16th effort. The six years since their last one Rock or Bust have been eventful, with Malcolm Young leaving the band and passing away three years later in 2017 following a battle with dementia.
Then Phil Rudd was forced out of the band because of legal difficulties, namely he was charged with trying to procure a murder, threatening to kill and possession of meth and weed. The first charge was dropped but he was charged with the rest and sentenced to eight months home detention in 2015, with Chris Slade replacing him on tour. Alas the year after Brian Johnson quit after getting told if he continued touring he risked going totally deaf. Axl Rose replaced him midway through the Rock or Bust tour and surprisingly did a stand up job, he even turned to gigs on time! Bassist Cliff Williams retired from the band after that tour only to rejoin this year.
Now Cliff, Phil and Brian are back in the fold, with Stevie Young on guitar in his uncle Malcolm’s stead, and of course Angus. In anticipation of the forthcoming record here are my top five AC/DC albums, a great starting point for newcomers, casual listeners and for an argument over the internet.
5. Blow up Your Video – The third and last of the much maligned trio of albums from 1983 to 1988 and in my opinion unjustly. Released in 1988 with a straight forward, no bluster ethos the antithesis of the glammed up, MTV dominated music of the time. With the full throttle rock n roll of ‘Heatseeker’, the explosive ‘Thats the Way I Wanna Rock n Roll’ and the frenetic ‘This Means War’ – BUYV is energetic, direct and catchy without it’s predecessor Fly on the Wall’s muddy production. Whilst it is not without filler – ‘Some Sin for Nuthin’ – this is an underrated ‘DC album worth your attention. Also, ‘Two’s Up’ is a belter.
4. Powerage – This 1978 album, sandwiched between Let There Be Rock and Highway to Hell, is often overlooked but do so at your peril. Over the years it has gained more traction, helped by famous fans like Slash and Keith Richard and the music itself. It is a refreshing record in two ways, the songs have not been played to death on films, tv and the radio and they are not just about sex. Gambling and the seduction of Las Vegas (‘Sin City’), a musician without a penny to his name (‘Down Payment Blues’), and a lady with a fatal drug problem (‘Gone Shooting’). It also boasts the fiery beast ‘Riff Raff’.
3. Let There Be Rock – Their third album internationally, fourth down under, was released in 1977 and is chock full of pounding hard rock and Bon Scott’s dirty and witty wordplay. The tale of a tumultuous relationship ‘Hell Aint a Bad Place to Be’ and an ode to a larger lass ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ end the record in a riotous fashion and are made to be seen live. Not forgetting the foot tapping, big riffed stomp of ‘Dog Eat Dog’ – helped by Phil Rudd’s propulsive drumbeat – and the LPs crowning glory; the six minute, biblical epic that is the title track.
2. Highway to Hell – Their last album with Bon Scott, who died the following year, and their big break – Highway to Hell speaks for itself. A 4/4 beat, power chords, memorable riffs and lyrics dedicated to a bit of hows your father were all the ingredients needed to create one of the cornerstone albums of rock. Containing the gems ‘Touch Too Much’, ‘Shot Down in Flames’, ‘If You Want Blood (You Got It)’ and the ‘slightly’ overplayed title track battling it out with Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water’ for the most well known riff ever.
1. Back in Black – It could be no other. From the thunderous opening chimes of ‘Hells Bells’ to the defiant bluesy rock of ‘Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution’ Back in Black is a 42 minute statement of everything AC/DC. Adrenaline fuelled stompers, boozy hedonism and more tawdry, sex obsessed earworms than you can shake a stick at – Shakespeare it certainly is not. The lyrics are primal and the music ain’t complex but with classics like ‘Shoot to Thrill’ and ‘You Shook Me All Long’ you really do not care. It may be 40 years old but it is still as good as ever and the perfect homage to Bon.