Rock Or Bust: AC/DC

Rating: 80%

Rock_or_Bust.jpgIn 2014, AC/DC releases their shortest and most likely their last studio album, “Rock Or Bust.” This album is also the first without guitarist Malcolm Young, who was unable to record due to his ill health (R.I.P. 2017). In fact, the tour that would support this album also lost two more members, vocalist Brian Johnson due to hearing loss and drummer Phil Rudd who flew off the deep end with drugs and putting out a hit on his wife. During the tour, bassist Cliff Williams came out and stated he would retire when the tour was over. So, this album and tour was doomed from the beginning in some ways. Which is a damn shame!!!

Now, when I first heard this album, I hated it. The sound to me was bland and the music was dull. After listening to it recently, I really noticed several good points. I thought to myself and said “it’s not that bad after all.” So, let me break this down.

The album itself, musically is rich and Bluesy. It’s all about Rock n’ Roll here. It’s got some very beefy chorus lines on most of the songs. It has a very clean and polished overall sound to it. It’s almost as this is not an AC/DC record at all. The tempos are much faster and that power drive that was lacking from “Black Ice” is back. The entire album is very well thought out.  The song structures on the guitar side is more complex, which makes the rhythm very interesting. The leads are great. The other rhythm section such as the drums are among the best I’ve heard on an AC/DC album released in the 2000’s. Another thing I noticed is the bass. We have some very good bass lines here.

The musicianship is very good. Although, Brian Johnson’s vocals are pretty worn out, he does give a nice delivery and stays in his current range. The guitar work of Angus Young and his nephew Stevie Young is good. That might be why the music is a lot different.  Drummer Phil Rudd and bassist Cliff Williams, both provide some outstanding rhythm sections. It’s very strong.

Track listing:

1. “Rock or Bust” 3:03
2. “Play Ball” 2:47
3. “Rock the Blues Away” 3:24
4. “Miss Adventure” 2:57
5. “Dogs of War” 3:35
6. “Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder” 3:22
7. “Hard Times” 2:44
8. “Baptism by Fire” 3:30
9. “Rock the House” 2:42
10. “Sweet Candy” 3:09
11. “Emission Control” 3:41

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Black Ice: AC/DC

Black_ice_redRating: 70%

So, after an eight year hiatus, AC/DC returned with their fifteenth record “Black Ice” released in 2008. I was really looking forward to this album’s release. The first play through, I found it hard to swallow. For the second time, I was listening to an AC/DC record that I didn’t really care for. The first was “Fly on the Wall” released in 1985. So why was it a letdown?

I felt musically, this album could have been a bit more exciting than what it is. It’s got several good songs that have a wonderful tempo, sound, rhythm, and melody. But it’s missing that power drive. In some cases, I find myself fast forwarding to the next song. Then, it feels as if the next song is still the same pervious song. So, to me, this album is heavy with filler.

The good points to this album are the opening two tracks “Rock ‘n’ Roll Train” and “Skies on Fire.” After that, the album takes a nose dive until tracks 9 and 10. It’s like tracks 3 through 8 just lack that drive AC/DC is known for. It’s almost boring. Track 10 is totally different than any other AC/DC song. There’s no lead, but Angus is playing slide. So, out of 15 tracks, I really like four of them. It’s almost as if these songs were the tracks left out of the previous two records.

The musicianship is excellent. It’s the original band that recorded “Black In Black, but then again, it would be the last album to feature that line up. You have Angus Young on lead guitar as well as slide guitar on “Stormy May Day.” You got Malcolm Young on guitar, Brian Johnson on vocals, bassist Cliff Williams, and drummer Phil Rudd. There’s some nice riffs and leads, but it’s just not enough for me. Brian’s vocals seem strained and old, but for the most part, he’s in a decent range.  They still have a lot of creativity, but like other bands that have been around for over 40 years, they seem to get into a rut and stay in that comfy zone. Maybe that’s what AC/DC is doing here?

Track listing:

  1. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Train” 4:21
  2. “Skies on Fire” 3:34
  3. “Big Jack” 3:57
  4. “Anything Goes” 3:22
  5. “War Machine” 3:09
  6. “Smash ‘n’ Grab” 4:06
  7. “Spoilin’ for a Fight” 3:17
  8. “Wheels” 3:28
  9. “Decibel” 3:34
  10. “Stormy May Day” 3:10
  11. “She Likes Rock ‘n’ Roll” 3:53
  12. “Money Made” 4:15
  13. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Dream” 4:41
  14. “Rocking All the Way” 3:22
  15. “Black Ice” 3:25

Stiff Upper Lip: AC/DC

Rating: 85%

Stiff_Upper_LipAC/DC released “Stiff Upper Lip” in 2000 as their thirteenth record in the U.S. Musically, this album is a continuation of their previous album “Ballbreaker.” But this album is slightly better with regards to song and sound quality.

Musically, this album is very Blusey with soul but with a tad bit more of the Hard Rock. The tempos are again, much slower loosing that powerful raw edge AC/DC is known for. However, the music itself is original, rich, and full. It has plenty of complex riffs and great solos. There is a lot of great guitar work on this album that I thought was missing from the previous album. One thing you’ll notice is the stronger drumming and bass lines. Also, the guitars are more melodic. There’s a lot of harmony too. The rhythm section by drummer Phil Rudd, bassist Cliff Williams, and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young is stronger than ever.  Add in the leading elements of vocalist Brian Johnson and the lead guitar of Angus Young and you have what AC/DC has been all about since it’s creation. A band that can play great Rock n’ Roll music.

Track listing:

1. “Stiff Upper Lip” 3:34
2. “Meltdown” 3:41
3. “House of Jazz” 3:56
4. “Hold Me Back” 3:59
5. “Safe in New York City” 3:59
6. “Can’t Stand Still” 3:41
7. “Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll” 4:02
8. “Satellite Blues” 3:46
9. “Damned” 3:52
10. “Come and Get It” 4:02
11. “All Screwed Up” 4:36
12. “Give It Up” 3:54

Ballbreaker: AC/DC

Rating: 80%

Ballbreaker.jpg“Ballbreaker” was released in 1995 and marked the twelfth album from the AC/DC. After finding success with “The Razors Edge”, AC/DC needed a strong follow up. Well, this album kind of fell short of the mark. This album will also set up the model for the next three AC/DC albums.

Musically, this album is very soulful. It’s got a strong Bluesy sound to it, loosing the Hard Rock edge. The sound is much softer and the tempos are much slower. This album is lacking the raw power drive that AC/DC is known for. The album has some very good and complex riffs that one would expect. There’s a good bit of filler songs, but there are some very strong tracks.

The musicianship is very good, especially with the return of drummer Phil Rudd. When you have rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, bassist Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd on the rhythm section, you have the heart and soul of AC/DC. Brian Johnson’s vocals are clean and Angus Young still proves to be that riff master on lead guitar.

Overall, you have an album that is an average AC/DC album. Some of the songs kind of reminds me of the “Powerage” album. It was said that producer Rick Rubin was trying to get AC/DC back to that style of music.

Track listing:

1. “Hard as a Rock” 4:31
2. “Cover You in Oil” 4:32
3. “The Furor” 4:10
4. “Boogie Man” 4:07
5. “The Honey Roll” 5:34
6. “Burnin’ Alive” 5:05
7. “Hail Caesar” 5:14
8. “Love Bomb” 3:14
9. “Caught with Your Pants Down” 4:14
10. “Whiskey on the Rocks” 4:35
11. “Ballbreaker” 4:31

The Razors Edge: AC/DC

Rating: 90%

Razorsedge.jpgIn 1990, AC/DC was back on top with “The Razors Edge.” After a few years of minor hits from “Fly On The Wall”, “Who Made Who”, and “Blow Up Video”, AC/DC has formulated an album that is powerful, balanced, and creative.

Musically, this album features a lot of good tempos and melodies that one would expect from the band. It’s strong, engaging, and full of energy. Although, some of the songs seem to lean towards being filler. The riffs are very good especially on title track and “Money Talks.” The best part of it, the main riff on “Thunderstruck” is nothing more than a guitar lick set to the Mixolydian mode.

The musicianship is outstanding. Brian Johnson’s vocals seem to be a little more relaxed rather than overworked. Angus proves that he can still throw out riffs. It features a very strong rhythm section with Malcolm Young on guitar Cliff Williams on bass, and new comer on drums, Chris Slade.

Track listing:

1. “Thunderstruck” 4:52
2. “Fire Your Guns” 2:53
3. “Moneytalks” 3:48
4. “The Razors Edge” 4:22
5. “Mistress for Christmas” 3:59
6. “Rock Your Heart Out” 4:06
7. “Are You Ready” 4:10
8. “Got You by the Balls” 4:30
9. “Shot of Love” 3:56
10. “Let’s Make It” 3:32
11. “Goodbye & Good Riddance to Bad Luck” 3:13
12. “If You Dare”

Blow Up Video: AC/DC

Rating: 80%

blowupvideo.jpg1988 and AC/DC needed a strong album to make a major comeback. This was considering that “Fly On The Wall” was a U.S. commercial success. This album also marked the last album that Brian Johnson would contribute lyrics to.

Vocally speaking, Brian Johnson is riding the wave one more time. He still sounds good, but he has completely blown his pipes. Age has finally caught up with him. I call this the beginning Donald Duck years. But his vocals are much better on this album than the previous “Fly On The Wall.”

Musically, the rest of the band sounds OK. This album is the final product of the “Who Made Who” era, moving away from the style of “Fly On The Wall.” In other words, AC/DC is trying to reinvent themselves and it takes awhile to do that. This is where AC/DC was headed musically, which leads into the “Razors Edge” era which would come in 1990.

The main two flaws I hear are noise and filler within the music. Some of the song structures do repeat themselves over and over. “Two’s UP” basically sounds like leftovers from the “For Those About To Rock” record. I love the song, but there’s nothing new to it. The entire album sounds very weak, unfocused with lot’s of background noise. Now not all is lost. This album does contain some very good parts musically. The opening and verse guitar parts to “This Means War” is very up beat. Many of the songs, do have a nice melody driving it, but it does get a bit dull too. 

The music is riff heavy with shortened leads and solos. The guitar work is a bit weak. Even drummer Simon Wright isn’t sounding to hot. It’s almost as if the material was put together very quickly, the night before the recording. Cliff Williams on bass seems to be the only guy who has sort of broken away from the standard. He is laying down some bass lines that are not following along the guitars.  

Track listing:

1. “Heatseeker” 3:50
2. “That’s the Way I Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll” 3:45
3. “Meanstreak” 4:08
4. “Go Zone” 4:26
5. “Kissin’ Dynamite” 3:58
6. “Nick of Time” 4:16
7. “Some Sin for Nuthin'” 4:11
8. “Ruff Stuff” 4:28
9. “Two’s Up” 5:19
10. “This Means War” 4:21