Stephen Chapman

The second incarnation of my blog

Rolling Stone top 100 albums: #77 AC/DC – Back In Black

Based on the top 100 albums in Rolling Stone magazine’s top 500, I have set myself the challenge of hearing and appraising each album. I hope to be surprised and educated along the way.

At number 77 is Back In Black by AC/DC recorded shortly after the death at 33 of vocalist Bon Scott.  The Australian band recruited a Geordie in the guise on Brian Johnson and then things really took off.

When I was at school, the “cool” kids often had the AC/DC logo on their bags or jackets, but I remember once asking one guy (a bit of a bully) what his favourite song was and he didn’t have an answer. AC/DC were a status symbol for some clearly.

I’ve been looking forward to hearing this as I know little about the group and have only ever heard a couple of the songs on the radio.  But what hit me was that the album really isn’t as heavy as I was expecting.  The vocals of Johnson are very throaty and raw but it’s only the mix and doubling of guitars that makes this heavy metal for me.

The opening track Hells Bells starts with an ominous low ringing bell and sets the scene for much of the album with a repeated guitar riff and a chorus that repeats the title a few times. This approach seems to be the winning formula so is used a number of times on this album.  I get the feeling that, in some cases, the title was thought up first and then a song written around it.

Shoot to kill has some fine guitar work and is a good representation of the album.  The next couple of tracks are a bit too straightforward but Let me put my love in you sounds like a song that Led Zeppelin would have been proud of.

The title track is powerful and catchy with a number of hooks from the guitar before you even get to the vocals.  I could hear Slade in this song (Slade recorded some very hard rock songs on their albums) and it wasn’t until after listening that I found out that Noddy Holder had been offered the job before Brian Johnson!

The next song, You shook me all night long is another really good song and I’ll happily play it loud in the car with the windows down, heading along the long highway.  OK, the M25 through Hertfordshire. You can hear that many bands copied the style of this album, especially from this song with the vocals in the choruses sung with multi layers and all band members.

The final 3 tracks are fine, but don’t meet the standards of Back in black and You shook me all night long. But saying that, Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution is a great way end a rock album.

It’s pretty basic production overall, but very slick performances and crisp sounding. I liked that the guitar wasn’t over the top on any track in terms of feedback or performance, something that the 80’s and 90’s heavy metal bands did  far too much, usually to disguise the lack of song.

Given that I was expecting something heavier and darker, I enjoyed this album and will look forward to a hearing again.


My rating: 7/10

Standout tracks: Back in blackYou shook me all night long

Listen to the album here.

See the Top 100 here.

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This entry was posted on July 16, 2014 by in music and tagged , , .

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