In 1980, AC/DC released Back in Black, the band’s first album with new lead singer Brian Johnson. Its all black cover and the title track were meant to mourn the passing of former frontman Bon Scott following his untimely death just months earlier. AC/DC perfected the art of minimalist rock with slick riffs, hard power chords, and even harder vocals, and Back in Black is their Mona Lisa. I’ll be reviewing it today, so for those about to read, I salute you.
Brian Johnson does some really great work on this album. I’d imagine it was difficult to try and replicate the larynx-shredding singing of the late great Bon Scott, but he does a great job. It’s hard to say if he was better than Scott, but he definitely wasn’t worse. The band looked to him to write much of the music for this project, and he did well in producing the simple yet powerful lyrics that had become a signature for this group. This guy can scream with the best of them.
Brilliant. Angus Young is one of my favorite guitarists of all time, and he crafts some of his best riffs on this record. After the album begins with the gloomy sound of bells (“Hells Bells”) each of the following nine songs begins with a distinct new riff, and each contains a blood-chilling solo. His brother, Malcolm Young, provides a stable and equally hard-rocking backbone on rhythm guitar. Phil Rudd is heard loud and clear beating the absolute piss out of his drum set, and although it doesn’t sound like overly difficult work, there are some changing time signatures and tempos on these tracks that he plays very cleanly. It’s difficult to pick up on much of the bass playing with all the screaming and commotion going on, but Cliff Williams should not go unnoticed for his role in creating AC/DC’s sound.
The band actually flew out to the Bahamas to record this entire album with new producer Robert John “Mutt” Lang, who does some innovative new things with a multi-track recording that gives this album a cleaner sound. It’s hard to say how much his input really shaped this album, but the bells at the beginning area nice touch.
Some of the band’s most signature and well-known tracks are on this album, so here’s a couple that usually gets overlooked… “Let Me Put My Love Into You” and “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”
This is one of those rare albums you can play through start to finish. I don’t think you can argue that it’s up there with the best albums of all time, but if you think you can be my guest and let me know in the comments. Until next Thursday.