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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

AC/DC: "Back In Black"


"Back In Black"
Atlantic (1980)
1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die + 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

Bands like AC/DC, dedicated to sleaze and the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, generally struggle to earn critical acceptance. How does a group with meanings so simple and messages so blunt merit a positive reaction? Being instrumentally sound doesn’t hurt.

The guitar styling of brothers Angus and Malcolm Young is the driving force behind AC/DC’s success. It’s not tough to find a vocalist willing to yell his male desires into a microphone, but it is tough to provide an ample soundtrack for it. Perhaps as a tribute to the band’s original vocalist, Bon Scott, who died of alcohol poisoning a few months before the album’s recording, or maybe by luck of the draw, “Back in Black” features the brothers at their best.

The improved riffs are a big part of what makes this AC/DC’s best album. The title track (an ode to Scott) features a classic, commanding riff that Total Guitar ranked the second best of all time. The underrated “Shake A Leg” features a more playful line that sounds like a leaner and meaner version of something Jimmy Page might cook up.

No good “rawk” album is complete without a few solos, and just like with the riffs, the solos are the best you’ll find on any AC/DC album. The best are on two of the album’s biggest tracks, “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” and “You Shook Me All Night Long.”

The solo helps make “You Shook Me All Night Long” the best track on the album, but the anthemic quality of the refrain really seals the deal. It’d be tough to name a song that will get more patrons to sing along at a bar on a Saturday night. “What You Do For Money” features a similarly styled hook.

Naturally, the band displays some of its signature sleaze in tracks like “Givin’ The Dog a Bone” (get it?) and “Let Me Put My Love Into You” (ask your mom), but with great riffs like these, you can indulge in this guilty pleasure without feeling all that guilty.

Although I would posture “You Shook Me” as the best track on the album, many would make valid arguments for others. It’s tough to argue; half of the tracks still receive regular radio play.

There simply isn’t a modern answer to “Back in Black.” Multitudes of bands can make cheap innuendos, but few have the instrumental tact to back it up. This hasn’t been lost on listeners. This AC/DC classic has sold more than 49 million copies, making it the second highest selling album ever. That number won’t be dropping off either.

INTERESTING FACT: In the music video for “You Shook Me All Night Long,” an actress was injured while riding a mechanical bull. A roadie came to her aid and a year later they were married. The band's current vocalist Brian Johnson bought the couple a mechanical bull as a gag gift.

You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC on Grooveshark

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