Thursday, June 12, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Back in Black: The Return of AC/DC

After the great deal of success that hard rock band AC/DC had with their 1979 Highway to Hell album, they had begun working on new material. However, things took an extremely unfortunate turn and their progress was briefly halted when on February 19th, 1980 lead singer Bon Scott's life was brought to a tragic early end when he succumbed to a terrible alcohol poisoning incident. When this happened the band was in mourning and considering calling it quits, but with insistence from Scott's parents they were convinced to find a new singer and carry on because it is what he would have wanted them to do. This lead them to find former Geordie singer Brian Johnson.

Soon enough, the band was Compass Point Studios with producer Mutt Lange recording new material with Johnson including some of the songs they had been working on with Scott. This would become one of the band's most famous and successful albums: Back in Black. The album features five of AC/DC's biggest hits: Back in Black, Shoot to Thrill, Hell's Bells, Rock n' Roll Ain't Noise Pollution, and You Shook Me All Night Long. Having so many commercial hits on one record is the main cause that to date Back in Black has sold over 50 million copies since its release on July 21, 1980, making it the second highest selling album of all time next to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album.

Though AC/DC's previous albums had been very hard rock based, Back in Black seemed to take things in an even heavier direction and also at times a bit darker. Johnson's high ranged screaming vocal style seemed to call for more of a punch than what the band had been doing. The band was more than able to pull through on this. One of the noticeable characteristics of Back in Black in contrast to AC/DC's albums with Scott is that many of them are a bit more of a walking pace with catchier hooks for the choruses whereas the old songs were often times a bit faster and more based on 50's rock song writing style.

This would be no Back in Black review if we didn't take a bit of time to examine the album's title track. The song starts off with a couple measures of hits on the hi-hat cymbals when BAM -you're hit right in the face with two guitars playing the beefy chords that make up the signature riff that many people have come to know and love over the years. The whole song maintains a pretty steady walking tempo, but it features some of Johnson's best vocal work as well as lead guitarist Angus Young's best soloing and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young's best riffage. The whole track is non-stop in your face rock n' roll leaving no room for any further desire.

While also released as a single and played on the radio from time to time, one tune from Back in Black that deserves a little more attention is Rock n' Roll Ain't Noise Pollution. It starts off with just one guitar playing some finger picked electric blues and Johnson lighting up a cigarette and taking a puff or two. Johnson then starts the first of the vocals, which sound like him just shouting out to some guys on a fence. The song honestly does paint a really good musical picture of this kind of scene, especially when it goes into the meat and potatoes of the track itself. This track is a little more up-tempo than Back in Black and is also a bit bluesier. The lyrics themselves as in many of AC/DC's timeless tracks mainly talk about love of rock n' roll and how it will never die.

Though the circumstances surrounding the genesis of Back in Black are rather somber, it not only brought AC/DC back from the grave, but launched their career into a state of massive success that they had never seen before. It is what has ensured that the band will always be among the titans of rock n' roll and that no matter what rock n' roll will survive, yes it will.

Back in Black, by AC/DC receives 5 out of 5 stars.

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