Album review- AC/DC “Back In Black”

By Jesse Gaunce
October 13, 2010

On July 25, 1980, AC/DC released an album that would forever change the face of music.

That album was none other than “Back In Black,” a tribute to the band’s former lead singer Bon Scott.

From the tolling of the bell at the start of “Hells Bells,” to the opening riff of “Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution,” this was not just an album; it was a story.

That story began where most stories end, with death.

AC/DC was riding high on their new-found success with “Highway To Hell,” which was released in 1979.

But on Feb. 19, 1980, Bon Scott died in London after a night of heavy drinking at the age of 33.

With the future of the band left in shrouded mystery, the band decided to continue and on April 8, 1980, the surviving members recruited Brian Johnson to be their new lead singer.

Johnson, along with the famous guitar duo of brothers Angus and Malcolm Young, wrote the lyrics to all 10 songs on the album.

“Back In Black” has sold an insurmountable amount of copies. To date, it has sold 49 million copies world-wide and 22 million in the U.S. alone.

The album is known to be the second-best selling album of all time.

In addition, it’s also considered the best-selling hard rock album as well as the greatest album ever to be released by a band.

Only Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” has sold more copies than “Back In Black.”

“Back In Black” contains some of AC/DC’s biggest hits which include “Hells Bells,” “Shoot To Thrill,” “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “Have A Drink On Me,” “Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” and of course the unmistakable title track, “Back In Black.”

Although the songs “What Do You Do For Money Honey,” “Given The Dog A Bone,” “Let Me Put My Love Into You” and “Shake A Leg” are not as popular as the others, most people will say this is an album that does not have a bad song on it.

This can be supported by the fact that “Hells Bells,” “Shoot To Thrill,” “Back In Black” and “You Shook Me All Night Long,” have been played at just about every AC/DC concert since 1980.

Despite the album and the bands unfathomable success, “Back In Black” was not as well received upon its release as some may think.

While the fans could not get enough, some critics were not so enthusiastic.

“The heavy-metal songs here are among the most uninspired by a group that never had a whole lot to offer in the first place, other than a wild-acting (but ordinary-sounding) guitarist, Angus Young, and a slightly charming brashness that quickly becomes irritating and dull,” Terry Atkinson, of the L.A. Times, said.

Other  critics, like Rolling Stones’ David Fricke, praised the album.

“‘Back In Black’ is not only the best of AC/DC’s six American albums, it’s the apex of heavy-metal art: the first LP since Led Zeppelin II that captures all the blood, sweat and arrogance of the genre. In other words, ‘Back In Black’ kicks like a mutha,” Fricke said.

“Their time has come as a rock band — there’s no other explanation for it. It’s been pure word-of-mouth,” John Kalodner, Geffen Records A&R chief, said.

“Every kid is telling his friends that they’ve got to have this record,” Kalodner said.

Upon its release, the album quickly catapulted to No. 1 on the UK charts and No. 4 on the US charts. It spent 131 straight weeks on the billboard charts and reached platinum status by Oct. 1980.

The biggest hits from this album are played all over. They have been played in commercials, sports complex’s, movies and have also been covered by other famous bands such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Muse, Motorhead and Aerosmith.

By the time AC/DC finished their tour in support of the album in February 1981, they were as successful as ever.

“If I told you in a month’s time you were going to be the hottest thing in music, you wouldn’t be able to grasp it until it happened,” Johnson said.

Sometimes good things can come out of tragedy. “Back in Black” can attest to that.

That being said, if you don’t own this album, what are you waiting for?

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Jesse Gaunce

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