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    CD Review: AC/DC – Backtracks

    CD Review: AC/DC - Backtracks

    AC/DC

    Backtracks

    Albert Productions

    Released November 2009

    This winter, Australia’s most famous brothers-turned-rock-stars released a three-disc collection of rarities and video spanning their 37-year career. Following 2008’s advent of Black Ice, their 15th studio album, do Angus and his mates have any surprises left up their schoolboy knickers? Here’s a breakdown of AC/DC’s Backtracks:

    CD1: Studio Rarities

    This CD comprises 11 rare tracks from the band spanning from 1975-2000, most of which are derived from the B-sides of Australia-only LPs and singles. The majority of the tracks feature original singer and lyricist Bon Scott and exhibit the playful variety of the band’s early recordings.

    Notable tracks:

    “”Love Song“” (’75)

    The shrill and malevolent chords leading into “”Love Song”” conjure shades of Alice Cooper and The Mars Volta, but eventually degenerate into a melancholy, puppy-love ballad à la Kiss.

    “”Fling Thing“” (’77)

    The legendary instrumental version of the Scottish folk song “”The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond”” (You’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road … ). Great for nights of drunken revelry.

    “”Crabsody in Blue“” (’77)

    Angus’ slow and simple 12-bar progressions show the band at their bluesy finest, charmingly contrasted by Bon’s STD musings: “”And when they start to scream / that’s when you apply the cream / Blues ointment, come again!””

    CD2: Live Rarities

    A collection of 15 live recordings from 1977-2000, mostly focusing on the tenure of second frontman Brian Johnson. Overall a low-fidelity mix of heavy-rotation tracks, none of which are quite as crisp or rocking as those from their ’92 double-live album, AC/DC Live.

    Notable Tracks:

    “”Let There Be Rock“” (Landover, Md., ’81)

    After an amped-up reconstruction of this eponymous rocker, a false finish to the seven-and-a-half-minute track leads into a creeping electric crescendo from Angus. And it was good.

    “”Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution“” (Detroit, Mich., ’83)

    One track not available on ’92 Live, the fuzzy leading riff and canonical chorus are a loud, proud defense of rock almighty.

    DVD: Family Jewels

    Ninety minutes of promotional music videos and concert footage spanning the band’s career, culminating with clips from their most recent Black Ice tour. Watching the entire collection can get a bit redundant (Angus sure does like goose-stepping), but serves as exemplary material of both AC/DC’s hard rock tradition and their boisterously playful presence.

    Notable Clips:

    “”Big Gun“” (Last Action Hero soundtrack promo)

    Clips of the band kicking ass live intercut with Arnold Schwarzenegger kicking doors down in “”Last Action Hero”” create a parodic adrenaline overload. Seeing the governor of California dressed in schoolboy short-shorts and loping behind Angus young is a rare pleasure.

    “”It’s A Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)“” (promo clip)

    Ever wanted to see a young Bon Scott’s hairy midriff ripple in the throes of a blistering bagpipe solo? Well, you have no choice.

    Bonus: “”The Making of ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Train””

    A cursory, behind-the-scenes clip of the filming of the band’s newest video single showcases the busloads of fans that came to appear in the video, spouting loyal AC/DC dogma like “”Angus! Angus!”” and “”Greatest band in the world!”” Long-time band videographer David Mallet admits having no idea what he was going to put on that green-screen behind Brian Johnson.

    Overall verdict: The studio rarities would be well worth the price of a standard album, but the oft-unintelligible live cuts and repetitive DVD features make this a value for only the most dedicated AC/DC fans.

     

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