Tuesday, 1 November 2016

"Highway To Hell" by AC/DC (2003 Epic/Albert Productions 'ConnecteD Technology' CD Remaster) - A Review To Mark Barry...

"...Going Down...Party Time..." 

"...Paid my dues...playing in a rocking band...hey mama...look at me...I'm on my way to the promised-land..." Bon Scott sang with sly gusto on the amazing title track to "Highway To Hell" – their genuine breakthrough album from August 1979. But come February 1980 he was gone – lost to a dumb drinking binge - and I for one was miserable at his loss.

Luckily enough I did at least get to see the Bon Scott line-up of AC/DC on that tour in Dublin – a wow that still tingles my weary bones nearly 40 years after the event. Cocky, self-knowing and lecherous towards anything in a skirt (pencil or otherwise) – he was also possessed of a set of rasping pipes and a rapier wit – the kind of lead singer that made your mama worry and your daddy reach for the garden hatchet - ready to tame that excited appendage should to come looking for some post gig jiggery-pokery. 

Bon Scott was one of the best front men I've ever seen. Up there with Phil Lynott and Johnny Rotten - the man was impossible to ignore and impossible not to like - and their hour of adrenalin-fuelled Aussie Hard Rock on that cold Monday night was some of the most amazing Rock 'n' Roll I've ever seen. AC/DC had it all at that moment - a genuinely awesome thing to behold live - and then only a few months later - it was gone... 

After the blistering no-holes barred "Let There Be Rock" set in 1977 and the lukewarm reception to the excellent but more muted "Powerage" in 1978 – it was do or die for the Australian hard rockers – and time for a change. That smart move turned out to be a Producer – ROBERT 'MUTT' LANG – who gave AC/DC and their sensational new material the spit and polish it needed for American radio. Suddenly the world went nuts for the Pop-Rock of "Girls Got Rhythm" and "Get It Hot". In fact "Highway To Hell" could be called a 'classy' AC/DC album - if I can say such a thing about a bunch of misogynistic Hades-loving reprobates. Here are the horn 'n' tail details...

UK released May 2003 - "Highway To Hell" by AC/DC on Epic/Albert Productions EPC 510764 2 (Barcode 5099751076421) is a 10-Track CD Remaster of the 1979 US LP and plays out as follows (41:42 minutes):

1. Highway To Hell
2. Girls Got Rhythm
3. Walk All Over You
4. Touch Too Much
5. Beating Around The Bush
6. Shot Down In Flames [Side 2]
7. Get It Hot
8. If You Want Blood (You've Got It)
9. Love Hungry Man
10. Night Prowler
Tracks 1 to 10 are their sixth studio album (5th in the UK) "Highway To Hell" - released 3 August 1979 in the USA on Atlantic SD 19244 and in the UK on Atlantic K 50628. Produced by ROBERT JOHN LANG (aka 'Mutt' Lang) – it peaked at No. 8 in the UK and No. 17 in the USA.

Unlike "Let There Be Rock" and "Powerage" that have track anomalies requiring pages of explanation – "Highway To Hell" was a globally synchronised release – same 10 songs everywhere. This Epic 2003 CD reissue has what they call 'ConnecteD Technology' that allows you to access online content via your computer but I'm buggered if I've ever bothered. The card digipak is the same for all of these reissues - very tasty and tactile - picture CD - a 16-page booklet crammed full of colour photos, press adverts, picture sleeves of 7” singles, stage passes and Angus and Bon in various manic live poses (ERNIE WELCH liner notes). They’ve reproduced handwritten lyrics for "Highway To Hell" and "Shot Down In Flames" and the unique Australian artwork for Albert Productions APLP-040 is on the back cover. The inner pouch has Angus chucking a bucket of paint at something while the others giggle.

The GEORGE MARINO Remaster (done in the USA) is from 'original master tapes' and sounds sharp - rocking like the beast it is (aided by MIKE FRASER and AL QUAGLIEREI in the transfers). Some have complained there's too much treble but I'm thinking Lang put that polish on the finished product on purpose. This CD rocks and you can feel it on every song.

What I love about "Highway" is that everything clicks – the whole damn album is brilliant. Each track comes in – does the business – and leaves. The pace changes fast to slow – and at the centre of it – there's Angus riffing away like a loon while Bon finally has his vocals clearer than ever. And unlike 1980’s "Back In Black" which I found cold and uninviting – "Highway" is full of fun – Bon’s mischievous and downright un-PC lyrics making you giggle (and occasionally wince). As you navigate killer riff number one hundred and ten – you can just see him at the microphone – that twinkle in his eye and bulge in his pants. This guy has been there - drunk from the fountain of Rock 'n' Roll and set up camp in its life-replenishing waters (possibly wee-wee’d on its outer walls). Album tracks like "Get It Hot" and the fantastic slow riffage of "Night Prowler" still impress - while "Beating About The Bush" and "Shot Down In Flames" are anthems that fans get tearful about to this day.

Best Rock Band on the planet then and many would argue (in 2016) not a lot has changed. Genius...and I miss him...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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