Saturday, 14 January 2017

"Let There Be Rock" by AC/DC (2003 Epic/Albert Productions 'ConnecteD Technology' Digipak CD - George Marino Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Whole Lotta Rosie..."

Shock and Awe – it's a clichéd phrase I know in this wide-bottomed business we call reviewing. But the truth is simple – little will prepare you (or any listener for that matter) for the sheer sonic assault of 1977's "Let There Be Rock" – AC/DC's angriest and loudest album – a platter that strips reinforced paint off walls from a hundred paces and then urinates on the ragged results...

There had already been indications of their Rock greatness in the first two British released LPs – "High Voltage" and "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" – fabulous hooky riffs like "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)" and "Problem Child" – both recorded in 1975 and 1976. But 1977 saw them produce a studio beast to rival Deep Purple or Humble Pie at their 'live' barnstorming best – a not inconsiderable feat - and in a year when Rock was supposed to be dead or busy dying in a ditch somewhere...

First the Production values went through the roof. Amped-up and jacked-up to 13 on a scale of 10 – AC/DC were essentially live in the studio and in possession of a lethal combo of new power riffs. Out went the 9 or 10 songs – in came 8. They were lengthier but they were also more convincing and undeniably brilliant. To this day Australia's finest play half of the album in every show (fans would probably feel cheated if they didn't). And the title track "Let There Be Rock" has of course turned into something of a 20-minute live marathon for Angus Young – their guitarist and core of the band – a crowd-pleasing solo fest of scorched-earth wildness that few who see it ever forget (it has me grinning from ear to ear just thinking about it). Which brings us to this messed-about CD reissue and its rejiggered track list that requires some eggsplanation (as Mister Ayers would say). Here is the 'Crabsody In Blue'...

UK released May 2003 - "Let There Be Rock" by AC/DC on Epic/Albert Productions 510761 2 (Barcode 5099751076124) is an 8-Track CD variant of the 1977 American LP and plays out as follows (41:01 minutes):

1. Go Down
2. Dog Eat Dog
3. Let There Be Rock
4. Bad Boy Boogie
5. Problem Child [Side 2]
6. Overdose
7. Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be
8. Whole Lotta Rosie
Tracks 1 to 9 are their fourth studio album (3rd in the UK) "Let There Be Rock" - released March 1977 in Australia on Albert Productions APLP.022 -  June 1977 in the USA on Atco SD 36-151 and October 1977 in the UK on Atlantic K 50366.

AC/DC was:
BON SCOTT – Vocals
ANGUS YOUNG – Lead Guitar
MALCOLM YOUNG – Rhythm Guitar

Some explanation is needed about the CD Reissue and its track-list that for many fans outside of America is not how they bought the original vinyl LP. Both the Australian and British LPs had different tracks and placements on Side 2. The Australian LP was the first issue in March 1977 (its different black and white guitar-photo artwork is on the last page of the booklet) while the British LP arrived last in October 1977 with the US artwork of June 1977 (the live photo of the band). However both the OZ and UK LPs had a Side 2 that ran as "Overdose", "Crabsody In Blue", "Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be" and "Whole Lotta Rosie".

But as this CD is a US release it follows the American Track List/Artwork – so as you can see above for Side 2 it uses "Problem Child" as Track 1 (originally on their "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" LP from 1976) with "Overdose" as Track 2 instead of "Crabsody In Blue". If you want the absent "Crabsody In Blue" track in order to configure the OZ and UK LPs - it's available on the "Backtracks: Studio Rarities" 2CD/1DVD Box Set of Remasters from November 2009 (another AC/DC release worth seeking out).

So what do you get here? This Epic CD 8-track reissue has what they call 'ConnecteD Technology' which 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. There’s a picture CD to the right and a 16-page booklet housed on the left in a pocket pouch. It's crammed full of colour photos behind the text, press reviews (good and bad), a ticket to the 24 Oct 1977 show at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall, buttons, stage passes and Angus, Bon and the Gang in various manic live poses (MURRAY ENGLEHEART does the superb liner notes). There are more photos of the band on the inner gatefold and beneath the see-through CD tray. The GEORGE MARINO Remaster (done in the USA) is from 'original master tapes' and sounds HUGE - rocking like the beast that it is.

The albums that followed 1977's "Let There Be Rock" ("Powerage" in 1978 and "Highway To Hell" in 1979) sported a crisp clean radio-friendly sound care of Mutt Lange – not here my good friends. With amps humming and a spoken count-in - the sheer volume at the beginning of the very unsubtle "Go Down" is like a mission statement. Within seconds you get the biblical reference – a huge riff threatens to level your living room - the Aussies are indeed here to ROCK and those with nervous dispositions should run for the Exit sign. I cannot overstate the sheer force of this track and the riff it has – a huge mother of an opener as Bon once again makes "Ruby Lips" famous for services above and below the call of duty. "Dog Eat Dog" (eat cat too) does the same and legend has it that midway through the recording of the epic "Let There Be Rock" - Angus’ amplifier literally went on fire from the heat - yet Producer George Vanda told him to continue – which the mighty imp did. Wow! Now there's a story you want to tell your kids. "...Did you bleed daddy for this track? Well son..there I was making Rock history...when all of a sudden..." And Side 1 ends on the ballsy AC/DC Blues-Rock of "Bad Boy Boogie" – four sucker-punches in a row and a Side of Rock Classics most bands would nobble a close relative to achieve.

Whilst "Problem Child" is utterly brilliant – a short sharp kick in the kangaroo pouch – its Production values differ wildly to the other Jan/Feb 1977 recordings – so it feels automatically out of place. Others may disagree. The slow Blues of "Crabsody In Blue" - a track about appointments and ointments and critters nibbling at Bon's favourite appendage - is typically funny stuff from the brill Scotsman and so un-PC as to be cherishable. And again it followed perfectly after "Overdose" – a grimy and grubby slow starter that builds into the most monster riff you have ever heard as Bon sings his salacious tale of innocence corrupted (it's all booze and cigarettes now – her fault apparently). And at this point we have to talk of Angus' guitar playing – solo after solo exploding with a ferocity that makes Led Zeppelin-in-full-flow seem like a weedy school prefect with a Ukulele (and that takes some doing). And then the LP gives us two massive slices of primal Rock – "Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be" and the awesome "Whole Lotta Rosie". Even now that solo in the middle of "Whole Lotta Rosie" is beyond description – a kick in the chest by a mule with serious mommy issues.

Unbelievably - March 2017 will see the album's 40th Anniversary. And in absolute present-day truth – if Metallica produced even three songs in 2017 as good as the original eight on "Let There Be Rock" – the Net would melt, ice caps would get up and do a Scottish jig and Donald Trump would gain a conscience (well maybe two of those things). AC/DC did it 40 years ago man. Step aside pretenders - best Rock Band on the planet bar none.

Shock and Awe indeed...

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