Monday, 31 July 2017

"Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" by AC/DC (May 2003 Epic/Albert Productions 'ConnecteD Technology' Digipak CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Problem Child..."

Ah the alliterative naughtiness of it all. AC/DC's second British/International LP from late 1976 – the wonderfully titled and delightfully un-PC "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" – has always been something of a guilty pleasure – a record you hid from your conservative parents and unenlightened school pals – a rude and crude immoral little brute of a thing that you boogied to under cover of darkness. You would then carefully dispose of the beer bottles and promptly pray for your sins...neither of which would stop you from doing it all over again at your next earliest convenience...

First however some discography history on the LP and CD's strange musical journey in a whole smorgasbord of territories...

The first two Australian AC/DC albums were released on Albert Productions - "High Voltage" in February 1975 (Albert Productions APLP.009) and "T.N.T." in December 1975 (Albert Productions APLPA.016) – and had radically different track lists to their UK, USA and International issues (and different artwork too). "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" became their third studio album on Albert Productions APLP.020 in their native Oz – released late September 1976 with different artwork and a longer different 9-track track list to its UK and International counterparts. The Australian issue of the LP reads...

1. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap [Side 1]
2. Ain't No Fun (Waiting Around To Be A Millionaire)
3. There’s Gonna Be Some Rockin’
4. Problem Child
5. Squealer [Side 2]
6. Big Balls
7. R.I.P. (Rock In Peace)
8. Ride On
9. Jailbreak

The Australian album was not just reconfigured in terms of song-placing – some of the tunes were longer - "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap", "Big Balls" and "Ain't No Fun (Waiting Round to Be A Millionaire)" to be specific. If you want those they’re digitally available in two sources – the 1994 CD remaster of the album and the 2009 Box Set "Backtracks". This 2003 Epic CD reissue is based however on the US, UK and International LP configuration and reverts to the ‘shorter’ versions of the above with only "Big Balls" remaining as the long version (confusing I know).

Duplicates across countries and issues - "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" was their second British LP with the classic Bon Scott line-up (December 1976, Atlantic K 50323) and the only song to be duplicated with the first two Oz albums was "The Rocker" which had originally turned up as Track 2 on Side 2 of "T.N.T.". It’s worth noting that the Oz version of "The Rocker" differs to the UK and International version most of us have grown up with. Fans will also know that the 1976-recorded "Problem Child" from "Dirty Deeds..." was somehow inexplicably slotted in as Track 2 on Side 2 of the American version of the "Let There Be Rock" LP as late as 1977 on Atlantic SD 36151 (we were used to "Crabsody In Blue"). The 2003 CD therefore follows that US line-up - so to this day the track "Crabsody In Blue" remains an LP and CD rarity.

Then there’s the American LP variant of "Dirty Deeds..." It was passed over entirely by Atlantic and remained initially unreleased over there. But after Bon Scott's tragic loss in February 1980 – AC/DC's 1980 platter "Back In Black" with new vocalist Brian Johnson at the helm (ex England's GEIRDIE on EMI Records) became a sales juggernaut shifting five million copies and peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard charts. Imports of the 1976 Australian and British LPs of "Dirty Deeds..." began to circulate widely. Coupled with the rabid demand for AC/DC product - April 1981 finally saw "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" released as an LP in America on Atlantic SD 16033 and it rapidly peaked even higher than its more famous chart predecessor - at No. 3. This 2003 Epic CD reissue of "Dirty Deeds..." is based on that release. Now let's get down to this CD's actual digital nitty gritty...

UK released May 2003 - "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" by AC/DC on Epic/Albert Productions 510760 2 (Barcode 5099751076025) is a 9-Track CD reissue and new remaster of the 1981 US and 1976 British LP and plays out as follows (39:59 minutes):

1. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap [Side 1]
2. Love At First Feel
3. Big Balls
4. Rocker
5. Problem Child
6. There's Gonna Be Some Rockin' [Side 2]
7. Ain't No Fun (Waiting Around To Be A Millionaire)
8. Ride On
9. Squealer
Tracks 1 to 9 are their second British album "'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" – released December 1976 in the UK on Atlantic K 50323 and April 1981 in the USA on Atlantic SD 16033.

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

So what do you get here? This Epic CD 5-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 (the cover art of blacked out faces) and a 16-page booklet housed on the left in a pocket pouch.

The booklet It's crammed full of period colour photos – fantastic live shots of a hungry 1976 AC/DC line-up wearily suffering another TV interview when they’d rather be lusting after the schoolgirls outside the studio who’d appalled their mums with unladylike tattoos of their favourite band on their nether bits. There’s an advert in Spunky magazine where you can have a chance to ‘win’ an Angus jacket – a rare ticket stub for the Hurtsville Civic Centre in Sydney on their final Oz date before departing for Europe and a two page centre spread of the unique Australian LP cartoon artwork with Angus giving two fingers to the world (his contribution to world peace) while Bon gyrates his crotch over a pool table (nice).

The lyrics to Dirty Deeds are on the inner gatefold beneath a fab set of live black and white shots supplemented beneath the CD see-through tray by a colour snap of Bon facing Angus (both sweating and rocking). The whole thing (along with the famous Hipgnosis artwork) is a bit of a looker and then there’s the monster riffage. The GEORGE MARINO Remaster (done in the USA in conjunction with Mike Fraser, Al Quaglieri and UE Nastas) is from 'original master tapes' and sounds HUGE - fuller than the 1990 remaster I've had for years. Despite their age - tracks like "There’s Gonna Be Some Rockin’" and "Ain’t No Fun..." have lost none of their rocking Rock 'n' Roll power. You could argue that the earlier CD remaster with its longer versions should have been fused with bonus tracks like say "Jailbreak" and "R.I.P (Rock In Peace)" from the Australian incarnation of the album – but that’s another reissue battle. Let’s deal with what we do have...

All thoughts of cuddly koalas, environmentally non-violent boomerangs (AC/DC ones are naturally decked out with razor blades) and lyrically warming Laura Ashley quotes on your daily positive-thoughts calendar go out the window with the incredibly filthy riffage and words of the panting title track - "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" followed quickly by the barely legal "Love At First Feel". This is what I never liked about the 80s Johnson line-up of AC/DC – they had lost that impish Rock fun and become a cold Metal band. And of course a lot of that wit is down to the leery wonder that was lead singer Bon Scott – a Scottish reprobate with a bottle of Malt Whiskey in one hand, a Rock voice to die for and a girl’s brazier of dubious vintage in the other. Talking of an opportunist teacher in her high school - Boniface warns “...You want to graduate...but not in his bed...” and then offers a solution to her slighting by proffering his headmaster ‘removal services’ for a reasonable fee (given the circumstances).

"Big Balls" is probably one of their worst moments for me – silly and slightly embarrassing actually. But that minor blip is followed by two absolute barnstormers - the stunning "Rocker" and "Problem Child" – songs that still bring a grin to my mush 41 years after the event. There can’t be too many AC/DC fans that don’t return to these kick-ass moments and they remain staples of the live show to this day. I prefer the Aussie versions in both cases – especially the longer cut of "Problem Child" where it kicks back into that killer riff just when you think the song is done.  The album’s other two secret weapons have to be the fabulous boozy swagger of "There’s Gonna Be Some Rockin’" and a rare jaunt into slow Rock Blues with the underrated "Ride On". A great little album then in its own right – "Dirty Deeds..." was also a sonic stepping stone that would be followed in 1977 by the fearsome "Let There Be Rock" LP (see separate review).

It was a long to the top if you wanted to Rock 'n' Roll - but man their climb was filled with magnificence. Break some rocks with the original chain gang folks and bring this saucy little bust-out into your home...

PS: For what it's worth – the following is my ideal 1976 9-track "Dirty Deeds..." LP that mixes up the Aussie and International releases:

Side 1:
1. There's Gonna Be Some Rockin'
2. Love At First Feel
3. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap [Aussie Longer Version]
4. Rocker [Aussie Mix]
5. Problem Child [Aussie Longer Version]
Side 2:
1. Jailbreak
2. Ain't No Fun (Waiting Around To Be A Millionaire) [Aussie Longer Version]
8. R.I.P. (Rock In Peace)
9. Ride On 

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