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Black Ice

Review by Rick Damigella

AC/DC really are living legends of rock and roll. They are amongst the top selling music artists of all time. They can sell out concerts worldwide in mere minutes. And they can release an album in 2008 that sounds, quite frankly, like a missing link back to their strongest efforts of the early 1980’s.

I am a lifelong AC/DC fan, counting Back in Black as the very first album I ever bought. I have had the pleasure of interviewing Angus Young and Brian Johnson on the set of a music video, where I heard one of the best dirty jokes in my life from Mr. Johnson (no, I shan’t repeat it here, suffice to say the punch line goes “who’s Bob?”) I enjoy the music the band did throughout the late 80’s and 90’s, even when it seemed Johnson’s voice wasn’t quite as strong as it had been in the past. But sometime during the eight year gap between the release of their last album and their latest, Black Ice, the Brothers Young crafted some of their finest rock and roll songs ever and Brian Johnson seemingly found the same quality of voice he had in 1981.

Whereas some bands claim they put out albums of great songs, AC/DC means it. The band’s new album is 15 songs worth of classic AC/DC. There is not a second rate song here. And I say that as a fact, not as a fan. Johnson’s voice hasn’t sounded this good since the early 1980’s and frankly for anyone who hasn’t listened to anything the band has done since then, you could forgiven for thinking this is a lost album that could have come out after For Those About to Rock We Salute You. Producer Brendan O’Brien has injected the band with a new, raw energy that permeates through each and every song. Whether your sum total of AC/DC knowledge begins and ends with Back in Black or if you are a fan who hasn’t yet climbed on board the band’s latest rock and roll train ride, put simply, Black Ice is an absolute must listen.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
Rock N Roll Train
The hit single and an instant AC/DC classic, there is no fooling around. You know from the first chord this is AC/DC. There’s the shout along gang chorus and a killer solo from Angus Young that younger players only wish they would have thought of.
Skies on Fire
Slowing things down slightly from the “on the rails” rock of the previous, this one churns with a dirty mid-tempo beat and another searing solo.
Big Jack
Every AC/DC album has a “hidden hit.” Those songs that hardcore fans know are among the band’s best, but they don’t airplay (ok, ok, no one gets airplay anymore). I challenge you not to shout along with the chorus and air guitar to the infectious riff. This is one of the best songs on the album.
Anything Goes
When you first hear this one, you may go, “Whoa! That is some mighty shiny pop-sheen and sensibility rubbed on that one.” Indeed. Somewhere out there, there is a movie that was made in the 1980’s but never released, about a girl and a boy and their celluloid romance that needs a theme song. This is it. Now we just need to find the movie.
War Machine
This is the best song of the album - period. There is evil in the opening bass groove and a building energy that just begs you to crank the heck out of this one as you drive. Please obey the local speed limit, but screw the noise ordinances.
Smash N Grab
Here we have a mid-tempo rocker with AC/DC’s signature tempo that will keep your head banging from start to finish and a chorus that compels you to sing along.
Spoilin’ For a Fight
Picking up the pace a bit more from the previous number, the song’s groove kicks in right away and Johnson’s voice is so uncannily strong that you would swear this was a recording from the vault.
This is the band’s best song about driving since “Highway to Hell.” The metaphor isn’t the life of a rock star on tour though. This girl’s got wheels. Why not take her out for a spin? Add this one to your playlist of songs about cars and driving.
Oh yeah, this is dirty, grinding, rock and roll - plain and simple. If there are any exotic dancers reading this, do yourself a favor and try dancing a set to this one. If the tips rack up, you can thank me later. Guys, tip your waitresses.
Stormy May Day
Speaking of dirty, how about a sleazy yet respectable Southern fried blues lick? This is one of the band’s bluesiest numbers ever. Johnson’s voice is simply unbelievable on this one. This is my second favorite track after “War Machine.”
She Likes Rock N Roll
This would be another one of those numbers that hardcore fans are going to gravitate to. The groove reminds me just slightly of some of the mid-tempo boogie from For Those About to Rock.
Money Made
This is a slightly different feel for the band. The Brothers Young trade riffs back and forth through the open and chorus, best appreciated when listened to with headphones.
Rock N Roll Dream
Melodic and almost quiet guitar riffs open this next one. Johnson’s voice is again in stunning full range. The effect of the mellow intro is blown open by the electric chorus and the call and response between Johnson and Angus’ blues fills is a refreshing twist. It’s another one for the AC/DC aficionados.
Rocking All the Way
Johnson goes a bit growlier at first, and while this number doesn’t feature his banshee wail, it does have a solid gang-shout chorus backing him up.
Black Ice
When you look at the back cover art of the album, you will see that the songs look like they are split into “sides.” If you like the idea of sides to a CD, consider side 2 starts with “Decibel” and finishes here, in a short and to the point rocker. You may also notice that “side 1” of the album finds the band at their “hit single sounding” best with “side 2” made up of those deep cuts that hardcore fans gravitate to. Put them together and you have another legendary entry into the pantheon of AC/DC.
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