Review of AC/DC: Back in Black

bon scott and brian johnson

Please read Scott Gregory’s selection article of AC/DC: Back in Black before reading our reviews below.
Quick Summary: 
I(Darren) guess I wasn’t too surprised that the reviews are mostly extremely positive for this album. If anything, I kinda thought that most of us might be so sick of the big hits that we may give this a more negative review. I was wrong. Say what you will about AC/DC, but they know how to rock and they keep it simple. You have to read our reviews as we all rediscovered this amazing album. Enjoy.
What was cool about this album:

  • It’s Back in Black, one of the best selling albums of all time. Wow.
  • The non-single tracks were really great too. Several commented on how much they liked What Do You Do For Money Honey.
  • It was released 6 months after their lead singer Bon Scott died. Holy shit.

What we didn’t find so cool:

  • Hey, these guys aren’t writing the most intelligent and complicated lyrics. Some of the lyrics were misogynistic and show their age and the opinion of women in the 70s.
  • Alain made a comment often heard that once you have heard one AC/DC song, you’ve heard all of them.

We have also implemented a rating scale that you will see below in the reviews. All ratings are out of 5.
Our Reviews Average:
Overall opinion: 4.5
Would we recommend?: 4
Influenced our tastes: 3.5
Worth the hype? 4.5
Read our full individual reviews below. 
Don’t agree with us? Have a comment or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact us.

Our Full Reviews

Scott GregoryScott Gregory’s Review

Back in Black!
Some of you may recognize this AC/DC album because it’s the sixth-most selling album of all time. Others might recognize it as the theme song for Kim Kardashian’s second wedding. However you found your way (Which is appropriate, since What do you do for money honey was playing at the proposal.)
AC/DC is one of those bands you either love or hate, and my thanks to the crew that already loved AC/DC and signed on to review it despite their familiarity with the whole album. I only knew the singles, and I’m excited to take a look at the full show. So, without further ado:
The history behind this album had me intrigued. I knew the band lost their lead singer (Bon Scott) early in their journey, but I never knew exactly when Brian Johnson signed on. Back in Black (1980) is the first album with Johnson. Between his penning the lyrics, and Robert Lange solidifying his role as producer on a second album, you can see a definite divergence from the 70s albums.
This is a rock album, at a time when rock meant:

  1. drinking
  2. fighting
  3. fornicating

I had no idea of the depth of this album. Depth from a “there are a lot of well produced songs on this album” perspective, not “this really changed my world view and I’m going to eat less meat and be kinder to animals.” But seriously, I came in expecting to really love the couple songs I know from the radio, but I was very pleased with the rest of the tracks. The pace and progression through tracks made it obvious this was a well thought album. This is a the type of musical journey I was hoping to find when exploring full albums.
I won’t say too much about Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution, Back in Black, or You Shook Me All Night Long. We all either love or hate them, and have heard them a thousand times. For the record, I’m on the “love them” side of the fence. Especially the intro to You Shook Me All Night Long. All three songs are instantly recognizable, but the steady unfolding of Shook just hits all the right points for me. It’s everything I need a rock song to be.

Hells Bells

Seriously? The lead off track and it wasn’t made a single? For all the reasons I love Shook, Hells Bells also delivers, but on a slightly slower pace. The progressive build from the bells to the guitar to the percussion into the vocals, it’s just a well-crafted intro. I could listen to this song all day, all night. If I played guitar, I’d warm up to this every session.
I’ll give you black sensations up and down your spine
If you’re into evil you’re a friend of mine
See the white light flashing as I split the night
Cause if good’s on the left then I’m sticking to the right
Hell Ya! The lyrical structure is great. Elements of the different stanzas combine with the chorus to form the outro, and create a great symmetry to the overall song. I just love this song every single way possible.

Shake a Leg

Magazines wet dreams dirty women on machine’s for me
Big licks skin flicks tricky dick’s are my chemistry
Goin’ against the grain tryin to keep me sane with you
So stop your grinnin’ and drop your linen for me
Shake your leg shake your head
Shake a leg wake the dead
Shake a Leg? More like Shakespeare! Ok, maybe not quite. But, there was a lot of drinking, fighting, and fornicating in ol’ W.S., so maybe I’m not that far off. This is the obligatory “I’m a rebel, and I don’t care what they think” track. It was likely my least favourite track on the album. It didn’t have a lot of the elements I enjoyed, the guitar felt way too busy, and I just could never get into the groove with it. Maybe if I actually played guitar I’d be having fun playing the solo, but really all it makes me wonder is how pissed Malcolm must have been watching his younger brother Angus shred every night.

Let Me Put My Love Into You

Don’t you struggle
Don’t you fight
Don’t you worry cause it’s your turn tonight
Let me put my love into you babe
Let me put my love on the line
Let me put my love into you babe
Let me cut your cake with my knife
Awww, it’s a love song!
Apart from keeping rape culture alive and well in the early 80s, how can you not love “Let me cut your cake with my knife”? Ok, I’m stuck halfway between laughing at the lyrics these guys penned, but admiring how they put it all together. It’s like a great Spinal Tap album, only they’re being serious.
But, it was a different time, and what you could get away with on the radio has shifted a lot. I would honestly prefer hearing about a girl’s cake than “Bitch better have my money!” (Just kidding, I love you RhIRhI.)
Funny aside: according to Urban Dictionary, RhiRhi means ”Dirty amusement ride usually situated in the carpark of pubs or in the bushes nearby. Very cheap, however almost always disappointing.” Tru dat.
Anyway, apart with a struggle to get in to Shake a Leg, I enjoyed the entire album and highly recommend giving it to a listen, new or old fan. It was completely worth filling in the holes on the singles, and I can see why it ranks so highly on the all-time lists usually dominates by more radio-friendly bands.

The Numbers

Overall opinion: 4.5
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: 4
Worth the hype?: 5

Scott Coates’s Review
Perfection is a big word to use and a tough thing to achieve. AC/DC may have attained just that with Back in Black, and under no easy circumstances. The band’s original singer Bon Scott died just six months before the album’s release, a new singer, Brian Johnson was hired, and the album was quickly knocked-out during severe weather in the Bahamas. In some respects almost everything was against the band and AC/DC could have just as easily slipped into the annals of history. Instead they propelled themselves to a new level of superstardom with Back in Black, the second best selling album of all time behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Few bands have managed to successfully replace a liked and established singer, especially one with vocals as raspy and unique as Bon Scott’s, but AC/DC did it. Somehow Brian Johnson not only met Scott’s unique sound, but in many respects took it up a notch. And all the more remarkable is that Johnson, new to the band, penned Back in Black’s lyrics, not changing the band’s penchant for party music that’s all about drinking, women, and fun. The planets were aligned in 1980 when they entered the studio with producer ‘Mutt’ Lange to record one of history’s great rock albums.
Some moments stick with you forever, and the first time I heard Back in Black is one. I was about 15-years-old, sitting outside Lloyd’s Recreation where I worked in Calgary, Canada one evening, in a co-worker’s car, and he put in the Back in Black cassette. We sat there and listened to it from start to finish. It was roughly 1989 so the album was no longer new, but it was for me. I was in awe and completely absorbed the raw sound of the guitars and vocals. I didn’t understand all of the lyrics but knew this was something special that would slowly be revealed as I grew older and via subsequent listens. I also remember the first time I saw the word ‘AC/DC’. It was carved into wooden playground equipment at school when I was in Grade 2. I never could have guessed way back then that this band would become one of my favorites.
From start to finish Back in Black delivers bare bones, gritty, fist-in-the-air, unapologetic rock and roll that not only defined the time period, but is timeless. There’s nothing complicated about the chords, melodies, and riffs, and that’s what makes it so accessible for so many. Every single track is solid – there’s no filler. There are few albums I turn to more frequently when in need of a dose of rock fuel than Back in Black and no doubt generations to come will do the same. This may be as good as rock n’ roll comes. Back in Black truly is perfection.
Overall opinion: 5
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: 5
Worth the hype?: 5
Darren Scott
Darren Scott’s Review 
This was an interesting pick this month that actually caused a little controversy. We always meant this as a group to discover music by listening to great music that influenced others. In the beginning we even stated that if too many of the members has heard a chosen album we would come up with a second idea. However, as we have been at this for a year now, the Sonic Collective is growing and changing into something else. I think we have realized that unless we are picking very obscure bands that there will most likely always be 2 or 3 of us that are familiar with every pick. Now, it is more about picking an album that was influential in its time and really enjoying the album as a whole. We are learning that picking obscure bands like Fela Kuti and The Beta Band(My bad) isn’t always a win for us. We all decided that letting Scott pick AC/DCs Back in Black was just fine even though all of us were familiar with the album. Sure, we all remembered the big songs, but when have you put on the album and listened from start to finish and thought about what this album meant back in 1980? Probably not in a long time. That’s the beauty of this group, we really stop and listen to these classics and think about what they meant in the era they were released. With that, on to my review.
Please go read the pick article from Scott Gregory as it is important to know that this was the first album released after former AC/DC frontman Bon Scott got super wasted in a London pub and was put in a car to sleep it off. Unfortunately, he choked to death on his own vomit. Enter Brian Johnson who took over as frontman to a broken band trying to find a new identity.
I’d like to think that the album starting with a bell being rung is a nod to Scott as a final salute and goodbye. And then the music kicks in. I remember when this album came out and hearing it at my older cousin’s house. I thought it was awesome at that time and I still totally enjoyed it. Sure, Back in Black and You Shook Me All Night Long have been overplayed, but for good reason. They fucking rock. In an era where The Who and Led Zeppelin where creating complicated rock operas it was a breath of fresh air to hear a band like AC/DC or KISS that just played fun, simple and upbeat tunes that you can’t help but air guitar with and belt out every lyric. I really enjoyed listing to this album several times this month. I also really liked What Do You Do For Money Honey that I had long forgotten about.
This album was and continues to be huge. What a comeback! Your lead singer dies and within the same year you bang out an album like this. Wow. People make fun of AC/DC and say that all their songs sound the same(and that is kinda true), but give them credit, as they are the best at what they do. I’ll rock out to AC/DC any day and that would be one of the first albums I’d play. Loved this, go back and listen for yourself.
Overall opinion: 4.5
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: 4
Worth the hype? 5

Alain Dupuis’ Review 
Admission time: I’ve just never really been that big into AC/DC. When I saw Scott picked this album, I was thinking to myself “Ah, dang… This isn’t gonna be a fun one”. That was admittedly a pretty closed-minded approach to the pick, and you’ll be happy to know that since listening to the full album, my thoughts on the band have changed. Somewhat.
I liked:
Hells Bells is still a catchy song even if I’ve heard it a million times. I like the nefarious lyrical contents too. Who doesn’t like the odd sprinkle of Satan in their rock n’ roll?
Shake a Leg couldn’t sound more like a Led Zeppelin song if it tried. (I consider that a good thing.) It’s a fun song, and I’d never heard it before reviewing the album so it’s still fresh to me, which helps my sway my opinion in a positive direction.
What Do You Do for Money Honey is a fun song as well – Again, as it’s fresh to me, I like it better than most of the other tracks on the album.
I didn’t like:
I really don’t like the title song, Back in Black. Like Hells Bells, I’ve also heard it a million times, but it just annoys me at this point.
There’s definitely a distinctive “AC/DC” sound that is a common thread In all of their songs. They kind of just blend together in my mind after a while – Especially true of their singles, of which this album generated a fair number.
Final thoughts
I actually liked the songs I hadn’t heard before way more than the ones that received air-play or gained notoriety for other reasons. This helped me to enjoy the album a little bit more. As stated before, I was never a big fan of the band. Their music just tends to sound too homogenized for my tastes. It’s like, once you’ve heard one AC/DC song, you’ve kinda heard them all, you know?
Though, I gotta respect a band that can continue to tour for decade after decade, largely on the merits of their old music. And they have a massive fan base.
Overall opinion: 3.5
Would I recommend?: 2
Influenced my tastes: 1
Worth the hype? 3
Greg-JorgensenGreg Jorgensen’s Review
There’s a funny story about Back in Black and why I consider it to be my gateway drug into the awesomeness of rock and roll. When I was about 11 (BiB would be about 6 years old by this point) I visited a friend’s house and heard from his brother’s room the beautiful sound of church bells. And then, to my horror (I was a fairly religious kid), they were disrupted by an awful electric guitar, and then drums, and then those screeching vocals…and then I walked away to where I couldn’t hear the music. Clearly my friend’s brother was satanic. Honestly, to a young Christian boy, this was a really disturbing incident.
Thankfully, I’m not a moron anymore and can appreciate what a monumental classic Back in Black is. I can’t imagine the pressure that must have been put on Brian Johnson for this album, this being his first after taking the reins from Bon Scott, but man, what a huge sigh of relief this album must have been. For me, Back in Black is the musical equivalent of Star Wars Ep IV: A New Hope – I’ve seen/heard it a million times; I know every line/beat/riff, and know all the trivia about it, but no matter how many times I watch/listen, I love it. It’s part of what movies/music is to me. This is the thread that the canvas of rock – at least what rock means to me – is made of.
Okay, I may be getting a bit hyperbolic, but there’s not a lot more to say. Every song here is awesome. Even the weak ones (Givin’ the Dog a Bone, Have a Drink on Me, Shake a Leg) still have elements that cause me to nod my head and tap my foot. Listening again after so many years was interesting though; for instance, in Let Me Put My Love Into You – if I wasn’t listening too hard you could probably convince me it was a KISS song, especially with incredible lyrics like “Let me cut your cake with my knife.” Okay, I kid a bit, but you know what I mean. And trying to detach myself a bit from the album’s personal importance to me, one could also make a pretty convincing argument that the album doesn’t really excel at creativity; its songs are sort of like a collection of limericks in that way – they’re all different but when you take a step back, they’re actually all pretty similar. But that being said, there’s nothing wrong with doing one thing and doing it well, and AC/DC do it better than anyone out there.
Overall opinion: 5
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: 5
Worth the hype?: 5

AC/DC – Back in Black

Back in Black is the seventh studio album by Australian rock band AC/DC. Produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange, the album was released on 25 July 1980 by Albert Productions and Atlantic Records. (Thanks Wikipedia)
This album represents a crossroads for AC/DC. The band’s rising international success is walking a razor’s edge thanks to the untimely death of lead singer Bon Scott. Brian Johnson has stepped in, further opening a door to “outside” influence the band has just barely started accepting in the production studio. Will the emotional highs and lows of the past year break the band or, if it survives, what will the music sound like after hitting the studio again?
Looking back, we know Johnson’s addition to the band has worked out fairly well, and Back in Black is the second-highest selling album of all-time. It’s in the same company as Thriller, The Dark Side of the Moon, Bat Out of Hell, and Rumours. Rarified air indeed. By like those albums, there are 20-30 years between their release and today. How does this album stack up today?
Some members of the team have a history with this album, so we’ll see how things shape up between those of us listening to it in-full for the first time and those returning to rekindle the magic with an old flame.
Rock and Roll ain’t noise pollution, so crank it up, crack a beer and join us on the journey.
Listen to AC/DC’s Back in Black on Google Play Music

Useful links

Wikipedia – Back in Black
Wikipedia – Best selling albums
AC/DC Homepage

Other albums under consideration this month

Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair
Kris Kristofferson – The Silver Tongued Devil and I
Heart – Heart