With gross earnings topping an astronomical $105 million, to say that it’s been a good year for AC/DC is a bit of an understatement. With a third generation discovering the band’s music, they’re now more popular than they’ve ever been, there’s no venue too small for them to play, exorbitantly-priced shows are selling out left and right, and to top it off, their spirited 15th album Black Ice did not disappoint when it came out a year ago. And typical of a huge act, they know how to sell their brand.
Which leads us to Backtracks, a monstrous new collection cunningly timed for the holiday season. With an eye-popping price tag of $225 (US), the Deluxe Collectors Edition is designed to whet the appetites of the die-hard fans. It’s an ingeniously designed multimedia package that relies heavily on the “wow” factor. And wow, indeed: three CDs packed to the gills with rarities, two loaded DVDs, a lavish 180 gram LP, a 164 page coffee table book, a host of reproduced memorabilia, and the capper, the whole shebang fitting into a fully functional one watt amplifier. Just how good the amp sounds or how durable it is (there’s no volume control, if that’s any indication), is beside the point. This package is just too damn cool. But amplifier, book, replica buttons, picks, and posters aside, what about the real meat ‘n’ potatoes of this set? How does the actual music measure up?
Overall, Backtracks is not quite the treasure trove that fans might have been craving all these years, and it might have been a better idea to offer complete remastered CDs of AC/DC’s first four Australian albums instead of the single-CD mishmash, or even dig a little deeper into the live/studio vaults. That said, in spite of some bumps along the way, it’s still a very fun seven or eight hour trip, one that comes closer to giving the fans bang for their buck than some might think.