If there was ever a live hard rock album that deserved to be re-mastered, and subsequently revisited, it is AC/DC’s 1992 effort. Culled from numerous concerts played on the ‘90-‘91 tour, Live delivers exactly what fans have come to expect from their pint sized Aussie heroes, two hours of rollicking musical grandiosity punctuated by power chording from the Netherworld. More than just a testament to the band’s awesome force on stage, the original release of Live signified that AC/DC was ready to enter its third decade as certified rock royalty.
Although prolific in issuing studio albums, AC/DC had not given the public a live disc since 1978’s If You Want Blood You’ve Got It. During the 14-year span between the two releases, the band had experienced tremendous change, tempered by significant accomplishment. The Brothers Young had lost their original front man Bon Scott, replaced him with the equally gifted Brian Johnson, and endured a Spinal Tapian rotation of drummers. Additionally, the boys from Down Under had conquered America with ‘80s Back in Black, and had spent the rest of the decade becoming one of music’s most dominant acts. This period also saw the AC/DC sound mature from the rough and tumble Scott rowdiness into the polished Johnson football stadium howl, losing nary a beat along the way. By the time the ‘90s had arrived, Johnson had been at the helm for ten years, and the band was touring in support of its latest album The Razor’s Edge. What more fitting way to reaffirm its presence than to issue a live recording from the raucous world wide trek.
Live‘s twin CDs perfectly capture the in concert experience for AC/DC aficionados. Song staples from the pre and post Back in Black eras are belted out with uniform aplomb, as Johnson summons every bit of usefulness from his battle worn vocal chords. The rhythm section (bassist Cliff Williams and drummer of the moment Chris Slade) is at its thunderous best, while Malcolm Young dutifully backs his brother Angus as the pair exchange fiery guitar licks. Though the original recording was more than adequate as live performances go, the re-mastering process has refined the album’s sound to satisfy even the most discerning audiophiles.
Clocking in at over an hour each, Live‘s discs offer listeners a veritable greatest hits collection spanning AC/DC’s entire career up until that point. Five tracks from The Razor’s Edge are featured in total; Disc One sets the mood by opening with an explosive version of “Thunderstruck”, then follows up with two selections from Back in Black, (“Shoot to Thrill” and the title track). The ensuing set list culls something from virtually every other AC/DC album: “Sin City” from Powerage, Bon Scott favorite “The Jack” from High Voltage, the title cuts from Who Made Who and Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, as well as ground shaking versions of “Heatseeker”, “Jailbreak”, “Fire Your Guns”, “The Razor’s Edge”, and “Moneytalks” (from Blow Up Your Video, ‘74 Jailbreak, and The Razor’s Edge respectively).
The second Live disc proceeds in similarly blistering fashion, beginning with an accelerated “Hell’s Bells”, and continuing along the route of disc one with diverse offerings from the band’s sizable catalogue. Familiar title tracks dominate the set list, including “High Voltage”, Let There Be Rock”, “Highway to Hell”, and “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”. These songs are supplemented with fan favorites “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Whole Lotta Rosie”, “That’s The Way I Wanna Rock and Roll”, “Bonny”, and “TNT”, along with “Are You Ready”, (the final selection from The Razor’s Edge). Although there are times throughout when Johnson’s voice seems to be reaching its shrieking limits, Young’s frenetic lead guitar work can be counted on to carry him safely through every vocal peak and valley.
In addition to improving upon the original album’s live sound, the re-mastered release offers new packaging and access to bonus material via the group’s website. All in all, an excellent opportunity for fans to maximize the AC/DC experience. Surprisingly, Epic has also re-mastered the single disc version of Live, but with only half as much material as the 2-CD Collector’s Edition, and a minimal cost differential, it would seem to be an unnecessary option for fans.
With AC/DC now proud members of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the re-release of Live is an appropriate way to honor their musical legacy. Sounding better than ever, the double disc set embodies all of the elements contributing to the band’s ongoing success—great songs, high energy, and the trademark sound once described by Angus Young as “beeg guitazz.” So crank it up and enjoy the show . . .