Rich’s Rapidfire Recommendations – bite-sized metal morsels to let you know about albums that have grabbed Rich Davenport by the ears, that we hope you’ll enjoy too! ROCK ON!
Album: Rock Or Bust
Release Date: 2 December 2014
Rock or Bust – 3:04
Play Ball – 2:47
Rock the Blues Away – 3:24
Miss Adventure – 2:57
Dogs of War – 3:35
Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder – 3:22
Hard Times – 2:44
Baptism by Fire – 3:30
Rock the House – 2:42
Sweet Candy – 3:09
Emission Control – 3:41
AC/DC – Rock Or Bust
Can you imagine an Iron Maiden album without Steve Harris? Or a Thin Lizzy album without Phil Lynott? Could such a project ever be considered acceptable to fans? The only circumstances under which I can imagine an album made without a much-loved key member being seen as valid, are the exact circumstances in which AC/DC have sadly found themselves; namely, that the
key member in question is no longer able to play, but has co-written all the songs for the record, and has explicitly told the band to carry on.
Although Angus Young is the focal point of AC/DC, his brother Malcolm is, for many fans, is the heart of the band. Personally speaking, as a fan of the band since the age of 9, my main fear was that Malcolm’s absence from the album might also mean his absence from the songwriting process. Sure, nephew Stevie Young is a great rhythm guitar player, chosen by the man himself to cover his absence on the “Blow Up Your Video” world tour in 1988, but I remember reading a biography of AC/DC in the 80s (“Hell Ain’t No Bad Place To Be” by Richard Bunton), which stated that the nickname given to Malcolm by the rest of the band was “Riffmaker”. Of course, Angus has also been an integral part of the writing since day one, and vocalists Bon Scott and Brian Johnson have made invaluable contributions to the bands catalogue of classic tracks, but without Malcolm’s input, I can’t see how an AC/DC album would ever work. Thankfully, all 11 songs are co-written by Malcolm, assembled from the wealth of material compiled for future use by both Young brothers over the years, and his influence is clear on every song.
Produced once again by Brendan O’Brien, who helmed the band’s previous release, “Black Ice”, this album is snappier, punchier and more concise than its predecessor, which in itself was a fine album. As the title “Rock Or Bust” suggests, AC/DC have come out swinging even harder this time around, refusing to buckle under the difficulties they’ve endured of late. Many of the songs weigh in at under 3 minutes, getting right to the musical point in the tradition of their finest albums. The songs are varied in pace, boast plenty of hard-driving, head-nodding riffs, and the record as a whole gives the listener the feeling of being at a club gig with a stage-front seat, watching the band do what they do best.
Album opener and title track “Rock or Bust” sounds like a cross between “Back in Black” and “Nervous Shakedown”, but that’s as close as they get to repeating themselves, and after repeated plays, there isn’t a single song I’d hit the skip button to avoid. Single “Play Ball” contains the line “It’s party time”, that’s what a good AC/DC album should make you feel, something that can deliver what the record’s third number promises in its title: “Rock The Blues Away”. “Rock or Bust” does exactly that from start to finish. And despite expressing his own concerns as to how long his voice would hold out around the time of “Black Ice” five years ago, Brian Johnson’s trademark rasp is still as potent as ever here.
So, the band’s unblemished run of form since 1995’s “Ballbreaker” continues with this album. Whether the goodwill of the fans would extend to them going on and doing another album after this is another matter, and given that they’re apparently planning to celebrate their 40th anniversary with a 40-date tour, this album would be the perfect conclusion to their mighty catalogue of classics, allowing them to bow out without tarnishing their legacy.
Never a band to express sentimentality in any form, they’ve nevertheless put a very touching image on the inner panel of the album’s gatefold sleeve. Richard Bunton’s biography also went into detail about the Young brothers’ guitars, and as many fans are aware, Angus is synonymous with the Gibson SG. Less well known is the fact that Malcolm’s weapon of choice for many
years was a Gretsch Jet Firebird, with two of the pickups removed, originally given to him by his older brother George Young (of Easybeats fame), and as you open the album sleeve, the first image visible is a monochrome shot of that same Gretsch, with and SG next to it, both leant against the front grill of a Marshall stack. ‘Nuff said.