Back in Black – AC/DC (1980)

back-in-black

****1/2

When original AC/DC frontman Bon Scott passed away following a deadly case of alcoholism (he drank himself into a stupor, threw up and then choked to death on his own vomit) during the recording of Back in Black, it seemed like it would be the end for one of the most iconic Hard Rock bands of all time. But it only took a couple of days of mourning before Angus and Malcolm Young decided “you can’t grieve forever” and brought in Bryan Johnson to replace their fallen Hell-bound brethren. Many untrained ears probably still can’t tell the difference.

Back in Black is AC/DC’s most beloved album not because it carried on in the face of adversity, but because it told adversity to “Fuck off and let’s go get drunk anyway.” And if heavy drinking is what drove this classic LP to be as great as it still is, then, as Bryan Johnson says, “Have a Drink on Me.” Every song (with the possible exception of the over-glorified anthemic closer “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”) is a winner, from great (“Let Me Put My Love into You,” “Shake a Leg,” “Givin the Dog a Bone”) to fantastic (“Hells Bells,” “Shoot to Thrill,” “Have a Drink on Me”) to among the greatest Rock n’ Roll songs ever recorded by any band ever (“What Do You Do For Money,” “You Shook Me All Night Long”). The deeper cuts (if they even exist on this album) are so strong, you almost forget about the title track itself, which has become AC/DC’s most enduring hit. They have a rep for being a one-trick pony among some of the more concerning Rock critics, but damn if it isn’t a hell of a trick.

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