Review: Turmoil helps AC/DC shine on new album

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Posted: Nov 24, 2014 4:28 PM
Review: Turmoil helps AC/DC shine on new album

AC/DC "Rock or Bust" (Columbia Records)

In 1980, AC/DC's very existence was at stake: singer Bon Scott died just as the band was starting to get big. They used the uncertainty and grief to dig down deep, and the result was one of the greatest albums in rock history, "Back In Black."

In 2014, AC/DC is once again in turmoil: founding rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young had to leave the band due to dementia, and drummer Phil Rudd recently saw charges that he hired a hit man to kill someone dropped, but still faces serious legal matters. And once again, the band has come up big, with "Rock or Bust."

The album is based on lead guitarist Angus Young's butt-shaking, foot-stomping guitar riffs, elegant in their simplicity and their ability to burn themselves into your brain. The title track, and the first single, "Play Ball," are perfect examples of this.

"Miss Adventure" adds a "nah nah nah" chant to a bouncy blues beat in the same way that chants benefited their previous hit "Thunderstruck." And "Emission Control" is one of the all-time great song title double entendres.

But the happiest surprise here is the re-emergence of Brian Johnson's voice. During the '90s and early 2000s, you could literally hear it crumble before your ears, seeming to get weaker with each new album. Whether it has re-energized during the time off since the band's tour wrapped in 2010, or is just miked and processed better, it sounds strong and vibrant again — an essential element of the classic AC/DC sound.

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Follow Wayne Parry at twitter.com/WayneParryAC