Back in Black review by AC/DC

logo Ultimate Guitar
  • Released: Jul 25, 1980
  • Sound: 10
  • Lyrics: 10
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 10 Gem
  • Users' score: 9.2 (319 votes)
AC/DC: Back in Black

Sound — 10
When people think "AC/DC" they think of that classic opening riff from "Back in Black", the title track. Dun... dun na dun... dun na dun. (Hard to express it in text.) That is because this album not only has the AC/DC sound, it is the AC/DC sound. It's rock, in it's purest form. Angus and Malcolm Young are great by themselves, but together, and especially in this album, it just isn't natural how great they play. Their guitar playing in this album is the definition of perfect. Every riff, every vibrato, every hammer-on is perfect. Phil Rudd on drums is just incredible. The beat his drum produces is just awesome. And let's not forget Cliff Williams, the bassist and backbone of the band. His bass provides that final wallop that is AC/DC. Every song in this album is gold, but let's start from the beginning. "Hells Bells" opens with the perfect sound: a big-ass, iron-cast bell ringing as if they are announcing the arrival of greatness. Then, you hear Angus Young simply play the riff of the song, and, after the others join in, the song catapults into a bone-chilling masterpiece, culminating in Angus' brilliant solo. "Shoot to Thrill" is a great driving song. It just has that racing feel to it: It's fast, it has a great looping riff, and it is very upbeat. This is one of those songs that when you hear it in the car, you nervously look at the speed-o-meter and wonder "How fast can this baby go?" The drums by Phil Rudd and bass by Cliff Williams in this one are just fantastic. "Honey, What Do You Do For Money?" finally leads us into that favorite topic of AC/DC's: Women. And boy, does it sound dirty. The riff is in descent, which gives that wonderful feeling of going down, while the bluesy tone is just great. "Givin' The Dog A Bone" is a great little tune, with a constant riff that seems to go up and down (Which fits just perfectly with the song) and a fast-paced shredding of a solo, is one of AC/DC's finest songs sound-wise. "Let Me Put My Love Into You" slows things down to a sizzle with a great blues song. This is one of those AC/DC songs that is quite obvious in it's intent. The stacatto bass notes that follow the beat are so pronounced, so... this may sound cheesy... cool, that when you hear this song with your girlfriend, well, I hope you came prepared. "Back in Black". The title track. AC/DC's most well-known song (Well, those that prefer "You Shook Me" and "Highway to Hell" might disagree). The riff is world-famous, and for good reason. It's one of those riffs that makes you just want to go fight someone, just to prove how badass you are. This is a song that guitarists all over enjoy learning and playing. Listen, and you'll see why. "You Shook Me All Night Long" is one of AC/DC's most popular songs. The riff is very upbeat, almost pop-like, but it maintains that honest rock sound. It's a great song for grinding (Dancing-wise) to, and it's still popular at high school dances. "Have A Drink On Me" is an excellent blues song. If you were to hear it in a good old rib joint in Kansas City, you would feel the song fits perfectly. It's moderately paced, but sounds both fast and slow at the same time. "Shake A Leg" is a very, very underrated song. It's got a catchy, ascending riff, an amazing solo (One of Angus' best), and is very upbeat. This song is one you should not pass over. "Rock 'N Roll Ain't Noise Pollution" starts out quietly, with Angus lightly playing some opening power chords as Brian Johnson reasons with the listener. Suddenly, the rest of the band joins in, and you are launched into a great, defiant song. It is the perfect closer to this album.

Lyrics — 10
It was a cold February night, and AC/DC singer Bon Scott had drunk himself unconscious. His friend, unsure what to do, put him a car to sleep it off. Unfortunately, this was the wrong thing to do. Poor Bon choked on his own vomit and was found dead the next day. His fellow bandmates were stunned and saddened. For a short time, they considered dissolving the band. But, one day, Malcolm called Angus and said "I'm sick of f***ing moping around. Let's go record." The brothers got the band together, and they decided to hold auditions. One of the guys auditioning was Brian Johnson, a 33-year-old blue-collar working man from Gateshead, UK and former singer for Geordie, a short-lived yet moderately successful glam rock band. Funnily enough, Bon Scott once saw Brian perform and came back with a glowing review, saying "This guy was great. He screamed so much they came up and wheeled him off the stage!" Actually, it was because Brian had appendicitis, but that's beyond the point. Brian got the job, and AC/DC recorded the album. It was huge. Brian Johnson can't be given all the credit. A lot of the hard work was done by Bon and the rest of the band. But Brian did do a lot, and he was exactly what AC/DC needed in their time of hardship. "Hells Bells" was the first time many AC/DC fans even got to hear Brian Johnson. They must have been blown out of their socks. Jonna has a gift, you could say, in that he can scream, yet still sing, at level that would cause most people to have a bowel movement. He does it quite well. The lyrics of "Hells Bells" are mainly a tribute to the great Bon Scott, and Brian Johnson to this day dedicates much of his singing and success to Bon. "Shoot to Thrill" has some great, ambigious lyrics. You think they are about sex, then about drugs, then about just driving. But you don't care, because it all rocks. "Honey, What Do You Do For Money?" is a no-holds-barred attack against those buxom blondes that marry rich old men for their money. Or is it just women in general that like to sell certain "wares" on the street corner. I dunno. I do know that this songs lyrics are just great, especially if you've just been dumped. "Givin' The Dog A Bone" is an ode to the wonderous things a women can do with her mouth, and does not pay attention to their looks, only "ablilties." The song is hilarious, controversial, and many would say sexist. But it certainly isn't shallow, as Jonna screams "She ain't no Mona Lisa, no, she no Playboy star. But she'll take you to Heaven, then blow you to Mars!" "Let Me Put My Love In You" can be seen as a romantic song. But it only has one goal in mind: sex. The salacious singing of Brian Johnson seems thoughtful, but it's all about getting some in this song. "Back in Black" is AC/DC's ultimate tribute to Bon Scott. Brian Johnson screams at the top of his lungs, his voice acting like a lone middle finger extending from a hand, "Yes, I'm BACK! Yes, I'm back! Well I'm...baaaaaaack...baaaaaaaack, yes I'm back in black! YES, I'M BACK IN BLACK!" "You Shook Me All Night Long" has some very well-known lyrics, and the song's popularity in America might stem from Brian Johnson's mention of the unnamed woman's "American thighs". The lyrics at times seem dirty, yet they also have an innocent quality to them. It's a song that kids hear all the time these days, but, then, such songs were sins to listen to. "Have A Drink On Me" is another tribute to Bon Scott, namely his fondness for that old devil in the bottle, alcohol. Brian Johnson shows he has quite the knowledge of alcoholic drinks in this one. "Shake A Leg"'s lyrics are vague. Are they sexual? Are they defiant? Are they just fun? Sometimes it's hard to understand them. Yet, they make the song better. "Rock 'N Roll Ain't Noise Pollution" is AC/DC's great "f*** you" to all those magazines that dismissed them early in their careers (Rolling Stone and the London Times, I'm looking at you), as well as the "concerned" parents that didn't want their children to become devil-worshippers because they happen to enjoy fun.

Overall Impression — 10
This is AC/DC's masterpiece. This is their lasting contribution to the world of music. This is their "Symphony No.5", their "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club", this is their defining moment. In fact, I think it's better than "Sgt. Pepper's" and "Symphony No. 5", combined. Why? Because it is the very epitome of rock music. Everything is in it: Sex, alcohol, rock, a tribute to a fallen friend, money, blood. There ain't any preachy crap or soft music. It's hard, it's fast, it's the best. (AC/DC would probably make that a song theme, wouldn't they. Of course, they wouldn't be talking about music.) From the opening rings of "Hells Bells" to the climatic announcement by Brian Johnson that "Rock 'n Roll is just rock 'n roll, yeah!", "Back in Black" is the greatest thing these ears have ever heard. Not only must you buy this album, you must listen to this album, over, and over, and over again, because it's just that damn good. I would give this album an "11" if I could, it is just that great, that incredible. I know this may look like some overly praising review, but the album deserves that.

0 comments sorted by best / new / date