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AC/DC Backtracks Review

Compilation. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

The ultimate rarities collection from the ultimate hard rock band.

Greg Moffitt 2009

Considering that AC/DC passed their creative peak over 25 years ago, their current popularity is astonishing. Despite the quality of 2008’s Black Ice, most of the Aussie rockers’ later career has been defined by occasionally outstanding songs rather than truly great albums. They’re the ultimate ‘legacy’ band, and if the runaway success of the gargantuan Black Ice tour is anything to go by, they’ll happily end their days touring on the back of the classics they cut between 1975 and 1981.

Nothing less than the ultimate box set is good enough for the ultimate legacy band, and Backtracks fits the bill. Three CDs, two DVDs, one LP, a 164-page hardback photo book and a stack of stickers, badges and other memorabilia, all packaged inside an actual working guitar amplifier, and just in time for Christmas. Mind you, aside from giving Santa a hernia, a few long-suffering AC/DC widows might baulk at the £150 price tag.

Disc one contains 18 rare studio recordings, many on CD for the first time. Australia-only tracks, movie soundtrack songs, B sides and further bonus material comprise fascinating listening. Some, such as Love Song and Fling Thing really break the traditional AC/DC mould, while the more recent Down on the Borderline is a perfect example of a song way too good to have been consigned to the flipside of a single.

Discs two and three bring together no fewer than 29 rare live tracks spanning the years 1977-2000. Presented in chronological order, from bloody-knuckled bad boys rocking Australia’s toughest bars to today’s arena-busting juggernaut, the life of the band is here in its electrifying, neck-snapping glory.

DVD one offers promo videos and ‘making of’ featurettes from 1991 to the present day. It’s not the sort of thing even the most ardent fan would watch more than once, which cannot be said of the second DVD, a 19-song performance filmed at Munich’s Circus Krone in 2003. Stripped of most of their impressive stage props, this is AC/DC as close to club form as you’re ever going to get these days, playing a bunch of rarities to boot. The cannons still blow the roof off during For Those About to Rock, of course, but overall this is a ballsy, back-to-basics reminder of why AC/DC are one of the greatest bands in the world. No frills, plenty of thrills, thank you and good night.

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