Collection Update | July 14th, 2021 | AKA: Road Trip, Part Deux! The Quest for Less Money!

Yesterday we went walking in the jungle and today we took on a concrete one, Toronto. Our goal? To buy more records! I know, I know, I know. We just went record shopping a few days ago, but this will be our last chance to hit some Toronto stores for a while as our holidays are wrapping up soon. And, looking back at my files, I can see that it has been THREE YEARS since we last visited Sonic Boom or Kops in T.O. Where does the time go?!?!

We arrived in the Big Smoke and found some parking just before noon. We headed to Kops first since they were already open at 11AM:

Kops is in a new location on Queen Street West since we last visited and I got to say, HUGH improvement! Their previous location didn’t have the best lighting and it was near impossible for people to squeeze past each other in the aisles. Now, it is as bright as an Apple Store with plenty of room. What I love about Kops is their section dedicated to Canadian music. It works on me as I end up finding a lot more than I am looking for:

All Canadian! We have such great music here. That Frank Marino album cooks. COOKS, I say. I was blown away (yet again!) by his guitar playing. I grabbed the BTO live album because I wanted to hear them play Mountain’s Mississippi Queen live. They did not disappoint. That Turner can really sing! There are two new songs on the album that sounded really fake live. I looked it up on Wikipedia, and yep, they were actually studio tracks with crowd noise added. Boy, was everyone messing with their live albums!?!?!

I haven’t listened to the Saga albums yet but I’m looking forward to it. We’re spinning The Northern Pikes right now, and it is freakin’ good. The Pursuit of Happiness albums I grabbed for two different versions of I’m An Adult Now. Because, why not? It is a great tune. I never thought I’d get a chance to own Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet’s Having An Average Weekend, but here it is on a reissue of Savvy Show Stoppers. Finding this stuff was the best part of the day!

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I did visit some other sections of the store and found:

Stiff Upper Lip completes my North American AC/DC albums on vinyl. It will upset some people when I say my collection is complete without having Blow Up Your Video on vinyl but too bad. You go buy that hot mess, lol

Royal Blood’s middle child How Did We Get So Dark? completes the set until they release more. So, with two collections finished, why not start more? Curtis Mayfield is an artist I have been wanting to get into more as I have always admired him from afar. So, why not start with his two biggest albums, Curtis and the soundtrack to Super Fly? For the Raconteurs, I only need their 2nd album to complete that set. Now, onto Sonic Boom:

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Sorry for the glare. I’m not much of a photographer.

I got to say… I was a little disappointed with this visit as I only got two items:

I guess it is about time I lucked out a bit.

George Harrison’s Brainwashed is his last album from 2004. It is a great one and I rarely see it out there! And who doesn’t love Carly? You’re So Vain sold a plethora of copies of No Secrets. So at least they were quality additions to the collection!

But, man… the place seemed to be a bit tapped out of used stock. I looked for all of my usual bands but…

Plenty of new stuff on the shelves but it was pricey! $56 for Dire Straits On Every Street? Maybe that is why they had 6 copies of it still. $40.99 for the Sabbath with Dio reissues? Not $39.99. $40.99. Bizarre.

Plus, the guy behind the counter was playing his own music. Not music he owns. Music from his band. I thought it sounded like crap but people were coming up to him asking where they could buy the album. They were telling him it sounded like New Order, and Sarah said the same. So, what do I know? He was directing people to his band’s website and I had flashbacks to the convo Ladano was having with Robert Lawson on The Lebrain Train. Both have experience working in a record store and both said the only rule for playing music in the store was it had to be sold in the store. I think they both would have fired Fake New Order Dude.

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[Random] Rising Power | AC/DC fans.net Houseband

One of my favourite YouTube channels is acdcfansDOTnet and they have been scorching hot lately. For the last two years (or so) they have been forced to post their cover songs on facebook as the powers that be on YouTube keep pulling their work down. Not only have they finally been able to work out a deal to post on the platform, but the singer they added a few month ago can mimic Brian Johnson to near perfection. They have been going deep on the Johnson era as a result, playing the songs that they real deal has ignored for decades.

I know how cover songs are not for everyone, but I find them endlessly fun to watch. Be it a new take or an attempt to mimic the original as closely as one can, I just love to see it when it is done well.

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Collection Update | June 18, 2021

The Canadian Postal Service has been good to me this week! Just about every day Sarah has texted me that a parcel had arrived at the house causing me to lay down some expletives at every yellow light during the commute home.

The Neil Young albums saw a price drop on amazon, so I grabbed both. Sloan surprised us last week with the stealth release of B-Sides Vol. 2. Billy and The Sheepdogs were pre-ordered a while ago. They just happen to come in this week by chance. I’ll go into details for all of the albums in future posts once The Hip series is completed. Spoiler alert: I’ve listened to the all and they are fantastic!

So, for now, lets take a closer look at this Angus figure.

My buddy, Frank purchased him for me a while ago. It something he doesn’t have to do, but he always does! Plus, I wasn’t expecting to get my hands on Angus until this stupid pandemic calms down and we can meet in person again. But he shipped it instead! Geez, it is too much and appreciated every time! Thanks, Franko!

Of course, they never get the face quite right. Depending on the angle, Angus looks psychotic or he is having a tough time with passing the protein sandwich.

So, what do you think? Should I open him up or keep him sealed? The collector in me says to keep it together, but with 22 points of articulation it might be fun to pose him on the shelf. I’ll let you guys decide in the comments!

[Album Review] AC/DC | Iron Man 2 (Deluxe Edition)

By 2010, not only was AC/DC back on top of the rock world but the marketing boost they were getting from their new label, Sony was taking the band to new heights.

Yes, they have been involved with a movie soundtrack before when an eccentric author was given carte blanche to make his own B-movie. But this time, were talking Iron Man 2. A bonafide Hollywood blockbuster!

OK, so it wasn’t a film score this time, just an awkward tie in album. I say awkward because only two of the songs, Shoot To Thrill and Highway to Hell, are used in the film. Back in Black was featured in Iron Man and a few others you can loosely tie to some promotional material. The rest, I have no idea how or why they came to be here. There is a character in the films called War Machine, and the song War Machine is on here… I have nothing for the rest.

No doubt that Marvel was sucking up to Sony in a big way since they own the film rights to the Spider-Man and X-Men series. So, why not give them a lucrative deal to sweeten negotiations for cross over potential into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

So, this is what we have for the tracklist:

  1. Shoot to Thrill
  2. Rock ‘n’ Roll Damnation
  3. Guns for Hire
  4. Cold Hearted Man
  5. Back in Black
  6. Thunderstruck
  7. If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)
  8. Evil Walks
  9. T.N.T.
  10. Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be
  11. Have a Drink on Me
  12. The Razors Edge
  13. Let There Be Rock
  14. War Machine
  15. Highway to Hell

Not a bad mix. It is kind of nice to see Guns for Hire and Evil Walks getting some love. But as someone who has all of these songs elsewhere, the collection is completely redundant.

Good thing I got the edition with the bonus DVD which is only almost completely useless to me. It is 52 minutes long with the only two pieces of exclusive content. The 1st being the video they did for Shoot To Thrill, which took footage from Live at The River Plate, scenes from Iron Man 2, a few shots were they were pretending to play the song, and mixed them all together. The 2nd is a featurette on the making of the first video, lol.

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The rest of the disc is made up of promotional videos and cuts from live concerts that are already on Plug Me In, Family Jewels, Live at Donington, and No Bull. Really, I recommend all of those over this.

For me, I just grabbed this a few years ago at a thrift store. They had it price for 11 moose bucks, and it came with the DVD…. so I went for it. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have added it to the collection. The only downside is it is a little bent in the corner and the the dummies put their price tag on the delicate digi-book cover.

*sniff

Although this disc isn’t for me, I am not the center of the universe. Believe it or not. I think for new fans, Iron Man 2 makes for a pretty good introduction. You get plenty of old with new and hits with deeper cuts. There are plenty of photos of the band with a nice write up of their history. Most of the band incarnations are represented… heck, I think only Simon Wright got the cold shoulder. Plus, you get an excellent job by Mike Fraser who got these tunes, which were record anywhere from 1975 to 2008, to sound like they belong together.

It isn’t perfect, but if a movie tie in album is going to get more people listening to AC/DC, well then…. Let There Be Rock.

3.5/5

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More AC/DC:

[Album Review] High Voltage (US)
[Album Review] Let There Be Rock (US)
[Album Review] Powerage
[Album Review] If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It!)
[Album Review] Highway To Hell
[Album Review] Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (INT)
[Album Review] For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)
[Album Review] Flick of the Switch
[EP Review] ’74 Jailbreak
[Album Review] Fly On The Wall
[Album Review] Who Made Who
[Album Review] Blow Up Your Video
[Album Review] The Razors Edge
[Album Review] AC/DC Live
[Album Review] Ballbreaker
[Album Review] Stiff Upper Lip
[Album Review] Black Ice
[Album Review] Iron Man 2 (Deluxe Edition)
[Album Review] Rock Or Bust
[Album Review] Live At River Plate
[Album Review] Power Up
[Album Review] High Voltage (AUS)
[Album Review] T.N.T.

[Boxset Review] Bonfire
[Boxset Review] Backtracks (Deluxe Edition)

[DVD] Review] Stiff Upper Lip Live
[DVD] Review] Family Jewels
[DVD] Review] Plug Me In
[Blu-ray Review] Live At Donington
[Blu-ray Review] No Bull | The Director’s Cut
[Blu-ray Review] Live At River Plate

[Book Review] Bon: The Last Highway | Jesse Fink

[Boxset Review] AC/DC | Backtracks (Deluxe Edition)

When Napster was brand spankin’ new I remember the first tunes I downloaded were all of those tasty Australian AC/DC tracks I did not have access to. R.I.P. (Rock In Peace), Crabsody In Blue, Cold Hearted Man, etc. Each song took at least 20 minutes to download at a bitrate of 128k, but I could hear them at last! Technology!

In 2009, AC/DC gave them the official release treatment in North America via the boxset, Backtracks. There were two versions, a 2CD/1DVD budget release for approx. 40 moose bucks and a deluxe edition that got you 3CDs, 2 DVDs, the rare studio tracks on vinyl. But 200 moose bucks! Yikes!

In 2009, Sarah was starting a new job and I had quit my miserable one for one with less misery and pay. So, I became a Backtracks peasant with the budget release. That was until 2018, when the bank account was in a much safer state and I found a deluxe edition on amazon for 180 moose bucks, shipped. I didn’t even know they still had any! It was pricey but worth it if your level of fandom is high enough.

For brevity, I’m just going to stick to the audio and video content of the set. I made an unboxing video in 2018 where you can check out the packaging and physical items, including a (sort of) working guitar amp:

For the three CDs in the set, none are built for a balanced listening experience. They are designed for fans who want an archive of the tracks they are missing. Backtracks delivers them in chronological order, starting with the studio tracks that were only officially available in Australia since the ’70s through to the bonus tracks from extended edition of Stiff Upper Lip from 2000.

CD 1 is made up of studio rarities. It makes for an excellent addition to your collection if you own all of their studio albums, Who Made Who (the soundtrack for Maximum Overdrive), the EP ’74 Jailbreak, and the Bonfire Boxset because this will make you whole. You’ll have everything they released. If you don’t, well it is a bit of a bummer how the complete discography is still spread out among all those releases. Backtracks makes none of them obsolete.

It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll) and Rocker are a couple of odd inclusions. They have been released here previously in North America, and even if they are the “Australian versions” they are not any different. You do get extended versions of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Ain’t No Fun Waiting Around to Be A Millionaire, and High Voltage. The songs were originally edited due to them getting switched around onto different releases in North America. Although, High Voltage still fades out before it is supposed to… but meh. That is getting really picky.

Discs 2 & 3 do a better job of making collecting easier. They are loaded with the live tracks that were originally spread out among numerous singles and one extended edition. So, these two CDs save you from having to collect all of those.

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Over on the DVD side, DVD 1 is the continuation of Family Jewels. The original 2 disc set ended after the promotional videos for The Razors Edge were done. This 3rd disc begins with Big Gun from 1992 through to the Black Ice promo videos from 2009. Also included are any duplicate videos that were previously skipped on Disc 1 and 2. So you have alternate videos from Highway to Hell, You Shook Me All Night Long, Jailbreak, and It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n Roll). It is funny to see how the (already outdated by 2009 standards) menu system is still intact, but at least the videos are enhanced better for a widescreen TV. No VHS transfers here.

DVD 2 is a real treat. It is of a performance the band did in Munich, Germany at Circus Krone in 2003. A couple of tunes from this show are on Plug Me In, but this time you get the entire show. The venue’s intimate setting combined with the band mixing up the setlist makes for a stellar show. It opens with album track Hell Ain’t A Bad Place to Be and is loaded with others like What’s Next To The Moon and If You Want Blood… You Got It! When they broke into Rock ‘n Roll Damnation it sounded like they were still in 1978. Johnson’s voice was the only giveaway.

The other bonus is the crowd. They were WAY into it. Brian was even joking with them about how they know what song is coming before he did. And Phil lighting a cig while playing The Jack are is another highlight. Really good times.

The final disc with music on it is Rarities, a vinyl record with the rare studio tracks minus the deluxe exclusives. None of the tracks on here are easy to track down on vinyl, so this makes for a solid edition.

This is a tough one to judge. It is not entirely practical, but for someone like me who needed to fill the blanks in my collection, this does a 5/5 job. But, none of these rare tracks are going to rival Whole Lotta Rosie or Riff Raff for the title of the best song, nor are any of the live tracks a “definitive edition.” For those reasons, I think most will be satisfied with the budget edition of Backtracks even if you are missing out on a few goodies like the Circus Krone show. At least you can enjoy what they posted from it on YouTube. Like this one:

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More AC/DC:

[Album Review] High Voltage (US)
[Album Review] Let There Be Rock (US)
[Album Review] Powerage
[Album Review] If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It!)
[Album Review] Highway To Hell
[Album Review] Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (INT)
[Album Review] For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)
[Album Review] Flick of the Switch
[EP Review] ’74 Jailbreak
[Album Review] Fly On The Wall
[Album Review] Who Made Who
[Album Review] Blow Up Your Video
[Album Review] The Razors Edge
[Album Review] AC/DC Live
[Album Review] Ballbreaker
[Album Review] Stiff Upper Lip
[Album Review] Black Ice
[Album Review] Iron Man 2 (Deluxe Edition)
[Album Review] Rock Or Bust
[Album Review] Live At River Plate
[Album Review] Power Up
[Album Review] High Voltage (AUS)
[Album Review] T.N.T.

[Boxset Review] Bonfire
[Boxset Review] Backtracks (Deluxe Edition)

[DVD] Review] Stiff Upper Lip Live
[DVD] Review] Family Jewels
[DVD] Review] Plug Me In
[Blu-ray Review] Live At Donington
[Blu-ray Review] No Bull | The Director’s Cut
[Blu-ray Review] Live At River Plate

[Book Review] Bon: The Last Highway | Jesse Fink

[Album Review] AC/DC | Black Ice

I discovered AC/DC for myself sometime in 1992, just as Kurt Cobain and the Seattle grunge scene was changing rock music forever for about 15 years.  I was there on day one for Ballbreaker and Stiff Upper Lip when there was very little fan fare for both. 

2008 was a different world when Black Ice arrived:

black ice display
Not my photo. My Walmart only had the cardboard display you see in the foreground.

Part of the change I think was PR. AC/DC signed a new deal with Sony, who made Black Ice a Walmart exclusive for a period of time. So you had some synergy with some major corporations behind it. I also think after after 9/11, George W. Bush, and Katrina, most grew tired of the self loathing that infested rock music in the ’90s an were looking for some good time rock ‘n roll again.

Personally, I wasn’t really a fan the Walmart deal, or the different album covers with the only the colour of the logo changed. Was I supposed to collect all of these?  That seemed more like a Kiss thing to do.  Anyway, I looked past it as I chose the blue logo because it felt right. I did not get a free poster like I had with Ballbreaker and Stiff Upper Lip, but I had a pleasant exchange with the cashier about how we were both looking forward to listening some new AC/DC instead. That was refreshing. No eye rolls like when I bought Ballbreaker, lol.

Much like PWR/UP late last year, most were ready to have AC/DC back in their lives. You could feel it. The band built some good momentum that I think started them outdoing The Rolling Stones at “SARS-stock” in Toronto in 2003, to becoming discovered (or rediscovered) with Let There Be Rock being included in the mega successful video game Rock Band 2.

Plus, Rock ‘n Roll Train was a really solid single.

Usually I’d show the gatefold here, but the elaborate artwork does not photograph well. So these are the record sleeves.

I remember when they started playing it on the radio how people picked up on the improvements in Brian Johnson’s voice. I think producer Brendan O’Brien can take credit here for not only put Brian on a strict diet of 1 hour of recording a day, but also found the pocket for his vocals. Try singing along with Brian on Ballbreaker, Stiff Upper Lip, or Hard As a Rock in the same key that he is. It is WAY up there. Any tune from Black Ice is much easier. Even Wheels which might be the hardest one. But it is not just Brian’s voice.

Rock ‘n Roll Train has the most present background vocals on an AC/DC single since Moneytalks. And they are the most melodic since the Highway To Hell album. O’Brien was definitely tapping into the nostalgia by channeling “Mutt” Lange.

He also pushed Angus out of his comfort zone on Stormy May Day by having him play slide. Whaaaa?????

But there is only so much a producer can do. The lion share of the praise goes to Angus and Mal who wrote some solid tunes. For me, there isn’t a dog on the album and a few have become some of my all time favs. Big Jack, Anything Goes, War Machine, Wheels, Rockin’ All the Way… great stuff.

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Apparently during their time off, the Young brothers worked on 70 to 80 ideas for songs and the band recorded 15 of them. The first track list for Black Ice contained 11 tracks for one day. They settled on not cutting any of them.

And that is my only SOFT criticism of this album. We probably didn’t need both Decibel AND Black Ice. Or Big Jack AND Wheels. I know, I know. EVERY AC/DC song is the same (Ha ha) but those pairs do really come in the same flavour. And it is long. A rock album that clocks in at over 55 minutes can easily justify some trimming.

And I’m glad they didn’t.

Because Black Ice is bitter sweet affair as it is the final album we got from the “Back In Black” line up. Who would want cut a note from that?

4.5/5

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More AC/DC:

[Album Review] High Voltage (US)
[Album Review] Let There Be Rock (US)
[Album Review] Powerage
[Album Review] If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It!)
[Album Review] Highway To Hell
[Album Review] Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (INT)
[Album Review] For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)
[Album Review] Flick of the Switch
[EP Review] ’74 Jailbreak
[Album Review] Fly On The Wall
[Album Review] Who Made Who
[Album Review] Blow Up Your Video
[Album Review] The Razors Edge
[Album Review] AC/DC Live
[Album Review] Ballbreaker
[Album Review] Stiff Upper Lip
[Album Review] Black Ice
[Album Review] Iron Man 2 (Deluxe Edition)
[Album Review] Rock Or Bust
[Album Review] Live At River Plate
[Album Review] Power Up
[Album Review] High Voltage (AUS)
[Album Review] T.N.T.

[Boxset Review] Bonfire
[Boxset Review] Backtracks (Deluxe Edition)

[DVD] Review] Stiff Upper Lip Live
[DVD] Review] Family Jewels
[DVD] Review] Plug Me In
[Blu-ray Review] Live At Donington
[Blu-ray Review] No Bull | The Director’s Cut
[Blu-ray Review] Live At River Plate

[Book Review] Bon: The Last Highway | Jesse Fink

[Blu-ray Review] AC/DC | No Bull | The Director’s Cut

I first bought No Bull on VHS back in 1996 and I remember being not happy with it. After all the heavy that was upfront and center on there previous concert film Live At Donington, No Bull sounded thin. At the time, I thought this was in response to what was happening to mainstream music. I doubt by today’s standard AC/DC would be considered to be metal but at the time there was a blurred line. And in the mid-’90s metal was passé. It seemed to me as if they were cleaning up their sound with a desire to sound more “rock ‘n roll” than “hard rock”.

I was not the only one who wasn’t pleased with No Bull. The film’s director, David Mallet was in the same boat. Apparently he was rushed to get the product onto store shelves for the holiday season. Sacrifices were made and he was not pleased with the final result.

So, in 2008 we got AC/DC, No Bull: The Director’s Cut with a new 5.1 mix for Blu-ray and DVD – “for the ballbreaking experience it was meant to be”. While there are some great moments in the film itself, I’m still a little down on this one.

I skipped the DVD release in 2000 but The Director’s Cut from 2008 had promise.

Although the audio has improved, and I like the 5.1 mix on here much better than Donington‘s, it is still not where I like it. It still sounds thin. Personally, I believe it is just how the show was captured that night, and there is no mix that can change it dramatically enough.

It isn’t terrible. Cliff’s bass has plenty of presence for a change. Brian’s voice usually sounds strained during this period and he does at times here. But he is mostly fine. Angus sounds alright too. He could use a little more low end growl, but not bad.

I do have a problem with Phil Rudd’s drums. They have plenty of snap but they are missing the bottom end. I remember this being the first time I heard him play Thunderstruck since Chris Slade originally played it on The Razors Edge and AC/DC Live. My first thought was… “Geez, this song just ain’t Phil’s.” A couple of years later his performance it on Stiff Upper Lip Live slaps. I’m not blaming Phil. I really don’t know what is up.

My other problem is Mal’s guitar. It is way too clean for me. It just doesn’t have that knock you out crunch that it has on their other live recordings. The overdrive is there but not enough balls.

Visually, the film is disappointing too. Super 16 mm film was used this time over the 35 mm Panavision like they had for Donington and it is a down grade. 16 mm shows heavy grain, the image looks washed out, red bleeds which is blurry as a result, and there is a lack of detail in the blacks. This being an AC/DC concert at night, there is a liberal use of red and black.

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But there is still plenty to like.

I can see why they choose the Plaza De Toros de Las Ventas in Spain. What a venue! Built in 1931, The Beatles performed there in 1965, and it looks great on camera. It holds about 23,000 people for a concert and the crowd looks crammed in with columns running around the back part of the stands. They were really animated for the show so you got some great shots of the whole stadium jumping in time to the music.

The set list is a not as eclectic as Stiff Upper Lip Live but more so than Live At Donington. Highway To Hell is better represented with a couple of additional tunes, Shot Down in Flames and The Girls Got Rhythm. Dog Eat Dog makes its return to the set list from the ’70s as it was only played once in the ’80s. Boogie Man from Ballbreaker is not my favourite but I like this version. It gets the extended treatment as Angus does his stripe tease and it is a lot of fun.

The back end of the film has a lot of memorable moments too. We get to see Angus’ journey from the stage to the rising column in the middle of the crowd during Let There Be Rock. The extended performance of the song includes him pretending to use his guitar to set off sparks on a hand railing. Then, at the end he uses the tremelo bar on his Gibson SG! Wha???? I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before! Or since.

The big prop onstage for this tour was the “Ballbreaker wrecking ball”. It drops from the ceiling, cracking a hole in the stage that Angus rises up from to play Highway to Hell. It is good times.

For the extras, you get some performances with different shots. Mostly the “Angus cam” where it focuses on him during a performance. More exciting is the extra performance of Down Payment Blues. I think this might be the only official performance with Brian singing it. It is not the best quality, but it is cool to have.

I accidentally stumbled onto the animated menus. I left the disc on the menu screen to help Sarah with the groceries and I came back to a cowgirl riding a mechanical bull on my TV.

Hellooooo, nurse!

Really, No Bull: The Director’s Cut isn’t a bad show to own. It has plenty of its own memorable moments, and you have some exclusive live cuts that are very unlikely to heard elsewhere. It is only by comparison to their other live concert videos where I feel it lacks the same punch.

3/5

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Bonus photo! I kept my receipt for some reason. I used a gift card to pay the S31.99 plus tax. Dang, Blu-rays were expensive. It came out on the 16th of Sept and I didn’t get it until the 28th. I must have been working overnights that week.
Bonus Bonus Photo! I don’t know how this one ended up here. Honest.
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More AC/DC:

[Album Review] High Voltage (US)
[Album Review] Let There Be Rock (US)
[Album Review] Powerage
[Album Review] If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It!)
[Album Review] Highway To Hell
[Album Review] Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (INT)
[Album Review] For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)
[Album Review] Flick of the Switch
[EP Review] ’74 Jailbreak
[Album Review] Fly On The Wall
[Album Review] Who Made Who
[Album Review] Blow Up Your Video
[Album Review] The Razors Edge
[Album Review] AC/DC Live
[Album Review] Ballbreaker
[Album Review] Stiff Upper Lip
[Album Review] Black Ice
[Album Review] Iron Man 2 (Deluxe Edition)
[Album Review] Rock Or Bust
[Album Review] Live At River Plate
[Album Review] Power Up
[Album Review] High Voltage (AUS)
[Album Review] T.N.T.

[Boxset Review] Bonfire
[Boxset Review] Backtracks (Deluxe Edition)

[DVD] Review] Stiff Upper Lip Live
[DVD] Review] Family Jewels
[DVD] Review] Plug Me In
[Blu-ray Review] Live At Donington
[Blu-ray Review] No Bull | The Director’s Cut
[Blu-ray Review] Live At River Plate

[Book Review] Bon: The Last Highway | Jesse Fink

[DVD Review] AC/DC | Plug Me In

In 2005, AC/DC released the compilation video Family Jewels that sold really freakin’ well. It would easier for me to name the places where it didn’t go platinum than did. The only option was for the band was to follow it up with another. They called it Plug Me In, released it in 2007, and it is even better.

Family Jewels was fairly bare bones for what it is, 3 hours of videos on two discs. For Plug Me In AC/DC went all out. The three discs in the set are loaded with material totaling 380 minutes of rock, interviews, and Angus dancing around naked in 1976. Most of it is live too, with only a few performances set to backing tracks for Television.

The discs are made up of one to several tunes from various live events throughout the decades. All are presented in chronological order, with Disc 1 being from the Bon Scott era, the second is Brian Johnson material, and the third is mostly bonus tracks.

Since all of the content is taken from various shows, it will be way too much for me to detail for everything, so I’ll give you some the highlights and general thoughts:

Disc 1: The Bon Scott Era

  • In 1976 for a show called Super Pop in the UK, they performed the most mid-tempo version of Live Wire I have ever heard. I wonder if they were told to keep it low key. And they’re using Orange amps! They must have been a show sponsor.
  • It is surprising to see how often Angus wore something other than the School Uniform in the early days.
  • Several clips from the ’78 Glasgow Show that was used for the live album If You Want Blood… You Got It! are here: Let There Be Rock, Rock ‘N Roll Damnation, and Dog Eat Dog which did not make the album. Bad Boy Boogie from the same show is on disc 3.
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Disc 2: The (continuing) Brian Johnson Era

  • The Japanese crowd in ’81 throw rolls of toilet paper at the band. I’m sure with was meant as a compliment.
  • It is sad how little material there is of AC/DC’s live shows in the ’80s. The disc jumps from ’83 to ’91.
  • One of Angus’ strings goes out of tune during Whole Lotta Rosie when performing in front of 1.6 million people in Russia in ’91. He handled it like a pro.
  • Only Gone Shooting from the 1996 VH-1 special made it. I wish it were the whole performance.
  • The band performs Ride On in Paris in 2003. I believe this is the only recording of Brian singing the song.
  • Their portion of the Downsview Toronto Rocks film done after the SARS scare is here. Remember that huge outbreak of SARS? Scary times. Good thing nothing like that could happen again…

Disc 3: Between The Cracks

  • It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N Roll) is awkward to play live when the whole band needs to tune down a half a step to match the bagpipes.
  • Guns For Hire is only one track from Flick of The Switch rehearsals here. Another one that I wish were the whole session.
  • The real treat on this disc for me here is the 52 minutes from the Houston Summit show in 1983. I don’t understand why we still don’t have an official full concert video or live album from this era.

As for the set itself, the entire thing is held together well with all of the CDs having their own home in comfy plastic. The bonus trinkets include a poster, a book, and a bunch of fake replica passes which get their own pocket in the middle to keep them safe like a baby kangaroo.

With a presentation done this well and the staggering amount of content, Plug Me In is an easy recommendation to every AC/DC fan. The DVD menus are presented like they are in an old arcade game or cabinet. The arcade games themselves are not playable, but you can program your own setlist or play the tunes randomly. The image quality is quite good on an HD set too. I watched them all on my 4K TV and, unlike Family Jewels, it all looks like the videos have been enhanced from the source material.

It is not easy to find this attention to detail put into physical media today. This is a must buy. Worth every penny. Be sure to grab the 3 disc collectors edition or we are not friends.

5/5

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More AC/DC:

[Album Review] High Voltage (US)
[Album Review] Let There Be Rock (US)
[Album Review] Powerage
[Album Review] If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It!)
[Album Review] Highway To Hell
[Album Review] Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (INT)
[Album Review] For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)
[Album Review] Flick of the Switch
[EP Review] ’74 Jailbreak
[Album Review] Fly On The Wall
[Album Review] Who Made Who
[Album Review] Blow Up Your Video
[Album Review] The Razors Edge
[Album Review] AC/DC Live
[Album Review] Ballbreaker
[Album Review] Stiff Upper Lip
[Album Review] Black Ice
[Album Review] Iron Man 2 (Deluxe Edition)
[Album Review] Rock Or Bust
[Album Review] Live At River Plate
[Album Review] Power Up
[Album Review] High Voltage (AUS)
[Album Review] T.N.T.

[Boxset Review] Bonfire
[Boxset Review] Backtracks (Deluxe Edition)

[DVD] Review] Stiff Upper Lip Live
[DVD] Review] Family Jewels
[DVD] Review] Plug Me In
[Blu-ray Review] Live At Donington
[Blu-ray Review] No Bull | The Director’s Cut
[Blu-ray Review] Live At River Plate

[Book Review] Bon: The Last Highway | Jesse Fink

[Blu-ray Review] AC/DC Live At Donington

Although AC/DC didn’t release any new material between 2001 and 2008, they did make sure fans had enough to buy.  Album remasters, DVD sets, and re-releases of their concert videos being chief among them.

Live at Donington was released TWICE during this time.  The first was on DVD in 2003 and the second was on Blu-ray in 2007.  Of course, I had to re-buy it both times: 

Live in Donington Front
Notice how the cover image “evolved” from the VHS days.  No need to pay Chris Slade for using his likeness it now!

What else was I going to do with my money?  Invest it? Well, in my defense the DVD only came with an ad for the DVD I just bought, while the Blu-ray came with a fake back stage pass!

Well, there are a couple of more reasons to upgrade to the Blu-ray. The entire concert was originally shot using 35 mm Panavision film, which was newly transferred into 1080p high definition with a PCM 5.1 uncompressed soundtrack.  The image quality is brilliant and I was noticing things I had never seen before.  Mostly faces in the crowd and how jacked Brain Johnson was. 

I am disappointed by the new 5.1 audio track as I found Angus and Mal’s guitars to be too hot in the mix and overpowering the rest of the band.  I was experiencing Fly On The Wall flashbacks.  I got much better results by switching to the PCM 2.0 stereo mix, allowing my home theater receiver to fake the surround sound. You might like the 5.1 mix, but this sounded like the show I remembered.

Booklets for the DVD and Blu-ray are identical, but have some good photos of the concert in them.

The set list for this show is iconic. The video was meant to compliment AC/DC Live, which was released at the same time. Both were the first live material the band had released in about a decade, so for many this would be the first time they had seen a full live show from them. And if you were to introduce someone to AC/DC, you can’t do better than starting them off with:

Thunderstruck
Shoot To Thrill
Back In Black

I know there are those who will disagree because they would peffer to add their personal favourites, but I think you can’t do better for a general introduction to the band for most people. As for the rest, you got:

Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be
Heatseeker
Fire Your Guns
Jailbreak – extended version
The Jack
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Moneytalks
Hells Bells
High Voltage
Whole Lotta Rosie
You Shook Me All Night Long
T.N.T.
Let There Be Rock – extended version
Highway to Hell
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)

Out of that, Heatseeker, Fire Your Guns, and Moneytalks were dropped from the setlist after this tour, so this is your chance to watch them play it live. Dropping Moneytalks is the most surprising considering how well it charted for them. Well, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised since they didn’t respected the song enough to use a space bar when coming up with its title.

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I wasn’t looking forward to watching the extended versions of Jailbreak and Let There Be Rock as I do not often listen to the entire tracks when the come on AC/DC Live, but they both ended up being a couple of my favourite moments.

Angus’ “strip tease” during Jailbreak still got a chuckle out of me despite seeing it a million times already.  Chris Slade looks like he is having the time of his life during it.  Like he was a fan who was allowed to play with the band for a day.  And he almost was.

And I liked the build up to Angus coming out in the middle of the crowd on a rising pillar during Let There Be Rock. His guitar cuts out a few times during this which only gave the performance some extra legitimacy.

Live at Donington captures AC/DC when they were at their heaviest. The concert features fast ‘n furious versions of Whole Lotta Rosie, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and T.N.T. that will bang you up good. There are not many surprises during the show, but it has all the usual stuff that makes you feel good. I guess that previous sentence can be used to describe most of AC/DC’s material.

4.5/5

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More AC/DC:

[Album Review] High Voltage (US)
[Album Review] Let There Be Rock (US)
[Album Review] Powerage
[Album Review] If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It!)
[Album Review] Highway To Hell
[Album Review] Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (INT)
[Album Review] For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)
[Album Review] Flick of the Switch
[EP Review] ’74 Jailbreak
[Album Review] Fly On The Wall
[Album Review] Who Made Who
[Album Review] Blow Up Your Video
[Album Review] The Razors Edge
[Album Review] AC/DC Live
[Album Review] Ballbreaker
[Album Review] Stiff Upper Lip
[Album Review] Black Ice
[Album Review] Iron Man 2 (Deluxe Edition)
[Album Review] Rock Or Bust
[Album Review] Live At River Plate
[Album Review] Power Up
[Album Review] High Voltage (AUS)
[Album Review] T.N.T.

[Boxset Review] Bonfire
[Boxset Review] Backtracks (Deluxe Edition)

[DVD] Review] Stiff Upper Lip Live
[DVD] Review] Family Jewels
[DVD] Review] Plug Me In
[Blu-ray Review] Live At Donington
[Blu-ray Review] No Bull | The Director’s Cut
[Blu-ray Review] Live At River Plate

[Book Review] Bon: The Last Highway | Jesse Fink

[DVD Review] AC/DC | Family Jewels

When DVDs became the dominant format for home video, AC/DC made some decent attempts at putting out comprehensive collections.  Family Jewels (Great name!) is a two disc set from 2005 that compiles almost all of their music videos from 1976 to 1990. 

All of the hits are here.  Thunderstruck, Who Made Who, and Back In Black are presented as they were on MTV 30-40ish years ago, but it is the deeper cuts that are the real treat for me.  As someone who had taped every Much Music Spotlight on AC/DC and bought all of their VHS tapes, even I had yet to see some of what is on Family Jewels before 2005.  

The videos are presented in chronological order with disc one opening to the band’s first appearance on television.  It was on an Australian show called Countdown performing their cover of Baby, Please Don’t Go with Bon, to compliment Angus, in a school girl uniform! There is also the band’s debut on American television performing Sin City on NBC’s Midnight Special and Bon’s final television appearance for a Spanish program called Aplauso.  This is where the band performed Highway To Hell and Girls Got Rhythm 10 days before his death.

I’m using the word “performed” loosely.  Most television stations in the ’70s were not equipped to properly mic a full rock band.  Heck, most are not still today.  Some performances are legit, some have Bon’s mic hot as he performs to a backing track, but most have the band mimicking their performance to the album track. They are a product of their time.

Disc two contains the videos that most are accustomed to.  They are the “promo videos” from the ’80s that are designed to regularly air on MTV and attract teens to buy albums.  They start off simple, as the four cuts from 1980’s Back In Black look like they were shot in one day, and leap in production value as the three videos done for 1990’s The Razors Edge were shot months apart. 

AC/DC gave you some solid bang for your buck here.  The videos that make up the last half of this disc were originally released on separate VHS collections, Fly On the Wall, Who Made Who, and Clipped.  These collections could have been ported over to DVD and priced individually.  I’m sure someone was tempted.

Family Jewels inside

The entire Fly On The Wall VHS from 1985 is as bad as you remember it.  Thankfully AC/DC hired David Mallet for the following Who Made Who videos. He has a sense for what works for AC/DC in video form and he has done all of their videos since.

It is not exactly a complete collection which is disappointing since the discs are not exactly full.  During the recording of promo videos for Back In Black, the band did one for You Shook Me All Night Long, which was skipped to include Dave Mallet’s version from Who Made WhoHighway To Hell is in the same boat as Bon’s final television appearance was chosen over its promo video.  The video for Guns for Hire was cut and videos for Ballbreaker and Stiff Upper Lip that are absent.   

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These omissions were corrected by a third Family Jewels disc that was added to another boxset, Backtracks in 2009. Not adding them here is a mistake.  I understand how they wanted to eliminate duplicates from the main setlist, but they could have added them as a bonus tracks.  The length for each disc totals 90 mins, so you had plenty of room to do so.   

Speaking of extras, there isn’t much.  Disc two’s AC/DC discography is really the only one.  There are no interviews, commentaries, or an alternate 5.1 audio mix.  None of the videos have been restored.  The Fly On The Wall videos, for example, were obviously shot on quality film and scaled down for VHS.   It is disappointing to see the same VHS transfer is on the DVD.  But the booklet is fairly solid with all of the background info on when and where these videos were shot.

With a lot of this content free to view on AC/DC’s YouTube channel, is Family Jewels still worth it?, I would say almost not.  There are still a few videos on here, mostly from the Bon Scott era, that have no official place to stream.  Fans do upload them from time to time, but they only last for a while before they are taken down.  So, for now, this set remains as the most reliable way to watch them.  And if it were a little more complete, Family Jewels would be a little more perfect.

4/5

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More AC/DC:

[Album Review] High Voltage (US)
[Album Review] Let There Be Rock (US)
[Album Review] Powerage
[Album Review] If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It!)
[Album Review] Highway To Hell
[Album Review] Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (INT)
[Album Review] For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)
[Album Review] Flick of the Switch
[EP Review] ’74 Jailbreak
[Album Review] Fly On The Wall
[Album Review] Who Made Who
[Album Review] Blow Up Your Video
[Album Review] The Razors Edge
[Album Review] AC/DC Live
[Album Review] Ballbreaker
[Album Review] Stiff Upper Lip
[Album Review] Black Ice
[Album Review] Iron Man 2 (Deluxe Edition)
[Album Review] Rock Or Bust
[Album Review] Live At River Plate
[Album Review] Power Up
[Album Review] High Voltage (AUS)
[Album Review] T.N.T.

[Boxset Review] Bonfire
[Boxset Review] Backtracks (Deluxe Edition)

[DVD] Review] Stiff Upper Lip Live
[DVD] Review] Family Jewels
[DVD] Review] Plug Me In
[Blu-ray Review] Live At Donington
[Blu-ray Review] No Bull | The Director’s Cut
[Blu-ray Review] Live At River Plate

[Book Review] Bon: The Last Highway | Jesse Fink