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"Powerage" is the 4th studio album by Australian hard rock band, AC/DC. It was released in 1978 on Atlantic Records and produced by Harry Vanda & George Young. The line-up for the album was Bon Scott (vocals), Angus Young (guitar), Malcolm Young (guitar), Cliff Williams (bass) and Phil Rudd (drums).
This was the first album with Cliff Williams as the new bassist, after the departure of Mark Evans due to musical differences. There are contrasting stories as to his departure, ranging from the band needing an experienced bass player to wanting a bassist with backing vocal capabilities. "Powerage" peaked at No.26 on the UK album charts and the only single taken from the album, "Rock 'n' Roll Damnation", hit No.24 in the UK singles charts.
"Rock 'n' Roll Damnation" is an excellent start to the album. It encapsulates everything that is hard rock, turns it upside down and inside out, and then spits it out as driven music. Bon's vocals are in great form and the song has that classic AC/DC riff all over it. It's a song about how the rock genre is put down and discredited as being just 'noise', while most people that listen to it realise the musicians who play it have some serious talent.
"Down Payment Blues" is a slow song which starts with a quiet riff, getting slightly louder with every verse. For me, it's not the best AC/DC song, but it still has a certain quality about it. As the title suggests, it's a very blues-orientated track, and is about a man who struggles to make ends meet in a rock and roll band, but is still living the high life, in order to impress the women.
"Gimme a Bullet" is a song about a relationship gone wrong and the baggage that comes with it. Referring to biting the bullet, the narrator is saying that if he bites down hard enough, it will take the pain of losing his girl away. It's another riff infused rock and roll song with some excellent vocals from Bon Scott. The chorus is happy and cheerful, even if the lyrics are not. This is one of my favourite songs off the album.
"Riff Raff" is a straight out hard rock song with Malcolm's rhythm guitar backing up Angus' insane lead. The two brothers sound so good that the Phil Rudd's drumming goes barely unnoticed, which is a crime because it's got a no nonsense beat to it. This comes close to being the best song on the album, and the soloing Angus does throughout is mind-blowing. This is AC/DC at its best, and it is a song that I always look forward to hearing when the band plays live. It's about mistaken identity and how the narrator is just out enjoying himself doing no wrong when he's picked up for something.
"Sin City", in contrast to the previous song, is a slow song based on Bon Scott's partying in Las Vegas. He's telling us what he's doing in Sin City and the things he's seen, from gamblers winning big to losing a fortune, and the different characters he meets along the way. It's a fine example of how good AC/DC is at time changes within songs, especially with Angus' furious solo in the middle which leads to another very slow verse. If you want blues, and if you want rock, it's all on this record.
"What's Next to the Moon" is a sinister look on losing a woman and getting rid of her by different means; tying her to a railroad track or throwing her off a cliff, and eventually being caught for the crime. It has great a harmony between Bon's vocals and the backing vocals in the third verse and last chorus, and is one of the most underrated AC/DC songs. The ending riff sounds a lot like Blue Oyster Cult's classic, "Don't Fear the Reaper", which was released two years beforehand. As for the title of the song, I am clueless to the meaning!
"Gone Shootin'" has a simple, yet incredible riff by Angus which hides dark lyrics. It's a song about how the narrator is struggling to cope with his woman's heroin addiction and how he's feeling the pressure with having no choice but to leave her. The song is another of those classic AC/DC blues-driven numbers with an elongated Angus Young solo, which breathes life into its slow tempo. I like the way this song is played and it's usually overlooked when people talk about the best of AC/DC songs.
"Up to My Neck in You" is a hidden gem of a song, which is helped along by an incredibly catchy set of verses - the song doesn't really have a chorus as such. Bon Scott is at his very best here as he sings away with such commitment that it comes to near the end of the song before you realise Angus has started a solo. Some people may be surprised, but I would class this as the best song off the album because of its raw energy. This is one of those songs which is best listened to while driving down a deserted highway late at night when you're tired and wanting to get home, as it will perk you up, releasing a boost of extra energy that only comes with an excellent rock song.
"Kicked in the Teeth" ends the album on a high, as once again Bon Scott delivers his vocals with passion before the band kicks in on a hard-rocking tune which is rarely played live but is one of those songs I wish was. It has great riffs and it has Angus shredding a solo so fast that you'd think his fingers would be on fire. It's another of those AC/DC songs about a woman and how the narrator keeps on taking her back because even though she hurts him in every way, she can't do nothing wrong in his eyes.
In summary, AC/DC fans will harp on about how good albums like "Back in Black" or "Highway to Hell" are, but with "Powerage" you get what you see, and I see it as an album with passion, an album with great songs, and an album that eclipses both of those. It was around this time when AC/DC had that magic that no other band had, and they themselves didn't and couldn't reproduce anything like it before or after, as far as I'm concerned. If you want an AC/DC album because you're curious on the band's genre, look no further than "Powerage". It is a very good example of how a hard rock band should sound like.
1. Rock 'n' Roll Damnation
2. Down Payment Blues
3. Gimme a Bullet
4. Riff Raff
5. Sin City
6. What's Next to the Moon
7. Gone Shootin'
8. Up to My Neck in You
9. Kicked in the Teeth
My rating: 9/10
AC/DC are a band I 'discovered' back in 1980 when their single release 'You Shook Me All Night Long' hit the charts and I could not get the song out of my head. Not only because of its memorable chorus, but also the pounding rhythm section, which saw me trotting off into town and returning home clutching a copy of their 'Back In Black' album, (which went on to become the second biggest selling album in history). From that moment on, I became a fan and went seeking out their earlier releases, discovering that before Back In Black, the band had a different vocalist, Bon Scott.
Powerage is the band's 5th studio album, released in 1978 and featuring the late Bon Scott, who was the band's original frontman and songwriter, along with guitar playing brothers Angus and Malcolm Young.
Bon Scott died in 1980 after a night out drinking and the band considered quitting but decided to carry on, as it is what Bon would have wanted. They hired Geordie frontman Brian Johnson and have continued their success to this day becoming one of, if not the world's, biggest rock band.
Because of the death of Bon Scott, the albums containing his vocals and songwriting became something to treasure amongst AC/DC fans, who also embraced replacement frontman, Brian Johnson, ensuring the band continued to build upon their success.
Credited for its artistic expression and song variety, 'Powerage' has became one of the favoured AC/DC albums and it is easy to see why. It has also been said to be the band's most accomplished performance in a studio setting.
Rock 'n' Roll Damnation
Down Payment Blues
Gimme a Bullet
What's Next to the Moon
Up to My Neck in You
Kicked in the Teeth
Powerage is a big rock album. Its title and also its cover showing Angus Young being electrocuted, suggests you are going to get something big and you won't be disappointed. Bon Scott's dreams of success go hand in hand with his darker look on life and social commentary here. Along with the brilliant rhythm guitar playing of Malcom Young on his left, whom I believe is the best in the world, and his brother Angus on the right, who never ceases to amaze me with his incredible guitar playing and solo's to this day, they came up with nine tracks that simply have no weaknesses.
The album also marked the debut of bassist Cliff Williams, whose driving eighth-note bottom, brought a more attacking sound to the band, complimenting Phil Rudd's pounding drumming and delivering those strong rhythms that AC/DC knock out over and over again.
The opening track, 'Rock 'n' Roll Damnation' is one of my favourite tracks. From the opening twangs of guitar, the catchy riff and beat kicks in, featuring some little touches of maracas and handclaps inbetween. I love how this song builds from the verse, leading in to the hip-shake groove of the chorus, ending with Bon telling you to "take a chance, while you still got the choice " as the beat stops and then starts again. It just has your foot tapping from start to finish.
'Down Payment Blues' which is another of my favourites, features a wonderful wrenching and emotionally draining guitar solo from Angus Young. He really is the master of this stuff. The lyrics telling of a fifty cent millionaire who can't afford to feed his cat. " I got myself a Cadillac but I can't afford the gasoline" sings Bon setting the darker mood with the sentiments of a man who rarely treads on middle ground.
Indeed Bon continues his dark approach on 'Gimme A Bullet' as he deals with the emotional subject of love and loss in his usual way. There are no hearts and flowers here: "Gimme a bullet to bite on and I'll make believe it's you." What lifts the dark undertones of this track is its utter catchiness. You almost forget Bon is singing that there ain't no cure for the pain in his heart!
Guitar intro's both lead into 'Riff Raff' and 'Sin City'. The former demonstrating from the opening chords just how good it's going to be, as Angus, Malcolm and Cliff provide rhythm and counter rhythm and come up with a riff that will stick long in your mind after the track has ended.
'Sin City' has been covered by the likes of Twisted Sister, Ugly Kid Joe and Bruce Dickinson, amongst others which shows its popularity. None of those versions come close to the original though as nobody else could possibly better Angus Young's fast solo. Phil Rudd also outclasses them all with his drumming.
'What's Next To The Moon' and 'Gone Shootin' sees the album slow down a little. The first is a provocative and cryptic sounding poem, the meaning of which isn't exactly clear, but it is quite unlike any other AC/DC song and also features Bon, Malcolm and Cliff singing in distinct voices together near the end. The slightly relaxed approach continues into 'Gone Shootin' , where just as you think the track has ended, it starts up again, before the pounding rock returns on 'Up To My Neck In You' where again Angus' guitar playing is an absolute delight. It doesn't stop there though, as the final track 'Kicked In The Teeth' ensures Powerage ends on an aggressive note.
Powerage has all the required AC/DC attributes: raw power, catchy guitar riffs and pounding bass and drums, but it also has substance and some clever lyrics which go further than a lot of their favoured tongue-in-cheek offerings, as Bon contemplates the pain of his marriage breakdown without ever getting too emotional or sentimental about it.
The Young brothers themselves once declared 'Powerage' as their best album, but there are many who will not be swayed from their allegiance to 'Back In Black'.
I personally do not have a favourite, I like every album for different reasons but can appreciate why this is said to be one of their best. If like me, you are a fan, then hopefully you will agree, as well as concluding that Angus Young makes playing the guitar seem effortless. The man is a genius!
1. Rock n Roll Damnation
2. Down Payment Blues
3. Gimme A Bullet
4. Riff Raff
5. Sin City
6. What's Next To The Moon
7. Gone Shootin
8. Up To My Neck In You
9. Kicked In The Teeth
Recorded in 1978 and featuring the original production team of Harry Vanda and George Young for the last time, 'Powerage' is possibly AC/DC's most consistent album of the Bon Scott era, alongside 'Highway To Hell'. The album featured new bass player Cliff Williams for the first time and he makes his presence felt on several tracks which go beyond the usual plonking along that you get from some rock bassists.
The band sounds tight and focused on this album, although the songs have the slightly repetitive feel that the earlier albums have, the sound is definitely more defined here. The crunchy sound of Angus and Malcolm's guitars is superb.
I went to see an AC/DC tribute band on Saturday night [Live Wire], who were excellent, I heartily recommend them. After seeing such bands I always reach for an album to listen to, it really gets you in the mood to explore the back catalogue!. I find myself coming back to this album if I'm going to play some AC/DC. Many of my favourite songs by the band are contained here.
The album starts with the wonderful 'Rock n Roll Damnation', a perfect example of that Angus and Malcolm crunchy interplay. Bon Scott's trademark cheeky bluesy vocals are present and correct. I've always preferred his voice to Brian Johnson's. The lyrics about living the life of a rock star and 'keeping it real', are the perfect example of a singer writing lyrics which best reflect his/her personality. It isn't Shakespeare, but its a perfect fit.
'Down Payment Blues' is a great slow burner, the kind of thing that could be occasionally tedious on the earlier albums is now somehow totally convincing, again I think that has a lot to do with Bon Scott's singing. When 'Live Wire' performed this song, the singer referred to the credit crunch and how a song about 'holes in your shoes' was appropriate at this time. A song to span the ages then!.
Another absolute classic from this album is 'Riff Raff', with one of the most frenzied opening riffs in rock history. The long instrumental beginning to the song perfectly sets up the vocals. Bon Scott doesn't come in until well over a minute and a half into the song, happy to let the dueling guitarists take centre stage. This is such an iconic AC/DC song, if I was to select one of their songs for a new listener, this would be it.
Its hard to write a review for an AC/DC album in many respects because musically there is little or no variation between the songs. All the songs have a very similar sound. I remember when I was younger not really 'getting' AC/DC, why did they sell so many albums?. As time has passed I now appreciate the 'sound' of this band more than anything. It is no surprise to discover that Keith Richards is a big fan of Angus Young's, there's that crunch to the guitars that hits you in the gut.
Of the remaining tracks on the album, 'Sin City' and 'Gone Shootin' are my favourites. Cliff Williams really asserts himself with some great solid bass playing on 'Sin City', and 'Gone Shootin' contains another one of those landmark AC/DC riffs.
If you are going to buy this album then you MUST get the 2003 remaster in the digipak sleeve. This is an example of a great remastering job, all the original albums sound great and there are very glossy booklets accompanying each album which provide interesting information about the album's recording. An example of how to overhaul a band's back catalogue. Even some of the later non essential albums appear very tempting in this format......
People will have their own views on which AC/DC stuff they like most. My personal opinion is that after 'Back In Black', AC/DC albums tended to have 2 or 3 great songs out of 10 where before they might have had 6 or 7. I've spoken to some people down the years who have strongly disagreed with this and reckon all the post Scott albums are worth having.....perhaps there's some great stuff from that era that I haven't heard. The band just seemed to lose a lot of its vibrancy after Bon Scott's death.
Having said this they are still an amazing live band with a remarkable well of classic rock songs to choose from, and are rock music's hottest live ticket for 2009 with their concerts at the O2 and Wembley Stadium selling out in no time. I would like to see them this year....not sure if I'll get the chance though.
By the release of their fifth album Powerage, Australia-based, mostly-Scottish hard rock band AC/DC truly defined their famous sound for the first time, and produced the first of their classic albums thats also perhaps the least well-known. The same old issues remain of the international versions being re-mixed and re-ordered, but for the first time both versions feature the same cover art: lead guitarist Angus Young being electrocuted (by alternating or direct current?) and fixing the buyer with a steely glare as if daring them to play this lethal record. Despite my better judgement, this band comes next on my A-Z of album reviews and I am forced to enter.
In truth, its not that devastating, but once the album gets going theres a great energy that drives the whole thing along to its conclusion at forty minutes. The band is no longer simply playing sped-up rock n roll, but continuing to define its own sound based on the other 70s hard rock acts, and the Young brothers signature guitars really come into play as the simplistic backbone of all the songs, meaning that each riff has to be worth listening to on a repeated loop for four or so minutes. Drummer Phil Rudd (the bands only true Aussie at this point) keeps up with catchy and reliable backing beats without demonstrating too much flair, and apart from a brief solo spot on Sin City, new bassist Cliff Williams (from Romford) is easy to overlook.
Of course, equally important to the guitars is the vocal performance of the late Bon Scott who would record one more album with the band before dying after a bout of heavy drinking in Camden. This is a real shame, as I have infinitely more tolerance for his traditional and highly energised rock singing than the irritating gargly warbling of his more famous successor, who my friend Dan ingeniously and accurately described as sounding like hes gargling with a throatful of those hard chip-ends you get at the bottom of the bag. Thankfully, theres none of that here, and Scott is free to dance around the repeating instruments to convey tales of broken relationships, drug overdoses, life on the road and escapism through alcohol. Rock n roll.
1. Rock n Roll Damnation
2. Down Payment Blues
3. Gimme a Bullet
4. Riff Raff
5. Sin City
6. Whats Next to the Moon
7. Gone Shootin
8. Up to My Neck in You
9. Kicked in the Teeth
Despite the repetitive sound, which took some getting used to now Ive grown accustomed to more experimental works, this album boasts a reasonable variety of songs, from short and simple angry hard rock to lengthier and more laid-back blues-based compositions, and admirably seems to improve with each track before peaking at Whats Next to the Moon, an amusing tale of a mans desire to top his lover in all manner of exciting ways before being apprehended by a police officer and revealing/pretending that she died disappointingly of a heart attack. Featuring a brief harmonica, great guitar solo and the albums most energetic riffs, particularly in the chorus, this is probably the albums defining moment, but that doesnt mean the rest pales in comparison. Gimme a Bullet, despite its depressing subject matter, rocks along at an enjoyable pace and shares a distinct vocal melody with Judas Priests later, lesser song Troubleshooter, while the albums concluding songs up the ante to deliver Scott and the Youngs most energetic performances of the lot, yelling and pounding their way through Up to My Neck in You and the suitably aggressive Kicked in the Teeth to ensure the album ends on a high and leaves a lasting impression.
Thats not to say the rest of the album isnt up to scratch, featuring some of the bands most proclaimed works (from this early period at least). Riff Raff takes a looser approach allowing time out for brief experimentation, mostly expressed through a really long guitar solo and one of several minute-long intro riffs of the album, while Scotts vocals take on an angrier sound for the first time. The famous Sin City is a little slower but no less impressive, beginning with a generic riff that could come from any other song here before unveiling the memorable vocal melody that makes this song so popular and the most distinctively AC/DC here, if that makes any sense. Down Payment Blues and Gone Shootin are the two songs still lagging behind in blues-rock territory, but permissibly and enjoyably so at such different points in the album, and the slower riffs, more thoughtfully delivered lyrics and chilled guitar solos work great against the more upbeat companion pieces, though theyre perhaps less entertaining when listened to in isolation. First and unfortunately least is the opener Rock n Roll Damnation which was the only song I didnt really enjoy, and seems a little too self-consciously rooted in tradition, something that cant have been helped by its title.
As someone whos been put off by Brian Johnsons rubbish chip-end-throated voice in the past, it was great to discover an earlier period of AC/DC where this wouldnt prove a drawback, and Bon Scott is excellent here, even if he ultimately sounds a little bit like every other rock singer of the time. Ive never understood the need to sound American when playing this type of music; would people really be put off by full-blooded Scottish hard rock? And what type of Scot calls it a railroad track anyway? Just one of many problems I have with the music business and the stupid general consumers. Powerage is a great album of easily approachable rock songs towards the grittier end of the spectrum, but remaining catchy and melodic enough to keep it from deterring people who might be a little wary of the subject matter. Highway to Hell is more famous, but this is where it all really started. And just try listening to the whole thing in the morning without the riffs playing through your head for the rest of the day.
AC/DC,is a band where what you see is what you get.Apart from the odd cannon or bell here is a band whose whole approach was all about their songs and their ability to perform them live,the pyrotechnics came from the solid backing of the rhythm section and the sheer exuberance of lead guitarist Angus Young(and was there ever a more energetic and iconic lead guitarist than Angus) and frontman Bon Scott,a frontman in the best traditions of rock and roll.
1977 saw the release of 'Let There Be Rock'.This album had several songs destined to become real AC/DC classics - 'Whole Lotta Rosie','Bad Boy Boogie' and of course 'Let There Be Rock' but was still essentially Chuck Berry on speed.
There next offering,Powerage,released in 1978 saw them come together and produce an album that expresses their true personality and potential like never before.So why is it one of their least known and appreciated?
The cover has a black background with a picture of guitarist Angus being electrocuted.Wiring snaking up his sleeves with the title 'powerage' in large yellow and red lettering,the lettering in a jagged style.The bands name is also written in this style intstead of the classic AC/DC logo.
The rear cover shows the band standing around in a group looking threatening as if their about to kick your head in,well they are really just a bunch of bad lads,the kind who spent their schooldays behind the bikesheds - so did I so maybe thats why even 20 years on I love this band so.Also there is the usual track listing and credits.
3.Gimme A Bullet.
4.Rock and Roll Damnation.
2.What's Next To The Moon.
4.Up To My Neck In You.
5.Kicked In The Teeth.
'Riff Raff' is a piece of pure AC/DC,fast and full on and to become a staple of the live set.
'Downpayment Blues' as it suggests is a bluesy number but what stands out apart from the finely crafted rhythm guitar is the humour of Bon Scotts lyrics,ever the storyteller.
'Gimme a Bullet' is a real gem,more melodic and as ever Bon's lyrics and delivery are fantastic,one for the jilted.
'Rock and Roll Damnation' another one that would later become a live classic.
'Sin City' slower,heavier,darker,brilliant.
'What's Next To The Moon' possibly the best song on the album?It's one of my favourite DC songs of all.Great lyrics, wonderful guitar.Awesome.
'Gone Shootin' bluesy,funky,a brilliant riff from Angus and packed full of Bon's unique lyrics - another album highlight.
'Up To My Neck In You' fast and full on.
'Kicked In The Teeth Again' a great,heavy number to close the album with those plaintive vocals from Bon.A fitting end to a masterful album.
In a career now in it's 4th decade(can that really be!!!),AC/DC have a back catologue of albums that range from very good to outstanding.With many,many albums to listen too and so many great songs it is understandable that some albums will stand out and others be overlooked.What I find so hard to believe though is that this album seems to be one of the latter.
I am a moderately capable guitarist and regularly jam with friends and have noticed that many of the bands I love,AC/DC,Led Zeppelin etc will always be popular with musicians,even ones 15 years my junior but the younger generations of fans never seem to rate the older AC/DC albums,they are constantly overlooked for some reason.
If you read this review,if you like AC/DC then get this album,listen to it.This is when AC/DC hit their straps,Powerage is the first album in which they definetively laid down their own particular style and sound and what a sound it was.
After this came Highway To Hell(probably,in my opinion,one of the finest rock albums of all time)and then the groundbreaking Back in Black but Powerage is where it started,the guitar playing cannot be faulted,soulful,exciting,expressive,never too much.Bon Scott's lyrics are witty and human,his vocal delivery,full of emotion,expression and definetly tongue in cheek.
Buy it,listen to it,i think you will agree.BB
I can't believe nobody has reviewed this album yet. Powerage is, possibly, the best album AC/DC have ever produced. The strange thing is that it is probably their least well known album from the Bon Scott years. I'm not entirely sure why that should be. The CD kicks off with the solid, catchy riffing of 'Rock n Roll Damnation'. This is followed up by the slow, brooding build up of 'Down Payment Blues' this is one of the greatest songs AC/DC have ever written, with some of Bon's wittiest lyrics. Although AC/DC are renowned for singing mostly about booze and sex, they certainly used to know a thing or two about financial hardship. Next up we get 'Gimme a Bullet', a song for the broken-hearted. Yet again Bon Scott's wordplay is as good as anybody's in the rock business. Now it's time for Angus and Malcolm to flex their muscles with 'Riff Raff', the Young brothers are outstanding on this track. Another under-rated classic. Let's see, four songs in to the album and we've had two good songs and two classic songs, what can they do next? 'Sin City' that's what. This time everyone gets a chance to show off. Yet another AC/DC slice of classic rock and roll. The rest of the CD is lesser known, but by no means are they lesser tracks, 'What's next to the Moon' is another dose of excellent story telling from Bon and solid guitar work from Angus and Malcolm. I should also give some credit to Cliff Williams (his AC/DC debut) and Phil Rudd, as reliable a rhythym section as you could ever wish for. 'Gone Shootin' is a bit slower, more of a bluesy tune, and yet again another under-rated classic AC/DC track. Things are kicked up a gear with the excellent rocker, 'Up to my neck in you' just a good old fashioned balls out rock song. The album is rounded off with 'Kicked in the teeth' as brutal as the tit
le sounds and as good a way to close a classic album as you could want. All in all, Powerage is a very solid rock and roll album, even Keith Richards ranks it as one of his favourite albums, and he knows a thing or two about rock n roll.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Rock 'n' Roll Damnation
2 Down Payment Blues
3 Gimme A Bullet
4 Riff Raff
5 Sin City
6 What's Next To The Moon
7 Gone Shootin'
8 Up To My Neck In You
9 Kicked In The Teeth