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Live (Atco)


By Bob Bahr

In high school, I had my stereo plugged into one of those wall timers, the kind that flips on the light for a stretch so you look like you're home when you're not. Each night for a stretch of about four months, I would set the needle down for AC/DC's "Hells Bells," the volume cranked to "eleven," and the timer to 20 minutes before my ride was to come the next morning. The booming church bells that introduce the song gave me about 12 or 15 seconds to stumble across the room and turn down the volume to a parentally correct volume before Angus Young rattled the walls with his monstrous guitar riffs.

That kind of devotion makes me prime fodder for this slightly nostalgic release from Australia's most bombastic/fantastic hard rock band. AC/DC is a solid if unadventureous band in concert, therefore Live comes off like a slightly above average greatest hits collection. The 14 songs recorded live here are rendered very much like they sounded on the studio albums. And that suits me fine.

The song selections range from a couple Bon Scott-era hits such as "Highway to Hell," "T.N.T." and "She's Got the Jack" to the latest admirable additions to the AC/DC canon, including "Thunderstruck" and "Moneytalks." And speaking of cannons, "For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)" is here, its completely daft lyrics growled and shouted with marked enthusiasm by Brian Johnson.

AC/DC works some fairly rare ground, that of the good-natured evil rock band. Nearly every song is a threat, a dark sexist profanity, or a bloody confession -- but a comic light-heartedness infuses them all. Johnson's voice is odd to the point of being inhuman, sounding like the asbestos howl of a hoarse wolverine. The rhythm section is energetic but unfailingly simple. The key is Angus Young, the best metal riff writer this side of Jimmy Page. Young makes songs like "Back in Black," "You Shook Me All Night Long" and others, his simple chords put together so they stick in your head like a bad advertising slogan.

This music is not good for you. It has no value. To top it off, Angus' favorite five chords seem to all contain the same note that my telephone rings at, meaning I miss calls when jamming out to Live. If I don't answer for the next month, you'll know why.