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Powerage

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Average Rating
★★★★½
(177 Reviews)

Metal Album Reviews[RSS]

  • Before going any further, I must say for the record, that this is my favorite Bon Scott-era AC/DC album. And I’ll tell you why right now: it was the first one I got, and therefore, it was my introduction to Bon. From that perspective, no other record could ever have that impact on me. See, I was born into the Brian Johnson-era AC/DC (being born in ‘78), and therefore, as far as I was concerned, Brian Johnson was THE voice of AC/DC. Hearing “You Shook Me All Night Long” on the radio is one of my earliest memories.

    For years, I didn’t know that AC/DC had ever had ANOTHER singer, and for me it was difficult to imagine someone other than Brian fronting the band and singing those songs. That changed with the release of “Live” in ‘92, where I finally got my chance to hear some of the Bon-era songs. “Dirty Deeds…” soon became one of my favorites. And so my interest was peaked.

    It might seem odd, then, that I’d choose to start my exploring of that era with the one record that yields the least songs to the band’s set list, seldom performed and rarely mentioned, even by devoted fans. But the truth is that it was pure luck: that was the only Bon-era CD that was available at the store that day (believe it or not, “Highway to Hell” wasn’t there…Heretics!!!).

    So I picked it up, not knowing what to expect. What I got was a 40 minute roller coaster ride that changed my life…Really! Say what you will about the songs not being as strong as in other releases (more on that later…), the production, blah, blah, blah. But once Bon starts singing…boy, he could really make you feel those lyrics! I had never heard anyone sing with such conviction before in my life, and I never have since. “R n’ R Damnation” opens the album in a slower pace than I’d have expected, but nevertheless, its rollicking groove really gets you going, I tell ya. “Down Payment Blues” is just pure genius: the lyrics are simply hilarious, and yet they pack a huge punch; it is one thing to write and sing about life on the streets and what not (any geezer with a lyric sheet in front of him can do it…), but it is a WHOLE `nother thing to sing convincingly about it, to make you feel that those lyrics come from somebody who’s “been there”. And just when you might start wondering why they called this a blues, comes the ending… it is an awesome track!

    Next is “Gimme a Bullet”, which again, sounds so honest, so real, that it gives me goose bumps to this day! Listen to it, and then tell me if you can’t relate…if you can’t…oh well…”Riff Raff” is more the kind of song I was expecting: fast, furious, aggressive and downright nasty; “Sin City” is another one of those “truer than truth” tales from Bon, and you can really hear that he means every word that he sings…the track is powerful too from the musical point of view, with a sophisticated arrangement, different from the expected.

    Then comes the crown jewel of the album, the hidden treasure: “What’s next to the Moon”, a story about a relationship gone sour told the way that only Bon could; again, while profoundly sarcastic, the song really rings true `cause we’ve all been there. This is not only my favorite track of the album, but also one of my favorite AC/DC songs altogether, and I’d give anything in this world to hear it live someday, somehow.

    Many critics (including the one who reviewed this on All Music Guide) consider the last 3 tracks to be “filler”. I beg to differ: are they as strong as the previous tracks? Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean that they are “filler”. Filler for me means songs that are not as good as they could be IN and BY themselves, not in comparison to other songs. That is why I don’t think that the slower, groovy, change of pace of “Gone Shooting” falls in that category: I think that it is a great track that is exactly where it should be within the record, changing the pace after a succession of faster songs.

    “Up to my neck in you” picks up the pace again, and it has a simple, catchy melody that is a joy to sing along to; and last but certainly not least, closing “Kicked in the Teeth” is a blast, fast and pounding rocker to close the album with a high octane note, perfectly exploiting Bon’s flair for story telling, and a little reminiscent of “Whole Lotta Rosie”.

    All in all, this is an awesome record that follows the standard AC/DC formula (up to that point) of mostly great songs + a few lesser known tracks = Great Album. (By the way, my actual rating would be 4 ½ stars, but since I can’t put that…) Sure, it is not regarded in the same light as “Let There Be Rock”, let alone “Highway to Hell”, but I truly believe that “Powerage” is a hidden treasure for any and all rock fans wishing to enjoy good, rocking music. Of course, if you’re an AC/DC diehard, you already know this, but if you’re a newcomer, just let me finish by saying this much: this is the album that got me hooked on Bon Scott’s era. Try it, you won’t be disappointed.

    Posted on December 13, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • If the title of my review is a bit misleading, let me start by clarifying that in my view, 1978’s “Powerage” is the best of AC/DC’s era with the late singer Bon Scott (God rest his soul). But be warned, all you narrow-minded rockers who only expect the standard guitar-driven salutes to booze and women, “Powerage” is different, and far exceeds the limitations of AC/DC’s previous works (and even some material after it). This record is far more accomplished, making it the most progressed and traditionally intelligent album of their ’70’s era. Graced with Bon Scott’s sneering howl and an unexpected bluesy spark, “Powerage” shows AC/DC at one of their peaks; the tracks are excellent and fit the band perfectly. ‘Rock and Roll Damnation’ is one of the most poignantly written blistering rock songs of all time, while ‘Down Payment Blues,’ ‘Riff Raff,’ ‘Gimme a Bullet,’ and ‘Kicked in the Teeth’ make it seem as if a Delta blues band attended an AC/DC concert and changed their tune. ‘Sin City’ is a growling and dare I say forewarning look at Las Vegas infidelity, while ‘Up to My Neck in You’ and ‘Gone Shootin’ (a true classic) are superb. But the highlight of “Powerage” is no doubt ‘What’s Next to the Moon,’ which is sheer poetry from the view of a gritty rock and roller.It’s a shame that “Powerage” has been slightly obscured by its predecessor (1977’s “Let There Be Rock”) and its follow-up (the hit “Highway to Hell”) because this set exceeds both of them. And though it is superior than AC/DC’s other 70’s material, it still matches them perfectly–even if it shines brighter.

    Posted on December 13, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • What do you call “Sin City” and “Down Payment Blues”? Two of AC/DC’s greatest songs, I’d say. The former is a bonafide anthem that the band still plays in concert, and the latter has an absolutely killer riff–one of the best in the AC/DC catalogue. POWERAGE is a fantastic album. It holds up very well against HIGH VOLTAGE, DIRTY DEEDS, and HIGHWAY TO HELL…and it’s better than LET THERE BE ROCK(yes, I know it sounds like blasphemy and I know that fans the world over will vehemently disagree with me, but that’s how I feel!).
    The second “side”(i.e., the last four songs) does drag a bit, but so do the second sides of most albums. Get POWERAGE; it’s pure AC/DC and you won’t be disappointed.

    Posted on December 12, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Albums like LET THERE BE ROCK, HIGHWAY TO HELL, and BACK IN BLACK have long overshadowed POWERAGE in terms of overall sales and popularity. However, song-for-song, POWERAGE is the strongest collection, in my opinion.WHY? Well, to begin with, LET THERE BE ROCK, may contain more well known classics, such as “Problem Child”, “Rosie”, and the title track. But, it also contains more forgettable material like “Go Down” and “Badboy Boogie”. On the other hand, there simply isn’t a weak cut on POWERAGE. Plus, the production is better.HIGHWAY TO HELL and BACK IN BLACK are classics, no doubt about it. However, I feel that Mutt Lange seriously robbed the band of its power with his slick production techniques. Compare HIGHWAY TO HELL to POWERAGE and the songs are about as equally good. But, POWERAGE, while well-engineered, has a rawness and intensity to it that Lange’s pop-friendly production does not. HIGHWAY may be easier to digest, but POWERAGE is tougher and more unrelenting.BACK IN BLACK is automatically docked points in my book because Bon isn’t on it. I mean no disrespect to Brian Johnson, but Bon was the definitive AC/DC frontman, hands-down. And, again, I think Lange drained much of the intensity out of some excellent songs in order to achieve a sound that was more easily accepted by the masses. I know, alot of AC/DC fans will argue that BIB sounds “HUGE”. Granted, it’s very well engineered and produced, but, to me, it sounds way too glossy. This sound may work well for Def Leppard, but it just neuters AC/DC’s sound. I think that Young and Vanda had a better understanding of how AC/DC should sound on record.So, there you go. Take or leave this review, but don’t skip POWERAGE.

    Posted on December 12, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Ah, how far to go here? Well, I’m older now, and I’m as ‘zen’ on this subject as any other. Sooo…

    Powerage is the best rock ‘n roll of album of all time. Not the most important or most influential; not with the widest variety nor highest reach(although this IS AC/DC’s widest & highest album); not the most seductive or inspiring; but the best.

    Sgt Pepper, Exile On Main Street, and Physical Grafitti are all timeless masterpieces too, but whatever Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Little Richard & Jerry Lee Lewis were aiming at all those years ago, Powerage hit dead center.

    An amazingly raw, blistering sound, but at the same time incredibly tight grooves. Hard rock you can headbang AND dance to, indeed. Like someone once said, AC/DC does what no one else can do, better than anyone else.

    This was the first album w/Cliff Williams and he kicked the band up to a whole new level. Fantastic production by Vanda/Young, the last one they did before Mutt Lange took over. The remastering is indescribably brilliant, showcasing the equally brilliant interplay between Angus & Malcolm. The lead & rhythm guitars are distinct, loud, and powerful. No way you’d believe this album was released in 1978 if you didn’t already know.

    And what rhythms and leads they are. Nine incredible riffs, instantly memorable. Easy to play(the riffs NOT the solos, of course), perhaps, but almost impossible to write. And the seven solos are among Angus’ best, especially on Gone Shootin’. Fast solos, medium solos, slow solos, and on Damnation & Bullet no solo at all.

    There is simply not a wasted or extraneous second here. Yngwie, Satriani, Vai, and all the rest of the shredders never wrote anything close to Sin City or Riff Raff. This album is the one that clearly places Angus alongside Hendrix, Page, & Gibbons.

    Bon’s best lyrics, devastating beats from Cliff & Phil. Highway To Hell’s production sounds thin & poppy(despite the great songs), and Back In Black’s writing seems somewhat uninspired and derivative in comparison. Imagine the best qualities of Overdose, Touch Too Much, and Shoot To Thrill wrapped together and you have Powerage.

    Back In Black has a great sound and all the legendary anthems, no question, but this is the real apex of the “cooler than a body on ice, hotter than the rolling dice, wilder than a drunken fight” ideal. And all topped off by Bon giving you a wink/nudge and offering you another beer after each track.

    I have friends that aren’t into heavy music at all, but I always tell them that like Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue is to jazz, Powerage is the hard rock album for people that don’t like hard rock.

    Buy this album and you WILL burn tonight.

    Posted on December 12, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now