AC/DC: Backtracks


RIYL: Motorhead, Kiss, Van Halen

Backtracks is AC/DC’s second compilation, and the first to include anything from the post-Bon Scott era. There are a lot of rarities out there in the AC/DC catalog, thanks to an abundance of B-sides, cut tracks and “international” editions of their records, which in the past routinely featured different tracks than the Australian editions. And while Backtracks does a great job of collecting all those rarities, the quality of said rarities is a little lacking.

While some of the lost cuts are great, such as the rollicking “R.I.P. (Rock In Peace),” most were buried for a reason. “Love Song” is just that, a love-dovey ballad that is the thematic opposite of nearly every other song AC/DC ever recorded and other Oz-only tracks like “Fling Thing” and “Stick Around” aren’t as bad, but they’re entirely forgettable. Some later-era stuff is here as well, and it holds up a bit better. The Blow Up Your Video B-side “Borrowed Time” is actually better than most of the tracks that made that album, and then there’s “Big Gun,” the standout from the excellent “Last Action Hero” soundtrack and probably one of the last truly great songs the band released.

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The live disc is good, but is nothing that the stellar AC/DC Live didn’t already do better, and the music video DVD should really appeal to completists, literally in fact, as it completes the “Family Jewels” DVD collection that first came out in 2005, picking up where that set left off with the video for “Big Gun” and ending with Black Ice clips “Rock N Roll Train” and “Anything Goes.” Watch and be amazed that an AC/DC video from 1991 and an AC/DC video from 2009 are nearly identical, the only things that have changed are softer focus and kinder lighting.

As AC/DC goes, this set is a little uneven, so if you only own Highway to Hell and Back in Black, then this box set isn’t for you. And if you’re still holding out for a greatest hits album or online release (the band remains one of the few iTunes holdouts), then this box set isn’t for you, either. However, do you own the Australian and American versions of all their albums, and have an AC/DC tattoo on your shoulder that you like to show off when you rock the sleeveless shirt at your local rib-off? Then, oddly, this box set isn’t for you either; instead, you’d want the deluxe edition. That comes with an additional CD and DVD of live material, a huge coffee table book, tons of memorabilia and a bonus LP that includes highlights from the rarities CD (which is expanded for the deluxe edition to include several more songs). The packaging for the deluxe edition is equally excessive, as it’s a working guitar amp. That’s the way to go. This regular edition is for pussies. (Columbia 2009)

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