Back in Black
Released: July 25, 1980
Peak: 4 US, 12 UK, 1 CN, 11 AU
Sales (in millions): 25.0 US, 0.1 UK, 50.0 world (includes US and UK)
Genre: hard rock/heavy metal
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Songs written by Johnson, Young, and Young.
Total Running Time: 41:31
4.665 out of 5.00 (average of 25 ratings)
Quotable: One of “hard rock's greatest achievements” – Greg Prato, All Music Guide
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
With 1979’s Highway to Hell, AC/DC achieved its first gold album in the U.S. AMG and was “poised for worldwide breakthrough success.” AMG “In the middle of album rehearsals, singer Bon Scott went on a drinking spree; he choked on his own vomit and was found dead in the back seat of a car.” RS After two days of mourning, guitarist Malcolm Young called his brother Angus and they went back to work. Five months later, the result was “this smoking album with the most prophetic title ever.” ZS It “is the ultimate example of a band turning a career-threatening negative into a remarkable positive.” AMG
New vocalist Brian Johnson “was as willing to shred the upper end of his voice as Scott had been” TM and “had the same bluesy edge as Scott” AMG but “sang with more power and conviction.” AMG He stamped “his own personality, not to mention distinctive rasp, on the record.” VH1 He “sings as if he’s being tortured – and thoroughly enjoying it.” TL
Critics knocked the band for its “testosterone-laden paeans to sex, booze, and more sex and more booze,” RV but “AC/DC was never a band to bother with any niceties in their music.” CRS They charged forward with “completely straight-ahead guitar power chords, brutal beats pounded out in 4/4 time, and blistering vocals on top.” CRS “The rhythm section gets right near the boiling point and then hangs there, waiting for the schoolboy-uniform–wearing Angus Young to deliver demonically twisted lead guitar that pushes things over the edge.” TM
Producer Mutt Lange “made sure that every walloping rhythm guitar supporting Johnson’s tales of lasciviousness (check out What Do You Do for Money Honey) weighed in at industrial strength – and was executed with surgical precision.” TM Lange “helped the group focus its high voltage rock,” AMG crafting “a delicate balance of power and finesse that defined the commercial side of heavy music for years.” TM “It doesn’t get any simpler than this meat-and-potatoes rock and roll.” CRS
The “primo dance-metal banger You Shook Me All Night Long” RS and the “eerie Hells Bells,” AMG “are arena anthems of uncorrupted hookiness and sonic quality,” TL not to mention “strutting blues-based guitar heat.” RS Also included are “such perennial rock anthems as the stomping title track” AMG with its “proud peacock strut,” TM “the melodic Shoot to Thrill, [and] the album-closing battle cry Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution.” AMG
“Though unabashed in its misogyny – Let Me Put My Love into You would be nicer if it were a request rather than a command while Given the Dog a Bone breaks the rules of chivalry and grammar – this testosterone filled romp’s passion for bangin’ is less focused on hips than heads.” TL “Not a single weak track is included; even the lesser-known album tracks are strong (Have a Drink on Me, Shake a Leg).” AMG
“Coming after years of synthesized disco and overproduced AOR, Back in Black proved once again the resilience of live, loud, and melodic rock, and listeners immediately responded.” TB It was one of “the greatest hard-rock album of the decade” RV and “one of rock’s all-time classics.” AMG “For many, [it is] the essential hard-rock record of the modern era.” TB It “might be the purest distillation of hard rock ever;” RS it “is a ten-song feast of tightly wound, enormously disciplined stomp rock” TM infused with “the relentless logic of a sledgehammer.” RS
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First posted 7/22/2012; last updated 9/5/2021.