I'll just say "Back In Black" and leave it at that. But I should be back later with some less obvious picks. Reeling from the death of beloved rapscalion frontman and debaucher extraordinaire Bon Scott, just as the band stood poised on the seeming brink of worldcrushing superstardom - or so it seemed - the death of Scott plunged all such speculation into shock and irrelevancy. More than a ringleader, Scott was a gangleader - a guiding influence with plenty of hard-lived rock and roll experience under his belt, a sort of pervert-uncle figure to the other members a decade or so his junior - a mate, however much he was prone to the occasional fuckup, the man was integral to the chemistry of this hardscrabble guerrilla unit intent on conquering the world once again, all and always only for rock and roll. Still, unimaginable as it may have seemed then for AC/DC to exist without Bon - so close to the goal he and they all sweated, bled, and came for, can there ever have been any question of brothers Malcolm and Angus Young simply folding up the tent and going home, calling it a day for AC/DC?
Back In Black stands in dedication, and in rededication. A colossal musical achievement, a fitting epitaph for an irreplaceable and irrepressible (and irresponsible) man, who, goofy as he was, was yet and above all, a serious musician. Dedicated to Bon Scott: every bit as he was dedicated to his craft, every bit as he was dedicated to his female fans (and in a meaningfully different way, to all of his fans, of course). But fitting as it was, this album is far more than an epitaph. It strides forth grim with purpose, bursting with new life: a mission statement, a manifesto from the mountaintop, handing down ten perfect tracks with the force of commandments - all testified in the furious, unholy, glorious unearthly voice of the man I'd call (for three albums at least, before he more or less blew out his larynx in '83 during the Flick of the Switch tour) the greatest rock singer ever: Brian Johnson.
No replacement. No imitator. He stepped, strode, staggered into the churning, precision-honed forge of Mal and Ang's power chords, Phil and Cliff's pounding rhythms, and he alchemized it all with a howl into a sort of reverse-mithril (stray Tolkein reference must've wandered in from a stray Zep review? sorry): silverpure, steel-hard, but as heavy as fookin' lead. Nimble with it, though! The band's tutelage under legendary Shania Twainfucker Robert John "Mutt" Lange on prior outing Highway to Hell had by now matured, and borne brutal, machine-tooled fruit. These scrappy underdogs had pounded out enjoyable album after enjoyable album, full of mad dash, bravado and thrash in a blues-soaked mode, but Lange's manic perfectionist expertise had unlocked something in them, something that had lain within them always, and now the band had finally and terrifically come into its own sound: assurance, precision, muscular intricacy and power to spare, and good lord was it awesome to behold with one's ears. This album was a beauty, truth made incarnate to a worldfull of jaw-dropped beholders, forever from the first listen beholden to its inimitable might.
Back In Black.
The album-opening declaration "I'm rolling thunder, pouring rain / I'm coming on like a hurricane," only begins to cover it.
I'll be back with more "Greatest album ever" picks after this! Don't die holding your breath, though.