'74 Jailbreak


Atlantic Records, 1984


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


'74 Jailbreak was a stop-gap release that was supposed to do two things for Australian super-group AC/DC. First, it was supposed to give them a well-deserved break after their string of good fortune with Back In Black and For Those About To Rock We Salute You, as well as the commercial disappointment of Flick Of The Switch. Second, it was supposed to give the die-hard Bon Scott fans in the audience another chance to enjoy music from the days Scott spent with the band.

'74 Jailbreak was never meant to be seen as an album; with only five songs, it could hardly be considered a full-lengther. And while the music on this disc is enjoyable (though it may be a shock to those who expect AC/DC to follow the straight blooze-rock paths), this disc could have easily been a full LP.

Four of the five songs were culled from AC/DC's original Australian debut High Voltage, with "Jailbreak" coming from the Aussie version of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. Remember, box sets weren't really thought of in 1984 as a major commercial tool; Bob Dylan's Biograph would change that forever. So it wasn't that Atlantic was purposely holding back other previously-unreleased songs in America for commercial gain. The question that comes up is, why didn't they release them at this time?

Where, for example, is "Stick Around" - a track which would easily have fit in with the mood if '74 Jailbreak? Where is "Love Song," a track which admittedly isn't one of AC/DC's best, though it is notable as possibly the group's only true attempt at a ballad? Where is "Crabsody In Blue," only available on the import of Let There Be Rock? Where is "R.I.P. (Rock In Peace)," another left-over from Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap? Man, what this disc could have been... I must pause so I can let out a blood-curdling scream.

There... I feel better.

As it stands, though, '74 Jailbreak serves as a nice amount of Scott-era AC/DC that will both challenge and excite the listener. "Jailbreak" remains one of the band's best tracks, capturing the true rock spirit this band has embodied all these years. Likewise, "Soul Stripper" is a fun number that gives both Angus and Malcolm Young the chance to inject a little r&b or soul into their playing. (Is it me, or does it sound like Malcolm Young is playing a 12-string electric at times?)

If one isn't familiar with the early days of AC/DC, though, songs like "You Ain't Got A Hold On Me" and "Show Business" might seem like a glass of ice water thrown in their face. "You Ain't Got A Hold On Me" is surprisingly bereft of the hard rock bombast that AC/DC has become known for, making the listener concentrate on the band - egads! - as musicians. Even more shocking to the critics is that the boys from Down Under actually are competent musicians. "Show Business" is an exercise in 12-bar blues that shows some of the real roots of AC/DC - further emphasized by the cover of "Baby Please Don't Go".

I admit that when I first bought this in 1985, I was taken aback by the almost lighter approach that AC/DC had. But when one considers that '74 Jailbreak is a portrait of the band in its infancy, then things start to come together, and one understands the musical choices. Frankly, they'd have been easier to understand had someone at the label thought to include the remainder of tracks that AC/DC had never released in the States.

Rating: B

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.