Bonfire

AC/DC

EastWest Records, 1997

http://www.acdc.com

REVIEW BY: Gordon T. Gekko

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/19/1998

And disco begat new wave, and new wave begat punk, and punk begat pop metal.

As the '70s were closing down, it seemed like about a thousand different rock subsects were fighting for influence over the '80s. Of these, pop metal probably had the most lasting impact. Forget that they still play "I Will Survive" at whatever miscellaneous drinking establishment you attend on weekends, or the synthesizer-laden pop of top 40 years gone by. Everyone from Nazareth to Led Zeppelin were still heavily manipulating trends in popular music.

And then there were the Deecees. Completely original, but you've heard them before. Driving guitars with incredible hooks. And they even did away with the obligatory late '70s metal ballads on their albums. (How many times must I listen to "All My Love" on the radio in a single day?) You had the Young brothers fighting on guitar, and you had Bon Scott screaming out the words to songs he only half-remembered in his perpetual drunkardness.

Of course that killed him, but I'm not one to nit-pick. The 5-CD restrospective Bonfire is a sometimes touching, always rocking collection of killer live tracks and rare studio outtakes, along with perhaps the best metal album ever made. Who could ask for anything more but Scott's decaying body right there in the box? Death surrounds these tracks, and death fuels them. Nothing you could possibly want is lacking. Every classic song is here, sometimes two or three times, and every riff combination imaginable is used, which you can practice with your brand new AC/DC guitar pick!

There is a lost of cool freebie filler in the box including a poster, temporary tattoo, keychain/bottle opener, and bumper sticker. The keychain's my favorite. It's a nice metal alloy and has a big rubber logo, so my friends can ask all day: "What the !@#$ is AC/DC?" I always reply, "That's what Butt-Head's T-shirt says," and they follow with, "Cool."my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The first disc was initially a radio only promotional concert, live from the Atlantic Studios in New York, sometime in mid-1978. Since this is a "radio concert," we have the pleasure of hearing the band in a live setting without the constant applauding and screaming. At eight tracks, and running just over 45 minutes, some fans might feel ripped off, but every moment is priceless, from the freestyle solo in "Live Wire" to the harrowing Phil Rudd drums in "Rocker." Then of course the nine minute version of "The Jack." I'm sure this song was much more offensive 20 years ago. Overall, this is a terrific set of songs, and would be worth buying by itself.

Of the eight tracks on the first disc, five are repeated on the second disc, which is actually two discs. Flash forward one year. AC/DC is now an international success, and is on a world tour. This is the live AC/DC you know and love. The disc(s) is from the same concert which was filmed and released as the 1981 concert film Let There Be Rock, so this is called the soundtrack. This isn't exactly true, since there are many songs in the movie not featured here, and many featured here that aren't in the movie. I won't argue about semantics, however, because this is 90 minutes of pure glory.

Filmed in late 1979 in Paris, all the key album tracks from their seminal mid-70s work is here, as well as their newer radio hits, such as "Highway to Hell", and "T.N.T." The thirteen-plus minute "Bad Boy Boogie" is very enjoyable, but the ten minute version of "Rocker" is nowhere near as good as the one from the first disc, which is only half the length. Overall, the core of the album is here, and these two discs are worth the purchase price.

The third disc is the weakest here, but is still very listenable. The skeletal versions of classics, with alternate lyrics, are cool for hardcore fans, and the few key tracks missing from the first discs are put here in their studio glory, (i.e. "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'N' Roll)"). The best part of this disc, however, is the sound bites from Scott in his final days, which are intriguing, if heartbreaking. He was always drunk. I don't think he could stop drinking. Even in these interviews, he is slurred and half-coherent. He was really bottoming out.

The final disc is Back In Black. It has already been reviewed here, so I won't say anything about it. The remastering is very nice, and the miniature gatefold album sleeve which replaces the jewel case is very cool. It is obviously one of the great albums of all times. Enough said.

The attached booklet is enjoyable, and I learned a lot about the band. The freebies are neat. The music is simply incredible. A few classic songs didn't make the box, even "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap", but what is here more than makes up for it. Even the box design is very cool.

This is a very extensive, expensive box set. Diehard fans will love it, and it's a good introduction for those looking to become fans. At $70+ at record stores, and $55+ at electronic stores, it is one of the more costly boxed sets produced. If you can afford it, however, get it. It is definitely worth it.

Rating: A-

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© 1998 Gordon T. Gekko 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 EastWest Records, and is used for informational purposes only.