AC/DC: Brian Johnson (vocals); Angus Young, Malcolm Young (guitar); Cliff Williams (bass); Phil Rudd (drums).
Eternally in pursuit of the ultimate riff, AC/DC play with scowls on their faces and cojones in their music. Their songs glower in corners, ready to pounce with sweaty, blues-rock guitars and razor sharp hooks. On BALLBREAKER, AC/DC refuse to grow up--and that's a good thing. Angus Young plays with the same sweet, red Gibson-SG-through-a-Marshall tone and a vibrato killer enough to patent, sounding as fresh as he did on DIRTY DEEDS. And Brian Johnson's guttural growl still reeks of whiskey and cigarettes.
AC/DC's true gift is their ability to get an amazing, powerful sound with a minimum of clever guitar layering. This has more to do with their attitude than anything technical. The symbiotic combination of the Young brothers' guitars and the return of original drummer Phil Rudd certainly contribute to the trademark roar; but more importantly, they've got nothing to hide--subtlety has never been a concern.
If they have improved on anything over the years, it's their songwriting. Catchy hooks and dynamics go unnoticed only because they're so effective. The groove of "Boogie Man" recalls a classic like "Night Prowler." The slow, deliberate "Whiskey On The Rocks" contrasts the torrential climax of the title track. And, in the long run, BALLBREAKER succeds due to its diversity of song, not just AC/DC's characteristic power.
Entertainment Weekly (10/13/95, p.79) - "...Moronically retrogressive, but utterly enjoyable." - Rating: B
Q (12/95, p.131) - 3 Stars - Good - "...The stripped down grittiness of Rick Rubin's production enhances irresistable rockers like `Hail Caesar' and `Hard As A Rock'....A veritable nutcracker..."
Musician (11/95, p.95) - "...it's Angus Young who comes off as the album's true hero....Rick Rubin's lean, mean production makes the most of...central riffs...but it's the sly, inventive playing Angus provides...that keep AC/DC current."
NME (Magazine) (12/23-30/95, pp.22-23) - Ranked #36 in NME's `Top 50 Albums Of The Year' for 1995.
NME (Magazine) (9/23/95, p.47) - 7 (out of 10) - "...represents their first concerted effort since 1979 to attempt a decent play on the word `testicle'. It has been produced by a man with a large beard, Rick Rubin, and, to be blunt, it rocks like a moderately aggressive bastard..."
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