AC/DC- “Powerage” (1978)

AC/DC- "Powerage" (1978)

Angus Young of AC/DC Live in Spokane, Wa. on 7-26-78. Photo/Art by Ben Upham


“Powerage” (1978)
Reviews and Thoughts…

Released in May of 1978 “Powerage” had quite an act to follow! That being the release of “Let There be Rock” 11 months earlier.

Let there be Rock was a huge blast of powerful Rock that was one of the best Rock releases of 1977.

1978 was a tough time for the Classic rock sound as it was being challenged by the sounds of Disco, Punk and New Wave.

AC/DC were true to their roots and kept pounding out crucial and quality hard rock during this time period. Bon Scott seemed to have more and more cnfidence with each release and the band relentlessly continued to create fresh material that was worthy of cranking up as loud as you could!

I saw the band on the “Powerage” Tour and the were opening the show for Aerosmith. They played a Loud and energetic set that really knocked me out. So much that I had to retreat to the balcony seats for Aerosmith (who sounded like they were playing in another room altogether).
Here are some selected reviews of this great record:

“Not Just AC/DC’s Best Album”….
By Bill M. (Salt Lake City, UT)
August 8, 2005

Ah, how far to go here? Well, I’m older now, and I’m as ‘Zen’ on this subject as any other. Sooo…

Powerage is the best rock ‘n roll of album of all time. Not the most important or most influential; not with the widest variety nor highest reach(although this IS AC/DC’s widest & highest album); not the most seductive or inspiring; but the best.

Sgt Pepper, Exile On Main Street, and Physical Grafitti are all timeless masterpieces too, but whatever Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Little Richard & Jerry Lee Lewis were aiming at all those years ago, Powerage hit dead center.

An amazingly raw, blistering sound, but at the same time incredibly tight grooves. Hard rock you can headbang AND dance to, indeed. Like someone once said, AC/DC does what no one else can do, better than anyone else.

This was the first album w/Cliff Williams and he kicked the band up to a whole new level. Fantastic production by Vanda/Young, the last one they did before Mutt Lange took over. The remastering is indescribably brilliant, showcasing the equally brilliant interplay between Angus & Malcolm. The lead & rhythm guitars are distinct, loud, and powerful. No way you’d believe this album was released in 1978 if you didn’t already know.
And what rhythms and leads they are. Nine incredible riffs, instantly memorable. Easy to play(the riffs NOT the solos, of course), perhaps, but almost impossible to write. And the seven solos are among Angus’ best, especially on Gone Shootin’. Fast solos, medium solos, slow solos, and on Damnation & Bullet no solo at all.

There is simply not a wasted or extraneous second here. Yngwie, Satriani, Vai, and all the rest of the shredders never wrote anything close to Sin City or Riff Raff. This album is the one that clearly places Angus alongside Hendrix, Page, & Gibbons.

Bon’s best lyrics, devastating beats from Cliff & Phil. Highway To Hell’s production sounds thin & poppy(despite the great songs), and Back In Black’s writing seems somewhat uninspired and derivative in comparison. Imagine the best qualities of Overdose, Touch Too Much, and Shoot To Thrill wrapped together and you have Powerage.

Back In Black has a great sound and all the legendary anthems, no question, but this is the real apex of the “cooler than a body on ice, hotter than the rolling dice, wilder than a drunken fight” ideal. And all topped off by Bon giving you a wink/nudge and offering you another beer after each track.

I have friends that aren’t into heavy music at all, but I always tell them that like Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue is to jazz, Powerage is the hard rock album for people that don’t like hard rock.

Buy this album and you WILL burn tonight.

By Erick Bertin (Santo Domingo, Heredia Costa Rica)
August 23, 2007

Before going any further, I must say for the record, that this is my favorite Bon Scott-era AC/DC album. And I’ll tell you why right now: it was the first one I got, and therefore, it was my introduction to Bon. From that perspective, no other record could ever have that impact on me. See, I was born into the Brian Johnson-era AC/DC (being born in ’78), and therefore, as far as I was concerned, Brian Johnson was THE voice of AC/DC. Hearing “You Shook Me All Night Long” on the radio is one of my earliest memories.

For years, I didn’t know that AC/DC had ever had ANOTHER singer, and for me it was difficult to imagine someone other than Brian fronting the band and singing those songs. That changed with the release of “Live” in ’92, where I finally got my chance to hear some of the Bon-era songs. “Dirty Deeds…” soon became one of my favorites. And so my interest was peaked.

It might seem odd, then, that I’d choose to start my exploring of that era with the one record that yields the least songs to the band’s set list, seldom performed and rarely mentioned, even by devoted fans. But the truth is that it was pure luck: that was the only Bon-era CD that was available at the store that day (believe it or not, “Highway to Hell” wasn’t there…Heretics!!!).

So I picked it up, not knowing what to expect. What I got was a 40 minute roller coaster ride that changed my life…Really! Say what you will about the songs not being as strong as in other releases (more on that later…), the production, blah, blah, blah. But once Bon starts singing…boy, he could really make you feel those lyrics! I had never heard anyone sing with such conviction before in my life, and I never have since. “R n’ R Damnation” opens the album in a slower pace than I’d have expected, but nevertheless, its rollicking groove really gets you going, I tell ya. “Down Payment Blues” is just pure genius: the lyrics are simply hilarious, and yet they pack a huge punch; it is one thing to write and sing about life on the streets and what not (any geezer with a lyric sheet in front of him can do it…), but it is a WHOLE `nother thing to sing convincingly about it, to make you feel that those lyrics come from somebody who’s “been there”. And just when you might start wondering why they called this a blues, comes the ending… it is an awesome track!

Next is “Gimme a Bullet”, which again, sounds so honest, so real, that it gives me goose bumps to this day! Listen to it, and then tell me if you can’t relate…if you can’t…oh well…”Riff Raff” is more the kind of song I was expecting: fast, furious, aggressive and downright nasty; “Sin City” is another one of those “truer than truth” tales from Bon, and you can really hear that he means every word that he sings…the track is powerful too from the musical point of view, with a sophisticated arrangement, different from the expected.

Then comes the crown jewel of the album, the hidden treasure: “What’s next to the Moon”, a story about a relationship gone sour told the way that only Bon could; again, while profoundly sarcastic, the song really rings true `cause we’ve all been there. This is not only my favorite track of the album, but also one of my favorite AC/DC songs altogether, and I’d give anything in this world to hear it live someday, somehow.

Many critics (including the one who reviewed this on All Music Guide) consider the last 3 tracks to be “filler”. I beg to differ: are they as strong as the previous tracks? Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean that they are “filler”. Filler for me means songs that are not as good as they could be IN and BY themselves, not in comparison to other songs. That is why I don’t think that the slower, groovy, change of pace of “Gone Shooting” falls in that category: I think that it is a great track that is exactly where it should be within the record, changing the pace after a succession of faster songs.

“Up to my neck in you” picks up the pace again, and it has a simple, catchy melody that is a joy to sing along to; and last but certainly not least, closing “Kicked in the Teeth” is a blast, fast and pounding rocker to close the album with a high octane note, perfectly exploiting Bon’s flair for story telling, and a little reminiscent of “Whole Lotta Rosie”.

All in all, this is an awesome record that follows the standard AC/DC formula (up to that point) of mostly great songs + a few lesser known tracks = Great Album. (By the way, my actual rating would be 4 ½ stars, but since I can’t put that…) Sure, it is not regarded in the same light as “Let There Be Rock”, let alone “Highway to Hell”, but I truly believe that “Powerage” is a hidden treasure for any and all rock fans wishing to enjoy good, rocking music. Of course, if you’re an AC/DC diehard, you already know this, but if you’re a newcomer, just let me finish by saying this much: this is the album that got me hooked on Bon Scott’s era.

Try it, you won’t be disappointed.

“AC/DC’s greatest album”
By Scott Hedegard (Fayetteville, AR USA)
April 25, 2005

The gazillion-seller “Back In Black” broke one of rock’s greatest bands into the big time for good, but on sheer power and songwriting, nothing compares to “Powerage”, the best album ever recorded by AC/DC.

Unlike the other Bon Scott-era albums that followed the predictable goofy AC/DC mold (reminding us that rock n’ roll was originally intended to be fun), some serious thought to hooks and a tad bit of experimenting with the tried and true formula went into “Powerage”.

The opener “Rock N’ Roll Damnation” is a typical rocker that gets the album off to a good start, but as soon as “Down Payment Blues” begins, we see a sense of dynamics and a build-up to a furious climax that, prior to this song, was not a typical Young brothers element. Other cuts like “Gimme A Bullet” and “What’s Next To The Moon” show off hooks that are more melody oriented than we’re used to, but still have the vintage AC/DC power-chording and tempo that keep them from being wimpy. The standout cut is “Riff Raff”, a complicated lick and hook that is reminiscent of the heaviest Rick Derringer. Bon screams for all it’s worth over titanic guitars at a breakneck pace. For those who are just now exploring earlier AC/DC work, it simply must be heard to be believed.

“Sin City” offers a riff that is a sign of things to come, primarily “What Do You Do For Money Honey” and “Touch Too Much”, and the closers, “Up To My Neck In You” and “Kicked In The Teeth” are in the “Whole Lotta Rosie” vein.

What makes this band great is a tenacious clinging to a winning and consistent formula, and most important, obviously loving every minute of it. Poseurs will always burn out quickly, but those bands who truly believe in their music have the lasting power that enables them to reach across multiple generations, ala AC/DC, ZZTop, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, to name a few. “Powerage” is the premier Bon Scott-era album.

“Genius comes in different forms”………
By Rob (Ridgeland, MS. United States)
September 7, 2007

…..And this is one of them. It’s simply astonishing what this band can do with anywhere from 2 to, at absolute most, 4 power chords. I mean, they take a couple of chords……literally two or so notes…..and create unforgettable, compulsively listenable, great music.
Powerage is one of those albums whose music is almost an ‘ah ha’ experience. What I mean is, it’s as if these riffs, their rhythm and sound, just deserve to exist. To me, great music is something that is there waiting to be uncovered and exposed to the world. Obviously the Young Brothers and Bon Scott created this music….but it’s as if these are tunes that were meant to be….and through their creation…..they were brought into the world.

I grew up on AC/DC… teenage years totally encompassed within the decade of the 80’s. My first of their albums was purchased with a $ 10 bill I found in a K&B Drugs parking lot while going back to the car with my mom. I was 12. I used that $ 10 to buy Back in Black ( record of course )

A short time later, my aunt asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I said ” an AC/DC album” still not knowing enough about the band to be specific. Well, on Christmas morning at my relative’s, I opened up the record for Powerage. I’d never heard of it and only knew the band with Brian Johnson. I was a bit confused because the letters ‘AC DC’ were written in a different way on the album’s cover than the ‘new’ way, which is that angular, geometric presentation with the lightining bolt in the middle that everyone is familiar with. Anyway, once I got home and listened to it, I was blown away.
Only recently, did I start listening to them again. I lost interest for the last 15 or more years. Now, I realize why I’m so picky about music. I now realize why I don’t really care for 80 percent or so of the junk that passes for music these days. The reason: I was brought up on real music. I listened to actual talented musicians who created serious meaningful riffs as a young person. Being exposed to AC/DC basically spoiled me and , as a result, music has to really be good for me to like it. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not some kind of snob, I have everything in my CD collection now from Hank Williams, The Beatles, some choice modern pop-rock, 70s and 80s classics, all the way to Mozart. That being said, I also have AC/DC and they have the most of any to do with the way I look at and enjoy music these days.

Enough for my history, as for the album….it’s an incredible virtuoso of hard rock with tinges of blues intermingled. From the steady rhythmic cadence of “Gone Shootin'” to the almost Westernish, yet also hard rock- wailing guitar of “What’s Next to the Moon”, this collection of songs represents an iconic band at the peak of their talent.

I’d forgotten how much Bon Scott puts himself into the songs. I mean, he gives everything he’s got into the vocals. I’m not talking about being loud and screaming. What I mean, is the emotion and the “I’ve lived what I’m singing about here” presentation. His lyrics are sometimes sarcastic, sometimes humorous, but always the perfect compliment to the hard-edged music that thrums along. Speaking of humorous, and there are frequent examples on Powerage, Here’s one : ” Riff Raff….it’s good for a laugh….(then he adds ) “haw haw haw” in a kind of sarcastic manner. I was driving around the other day listening to this line, not having heard the song in over a decade, just laughing out loud in my truck. I’m sure other songs had me smiling stupidly as I made my way to my destination, but that’s what quality music does. It engrosses you and makes you feel good.

I know it’s a bit of nostalgia…..but more than that, it’s true talent and a special form of musical genius on display. That’s what Powerage is. It’s Hard Rock par excellence…

High Voltage (Australia) (1975)
T.N.T. (1975)
High Voltage (International) (1976)
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (1976)
Let There Be Rock (1977)
Powerage (1978)
If You Want Blood You’ve Got It (1978) (live album)
Highway to Hell (1979)
Back in Black (1980)
For Those About to Rock We Salute You (1981)
Flick of the Switch (1983)
74 Jailbreak (1984 USA) (compilation album)
Fly on the Wall (1985)
Who Made Who (1986) (soundtrack album)
Blow Up Your Video (1988)
The Razors Edge (1990)
AC/DC Live (1992) (double live album)
Ballbreaker (1995)
Stiff Upper Lip (2000)
Black Ice (2008)
Rock or Bust (2014)