High Voltage


Atco Records, 1976


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


People always treat High Voltage, the 1976 release from Australian rockers AC/DC, as their debut release. So many people seem shocked when I break the news to them: this is only their American debut.

A compilation of two earlier Australian albums (including one by the same name), Bon Scott and crew plow through nine tracks that show they're well on their way to becoming hard rock legends - but they weren't there yet.

First, a word about the remastered version of this disc, which was released a few years ago: It's about time. For so many years, I grew up thinking the version of "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'N' Roll)" I knew of was normal, but it wasn't until I heard the version on T.N.T. (one of the two Australian albums) that I discovered part of the final chorus had been chopped. It sounds so much more natural with the extended chorus, and it's thankfully restored on this disc.

In effect, AC/DC - vocalist Scott, lead guitarist Angus Young, rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, bassist Mark Evans and drummer Phil Rudd - can do no wrong for two-thirds of this album. This disc just oozes with classics such as "Live Wire," "Can I Sit Next To You Girl," "T.N.T." and "The Jack," some of which have become standards in AC/DC's live shows. (The version of "Can I Sit Next To You Girl" with Scott as vocalist easily blows away the original, recorded when Dave Evans fronted the band.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Admittedly, this is not a polished act that you hear on High Voltage - but what they lacked in studio shine they more than made up for in musical attitude. Who else would have dared to use bagpipes - bagpipes?!? - in an area normally reserved for the guitar solo? Who else but Scott could have launched into a Sex Pistols-like diatribe in the bridge of "Rock 'N' Roll Singer"? Even Angus Young's guitar solos showed he was still growing into his role as a future rock god, but there was more than enough bite to make even these tracks sweat.

So where is the problem? Two tracks on this disc - "Little Lover" and "She's Got Balls" - almost prove to be its undoing. "Little Lover" is a lazy, plodding number that fails to go anywhere, and would have better been left as an outtake to release on something like '74 Jailbreak. (Why didn't they include "Stick Around" from the Australian pressing of High Voltage?) Then again, they could have thrown on "Love Song" - proving the cure sometimes is worse than the disease.

As for "She's Got Balls" - well, this track just fails to materialize into anything special. There is a live version the band did around '77 (this might be the one on Bonfire - I haven't gotten that far into the box set yet) that kicks the studio version's ass, showing the band had grown into the song. It just hasn't happened yet on the studio version.

As for the title track, if you accept it at face value, it's a decent enough rock song. But if you know AC/DC's two Australian albums, you'll know the song doesn't end where it fades out - and I again wonder why no one bothered to let things proceed as they did on T.N.T. and allow the band to segue into their cover of Chuck Berry's "School Days". (One of these days, I'm gonna review T.N.T. on this site - that is, unless Alfredo beats me to it first.)

High Voltage is an interesting first American step for a band who was wowing the other shores before we got wind of 'em. And while this picture has a few rips in the corners, it's still a fun one to go back and listen to from time to time.

Rating: B-

User Rating: B+



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