Undisputedly one of the finest rock ‘n’ roll bands of all time, AC/DC have amassed a cannon of work that could easily power up a small country and its neighbors. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, ‘Acca Dacca’ have always stayed true to their rock ‘n’ roll roots, refusing to give in to fads or trends. An AC/DC ballad is as rare as humans walking on water, and while humans are roughly 60% water, we can safely say Angus Young and the boys are 100% pedigree rock ‘n’ roll.
From the bluesy, high-voltage solos to their army of crunching, classic rock guitar riffs, and more double entendres than you can shake a leg at, nobody has ever been able to replicate their signature meat and potatoes hard rock sound.
They’ve risen from tragedy to triumph and forged a legacy that continues to connect them with a diverse range of generations. AC/DC are loved and revered wherever they rock, so it’s only fair we took on the seemingly impossible task of compiling a list of the 10 best AC/DC albums. Cut this.
10. Stiff Upper Lip (2000)
With its clean and modern production, Acca Dacca entered the 21st century in style with the bluesy and toe-tapping Stiff Upper Lip. Those who say the boys lost their groove with Brian only need to listen to “Can’t Stand Still” – simple, straight-ahead rock at its best.
Things get hotter with “Meltdown,” which oozes with rich, velvety blues licks and gives you cravings for one of USA’s famous grilled cheese sandwiches. “Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll” is the band’s unofficial motto (or anthem) – the playing is watertight and rocks to 11.
My personal favorite “Satellite Blues” talks about the frustration of watching adult entertainment and the picture being interrupted by a bad signal. Thankfully, the band provide their own stash of rock ‘n’ roll fodder with a song that sums up everything great about them in under four minutes. From Cliff’s bass kicking in on the second verse to the X-rated guitar riff, this is total rock ecstasy.
9. Fly on the Wall (1985)
Two years after Flick of The Switch, AC/DC was back in business with Fly on the Wall. There are some killer moments on this self-produced LP that don’t get the credit they deserve, especially when it comes to the guitar sounds.
Just prick your ears to “Sink The Pink” (ideally with headphones), and you will see how in sync the Young brothers are. Infectious chorus, incredibly sleazy (clue, it’s not about snooker), and a smoking solo to boot, the lads sure know how to show you a good time.
The big drum sound and fretboard fury of “Hell or High Water” is enough to drown out the most perilous of circumstances, while Brian is at his brilliant best on “Shake Your Foundations.” Raucous, unstoppable, and guaranteed to get the blood pumping, blast as loud as you can, and feel the surrounding walls shudder.
The power chords in “Back in Business” illustrated Malcolm’s reputation as one of the world’s supreme rhythm players. Notable for its opening, dynamite riff, it’s another underrated gem in the DC back catalog.
8. The Razors Edge (1990)
Prime DC may have been and gone, but they came out firing (their guns) on all cylinders at the start of the 1990s with The Razors Edge. Renowned for its electrifying opener “Thunderstruck,” the album was produced by Bruce Fairbairn and is the only one to feature the fast-playing style of bald-headed beat keeper Chris Slade.
Slade brings a whole new level of energy and hi-hat speed to the relentless tempo of “Fire Your Guns,” while the LP’s second biggest hit “Moneytalks” is catchy and instantly addictive. “Are You Ready” has one of the band’s best hook lines and would be a great alternative to this album’s highlight (Thunderstruck) for getting the crowd pumped.
We can’t finish this album without referencing “Thunderstruck” once more. A popular choice as a walk-up song for baseball players, it starts with a slow, building intro and tricky legato fretwork before erupting into a scintillating riff amid deafening chants of ‘Thunder.’
7. High Voltage (1976)
DC’s first international album, High Voltage, gave us our first detonation of the lean and mean formula we’ve come to know and love. An album that has stood the test of time, it brims with teen male angst, Scott’s inimitable snarl, and the undeniable guitar brilliance of a then 20-year-old Angus.
The inspired inclusion of the bagpipes (another string to Bon’s bow) alongside the classic rock brawn in “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)” is ingenious, epic, and, above all, uplifting. Bon’s lyrical mastery and no-bullshit dreams are penned throughout “Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer,” and he lived up to them, becoming a rock ‘n’ roll star and legendary frontman.
Spewing with innuendos and filthy blues licks, “The Jack” is a clever tune about girls who have been ‘shuffled before,’ disguised as an innocent game of cards. Scott’s drawling delivery is so seedy you feel you could contract something quite horrid if you listen too closely.
Oi, oi, oi, oi, how could I forget about “T.N.T?” An abrasive discharge of explosive guitar work, aggressive attitude, and exuberant gang vocals, it’s an even greater phenomenal bomb of energy at live shows.
6. For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) (1981)
The follow-up to Back in Black was always on a hiding to nothing, but For Those About to Rock stood firm with its massive guitar walls, cannon blasts, and colossal bass-and-drums barrage. It’s almost like the band is under siege at the Alamo, but in a refusal to surrender, they come out firing. None so more than on the gladiatorial title track with its gargantuan riff, headbanging outro chorus, and 21-gun salute, making it the band’s loudest and most explosive anthem.
“I Put The Finger On You” and the almost funky “Let’s Get It Up” (‘the moon is rising, and so am I’) gave a glimpse into their testosterone-fueled world, as well as marking DC as kings of the double entendre.
Rudd’s powerful drum fills are all over “Inject The Venom” and “C.O.D.,” while rousing singalong “Night of the Long Knives” has an irresistible riff that any band would kill for.
5. Flick of the Switch (1983)
DC went back to basics in 1983 with a quick Flick of the Switch. Arguably AC/DC’s most underrated album, it’s the hardest-hitting and purest sounding of the Johnson era. Johnson himself is in smoking-hot form, belching out like a pyromaniac over some of the band’s most monstrous riffs, no more so than on the raging blaze of “This House Is on Fire.”
There’s the primal riot of “Bedlam in Belgium,” while “Guns For Hire” is ammo for ripping through the speakers, with Angus delivering one of his most frenetic solos.
“Nervous Shakedown” is criminally overlooked as a standout DC track. Boasting one of the best rhythms the band ever wrote, it’s a real ‘judder’naut with some incredible tempo changes and sublime guitar work.
4. Let There Be Rock (1977)
Named by Angus Young as AC/DC’s defining record, there’s no doubting Let There Be Rock is the band’s first truly great long player. Cackling you into submission with heavy distortion and amps that sound like they are being pushed to the limit, it also spawned two of their most famous “hits.”
The ferocious title track spanning just over six minutes is as close as you’ll get to pure rock ‘n’ roll running through your veins. Bon preaches sound, light, drums, and guitar over a groove that assaults with every decibel.
Closing track “Whole Lotta Rosie” added the fun factor and ‘fourt’two thirt’ninefiftysix’ of beauty to a song written about a ‘larger lady’ with whom Bon had sexual encounters. While the song became instantly recognizable for Angus’s stunning six-string strut, Rudd’s impeccable timing also deserves a whole lotta applause.
Aside from these two mammoth anthems, fans were also treated to a heavenly power chord riff (da da da dadadada dah dah) on “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place To Be.” “Dog Eat Dog” delivers bluesy bark and bite, while the brutal shuffle, sleaze, and swagger of “Go Down” set the tempo for the rest of this cracking album.
3. Highway To Hell (1979)
The last album to feature the bare-chested swagger of frontman Bon Scott, Highway To Hell is the satanic rock ‘n’ roll 7x Platinum record that elevated DC from pub crawlers to stadium rockers. Inspired by the arduous, grueling nature of life on the road, it’s also the first LP where the band employed the talents of legendary producer Robert “Mutt” Lange.
Adding polish to their grimy boogie and a commercial edge to this contagious collection of songs that celebrate drinking, sex, and rambunctious behavior, his presence is most felt on the down-and-dirty “Touch Too Much” (the closest you’ll get to an AC/DC ballad).
The hard-driving, tongue-in-cheek “Girls Got Rhythm” is proof that Rudd’s backbeat was essential to the sound, while Malcolm Young’s bulldozing rhythm playing (especially at the beginning) on “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It) is so mean, there ought to be a law.
Ironically, unnerving closer “Night Prowler,” with Bon’s ominous lyrics and evil-sounding guitar, would come back to haunt the band as serial killer Richard Ramirez aka ‘The Night Stalker’ claimed the song inspired his crime spree. Of course, Bon still manages to bring a touch of humor to the dark atmosphere and creepy blues rhythm with the final line, ‘shazbot, nanu, nanu,’ famously used by Robin Williams as an alien greeting in the television show Mork & Mindy.
Dare I ask, has there been a more iconic opening to a classic rock song than the most simple yet punchy of guitar riffs that revs up the title track? The title may be a reference point for the band struggling with the excessive demands of touring, but they were fast moving lanes, soon heading on the road to glory.
2. Back in Black (1980)
Many will feel I’ve lost my mind only awarding this tour de force a silver medal. The first record after Bon’s untimely death, Back in Black is arguably the most spectacular musical comeback of all time, with estimated sales of 50 million copies worldwide vindicating this. Unsurprisingly it’s AC/DC’s best-selling album, with the all-black cover a “sign of mourning” for Bon.
Likable Geordie Brian Johnson stepped up to the mic with aplomb, delivering his screeching wail and distinctive Tyneside baritone, comparable to a ten-ton truck running over his foot. As for the album, the title cut needs no introduction, with its immortal riff and glorious defiance (‘Forget the hearse ’cause I’ll never die’).
Tolling opener “Hells Bells” sends shivers down the spine like rolling thunder and pouring rain. You know you’re in for a brooding masterpiece when the drums kick in after the foreboding guitar work.
“Shoot to Thrill” is delirious, foot-to-the-floor ammunition, with Angus pulling the trigger on the exhilarating outro. Unsurprisingly, it became an instant fan favorite, thrilling live audiences for over 40 years.
“You Shook Me All Night Long” is one of those Acca Dacca classics that brings everyone together on the dance floor, while “Have a Drink on Me” raises a toast to Bon and will have you quenching for the top-shelf liquor in no time. Culminating with the all-conquering, kickass jam of “Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution,” you know it makes good, good sense.
Simply put, this is one of the greatest rock records of all time, and can rightly feel aggrieved that I’ve not placed it at numero uno.
What is the best AC/DC album?
1. Powerage (1978)
The purists’ album. Powerage encapsulates the sound of working-class, sweaty, pub brawl rock ‘n’ roll – the very DNA of DC. So bluesy, so raw, so in-your-face yet down to earth, it’s also where Bon Scott took his rock ‘n’ roll poetry to Shakespearean heights. Cliff Williams joined the ranks (replacing Mark Evans), and suddenly, the groove became tighter, the sound grittier, and the songwriting more nuanced.
Opener “Rock ‘n’ Roll Damnation” has swing, punch, cojones, and a driving blues-rock riff that comes at you hard and heavy from the off. “Down Payment Blues” touches the nerves of our demons as Bon tells a hardship of personal woe (‘I’ve got holes in my shoes and I’m way overdue’). Built around one of the Young brothers’ most simplistic yet cathartic riffs, it leads to a blistering Angus Young solo that squeals with emotion.
The thudding rejection of “Gimme a Bullet” gives you plenty to bite on (and something to chew), while “Riff Raff” is as electrifying as rock ‘n’ roll entrances come. Angus’s largely unaccompanied guitar creates a mood of tension and anticipation before exploding into a fireball of energy.
Bon has his Lamborghini and caviar moment in “Sin City,” where he etches his name up in Vegas lights by striking lyrical gold. Singing with menace and spite, he laughs at life’s cruelly stacked odds (cut that pack, and roll those loaded dice, bring on the dancing girls, and put the champagne on ice’). The evil, crashing riff, and another insane Angus solo raise the stakes further, as I quickly get that burning feeling deep inside of me.
“Gone Shootin” has the very essence of the blues staring down the barrel and a compulsive groove that just won’t quit. Ending with the mighty bellow and boogie of “Up To My Neck In You,” this is a band at the peak of its powers. Rock ‘n’ roll has never sounded in better spirit.
So there we have it. Blues Rock Review’s top 10 AC/DC albums list. Have I unwittingly carried out my own dirty deed by omitting their third studio album from this list? Do I need to catch the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Train” back to 2008 and pay another listen to Black Ice?
Whether you think our selections deliver the money shot or should be shot down in flames, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.