AC/DC — High Voltage (review)

AC/DC — High Voltage album cover Album · 1975 · Hard Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
Celebrating my 1000th review on MMA! I began this journey with my first review of AC/DC’s classic “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” the very first album i owned that exists on this site. I haven’t done another review from this band since and figured that hadda change. So why not start with another AC/DC classic, the very first album that was released twice. Once in Australia as the debut and once again internationally only with completely different tracks.

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Ugh. How incredibly confusing are the early years of AC/DC. The 60s British Invasion of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones was notorious for having dual identities of albums that were never supposed to be experienced on the other side of the pond but that was supposed to have died out by the 70s. However the record companies didn’t agree with that consensus and more pop oriented bands like The Sweet continued this trend into the 70s and the same happened to Australia’s AC/DC when they went international. The confusion in the case of AC/DC emerges from the fact that they released two albums respectively titled HIGH VOLTAGE and “TNT” in their native Australia, both in 1975. The problem emerges when considering the the band’s international debut which came out the following year in 1976 was ALSO titled HIGH VOLTAGE, however that edition was in reality a compilation album that contained tracks from both of the two Australian only releases.

AC/DC stood out from the crowd even from the beginning. While Australian, Angus and Malcolm Young were actually born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland but due to a massive freeze in 1963 ended up immigrating with their large family to the land Down Under. After going through the motions of warm up bands, the brothers (which originally also consisted of George) formed AC/DC in 1973 and went through many lineup changes before the classic band of Bon Scott joined in 74 in time to record their first album. At this stage, AC/DC was much more of a glam rock band although Angus Young already donned his signature school boy run amok look. What was lost on subsequent albums was the fact that Bon Scott too dressed in an alter ego but in his case a school girl complete with pig-tail adorned wig and a lovely dress to match!

The band released the Australian version of HIGH VOLTAGE early on in February 1975 and found almost instant success in their Sydney based homeland. This album stands out from the rest including the second album “TNT.” First of all, while Bon Scott was already at the helm on vocals and Angus and Malcom Young shared guitar and bass duties, the album includes different tracks that were recorded when George Young (bass, guitar, drums), Rob Bailey (bass), Tony Currenti (drums), Peter Clack (drums) and John Proud (drums) were still in the band, therefore creating a rather stilted debut album with a mishmash of performers on board. Despite the glam look and rather unstable lineup situation, AC/DC had pretty much developed their bad boy boogie-woogie swagger that implemented heavy blues rock riffing augmented by Bon Scott’s idiosyncratic vocal style.

While most fans in the world have most likely only heard the international version of HIGH VOLTAGE, since it’s by far the best known of the two, this homegrown first version still exists and has been reissued multiple times in Australia. The differences between the two include the fact that the international version was basically the second album “TNT” minus the Chuck Berry cover “School Days” and the track “Rocker” which would make it onto the international version of “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.” This Australian version only shares the two tracks “She’s Got Balls” and “Little Lover” with the international release. The rest of the tracks consist of the same hard bluesy rock that the following albums display only at this point, the band are a little less feisty and more emphasis is on the blues rather than the hard rock.

While the tracks are as catchy as ever, they don’t quite have the same ballsy bravado and would remain Australian artifacts for several decades before the majority of the tracks would finally make it onto the compilation release “74 Jailbreak.” This is probably the least essential of the Bon Scott era albums. Not only is it a bit harder to obtain since the YouTube videos are even blocked to most of the world but it is the least compelling of the band’s early albums as everything hadn’t quite gelled into place yet. The AC/DC that would climax into 1979’s “Highway To Hell” wouldn’t quite come into play until “TNT” hit the market at the end of 1975. Still through, if you are a hardcore AC/DC fan, this one is well worth the time.
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Vim Fuego wrote:
11 days ago
Up until the late 80s New Zealand had it's own branches for a lot of record labels. You'll often see NZ imprints of things selling for stupid money on Discogs. Since that time though, yes, very similar to Oz. Bands will add a NZ date or two to their Australian tours, if we're lucky. We didn't have the record bans on things like Pungent Stench in the early 90s, because our censorship laws are a bit different though.
siLLy puPPy wrote:
12 days ago
Yeah, they shoulda just released both albums instead of a new one. Silly record companies. NZ is basically Australia, right? You probably get all the same marketing and such.
UMUR wrote:
12 days ago
I love this one...in both versions :-)
Vim Fuego wrote:
12 days ago
Being a Kiwi, we got the Aussie versions too. I really wish they hadn't fucked with the track listings. The originals were much better.

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