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ACDC’s Box of old tricks

As if “Black Ice” wasn’t enough, the musical juggernaut that is AC/DC has decided yet again to bless the collective musical universe with a new product. “Backtrack,” a new three-disk box set, contains some fun and delightfully odd and obscure tracks, as well as more live songs and video footage than you can shake a guitar at. Unfortunately, not even the box made to resemble a Marshall stack makes this worth the purchase for anyone but the most dedicated of AC/DC fans. 

“Studio Rarities” is the first disk in the series, and contains the kinds of gems one would have previously had to scour the Internet for – all remastered. A large portion of these tracks are standard AC/DC fare: catchy riff; simplistic, crunchy guitar solo; the works. However, a few caught my attention, most notably, “Love Song” and “Crabsody in Blue.” “Love Song” is the closest I have ever heard AC/DC come to a ballad, singing and playing softy and slowly. “Crabsody in Blue” is another interesting slow number, though the subject matter – catching crabs – indicates that this is anything but a ballad. In addition, there are several other tunes that will catch your attention – specifically if you are growing weary of the same formulaic AC/DC and wish to hear something fresh. Not to mention, the tracks feature both former singer Bon Scott and the current Brian Johnson, so fans of both camps will get a kick out of the first disk.

The second disk is titled “Live Rarities.” “Rarities” is a bit of a stretch, as only about half of these songs can be dubbed as such. Rare performances, perhaps, but “T.N.T.” and “Rock ‘n’ roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” hardly qualify as obscure. However, everything here has been digitally enhanced to make the sound as crisp as ever. New it is not, but definitely aesthetically pleasing to the ear. 

The third disk is a DVD containing over a dozen videos spanning AC/DC’s lengthy career. The first nine numbers are exclusively from the ‘90s and on, with tracks lifted from “Ballbreaker,” “Stiff Upper Lip” and the most recent “Black Ice.” Though arguably not the finest AC/DC has ever produced, a collector will get a kick out of these. 

The second part of the DVD features songs everyone and their grandmother has previously heard. “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll),” “Highway To Hell” and yes, “You Shook Me All Night Long,” are featured here. Live renditions of “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and “Highway to Hell” seem to have been thrown in at the end for good measure, as well as two making of clips for “Hard as a Rock” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Train.” Not necessary, but a nice touch for the collector. 

Overall, “Backtracks” is a decent package. There are several numbers on the first disk that alone warrant the purchase of this package … if you are a rabid fan. The addition of a concerts worth of remastered live tracks as well as videos from their not-so-glorious days was nice, but ultimately only die-hard followers will see reason in purchasing yet another AC/DC box set.

Dmitriy Gabriel can be reached at dmitriy@student.umass.edu.

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