Our Top 10 AC/DC Albums list takes a look at the 10 best albums in our opinion from one of the biggest rock bands of all time. For the past five decades, AC/DC have outlasted every trend that has come and gone by refusing to follow any of them and defiantly sticking to almost the same sound since their debut album High Voltage released in 1975. Although they may not be one of the most progressive or musically adventurous bands in the world, AC/DC deserve phenomenal respect for bringing us some of the most fun and most of all ROCKING music of all time.
The band have always encompassed the spirit of old style blue-collar working-class Rock n’roll. Whilst some of their material may seem a little dated in respect to the attitudes that their lyrical content puts across (particularly towards women), for the most part the band have always been synonymous with having a good time and forgetting about the bad things in the world. Put simply, there is room for everything in music: if you want music that makes a grand political statement or completely turns the rule book on its head, there are plenty of artists who do that, but look elsewhere.
The band was founded in 1973 in Sydney, Australia by brothers Angus and Malcolm Young. Sadly Malcolm Young passed away in 2017. They were fronted in their initial years by Bon Scott, who tragically died in 1980. If the band decided to disband after this, no one would blame them, as Scott was a genius lyricist and extremely charismatic performer. However, they decided that he would have probably wanted them to carry on and so enlisted vocalist Brian Johnson as his replacement. The first album that they recorded with Johnson, 1980’s Back in Black is the second biggest selling album of all time behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller, or some would argue The Eagles Greatest Hits. Nonetheless, the success of Back in Black proved they made the right decision to continue on.
The toughest question to ask when doing an AC/DC top ten list is: How exactly do you dissect the career of a band who have pretty much sounded the same for their entire fifty-year career? This is not Pink Floyd or Radiohead we are talking about here, most people would agree that any song from their most recent album could just as easily be off their first released album decades earlier. However, whilst this may be true to a certain extent, it has to be said that AC/DC have produced some material over the years which, perhaps due to their lack of progression has been a little stale sounding and not quite matched up with the best. So, let’s see what the best is…
10 – Rock or Bust
Kicking off the list is the band’s most recent album from 2014. Over the past few years, many have speculated that AC/DC’s time might be over due to the health and activities of some of the members. When guitarist Malcolm Young was diagnosed with dementia, he was forced to retire from the band. However, one thing to give AC/DC credit for is that they do not let even such tragic things knock them down and they decided to go ahead and record this album with nephew Stevie Young on rhythm guitar. The result of this determination paid off, as Rock or Bust shows that the band can step up their game this far into their career.
9 – Ballbreaker
Produced by Rick Rubin, 1995 saw AC/DC soldier on through the 90’s completely unaffected by the grunge and alternative movements. As the title would suggest, the band showed no signs of wimping out with age, which is particularly demonstrated by songs such as the title track and “Hard as a Rock.” The album saw the return of drummer Phil Rudd who had originally left after 1983’s Flick of the Switch
8 – Flick of the Switch
After 1981’s For Those About to Rock proved to be a worthy follow-up to Back in Black, this next album from 1983 kicked off what is regarded as AC/DC’s weak period. At this point, the band had seemingly become a little stale in the sense that they had been around for a while and were seen as a little old hat particularly with the developing thrash and speed metal genres coming to prominence. However, Flick of the Switch is an underrated album and contains some killer tracks such as the opening track “Rising Power.” The band produced it themselves which is likely the reason why it has a rawer sound than the previous couple of records. As previously stated, drummer Rudd left after its release.
7 – Back in Black
Yes, at the controversial spot of number seven is the band’s most famous album entitled Back in Black. I will get across my reasons for this with the rest of this list. As previously stated, this album was released in 1980 and introduced the shrieking howl of Brian Johnson into the world. As well as the title track, this album is basically a collection of all-time classic rock numbers. To name a few: “Hell”s Bells,” “Shoot to Thrill,” “You Shook me All Night Long” and “Rock n’Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution.” Bon Scott was not an easy singer to replace and the fact that Johnson succeeded in doing so proves a lot. This album is the absolute pinnacle of stadium rock.
6 – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
At number six is the third album from 1976. It was produced by Angus and Malcolm’s older brother George Young. The title track is one of the band’s most famous songs featuring some of their most saucy lyrics! On the other side of things is the track “Ride On” which for AC/DC is an uncharacteristically slow and somber number about a man who has ruined his relationship due to alcohol. All in all, a classic album of the Scott era.
5 – High Voltage (1976 International version)
This album was the band’s first internationally released record from 1976 which is an almost completely different recording to their 1975 debut of the same name that was only released in Australia. Both records only share two tracks, with the rest previously featured on 1975’s “TNT”. Although it received a partially negative critical reception upon its release, the album nonetheless features classic such as “It’s a long way to the top if you wanna Rock n’roll, ”“Live Wire” and “The Jack,” a song which they probably would not get away with today! Although this album is their third full-length release, it is generally considered to be their true debut. This does make the chronology of the band’s first few records somewhat confusing.
4 – Powerage
Up next is yet another Scott album and is without a doubt one of the singer’s best. It is considered by many to be the band’s best album (not this writer obviously), and one that is among AC/DC’s most definitive. All the musicians are at the best here. It was their fifth record released in 1978. Although this may have been released during the punk era, the popular genre was having no effect on AC/DC with their blistering hard rock still managing to cause a stir. Standout tracks include “Rock n’Roll Damnation” and “Sin City.”
3- Highway to Hell
Yet another Bon Scott album! (this writer is a fan). At number three is the final one, 1979’s Highway to Hell. It is unfortunate that it was Scott’s final work because it was their breakthrough in America. It was produced by Mutt Lange who got the best out of the band’s sound and continued to work with them for some time afterwards.
Standout Tracks include the title track and “Touch Too Much.” One track that I want to talk about in particular though is the closing track “Night Prowler.” It is my all-time favorite AC/DC song and a controversial one. It is a slow bluesy number about a serial killer stalking his victim’s at night. This led to accusations that it inspired serial killer Richard Ramirez who was said to be a fan of the band. It is a rather dark note for Scott’s time with the band to end on.
2 – Let There Be Rock
At the number two spot is the band’s fourth album from 1977. This album was crucial in saving the band’s career as they were thinking of splitting up prior to recording it. The thing that sounds best on this album is the guitar tone, which Angus has stated is his favorite out of all the group’s albums. Standout tracks include “Whole Lotta Rosie” a song about an obese Tasmanian woman who Scott had a one night with, which makes it a true Scott moment. That is not say that Johnson does a bad job of performing it, but it is just not the same when he does. Other key tracks include the title track and “Overdose.”
1 – For Those About To Rock
At number one on our top 10 AC/DC/ albums list is the album that was the band’s first No 1 in the United States. The album was released in 1981. It was the follow-up to Back in Black, it was now time for the band to truly test if they still had what it took after the previous album bought them back from the brink. They were facing some personal problems around the time of the album’s recording having sacked their manager Peter Mensch that summer. During the process they were getting tired of Mutt Lange’s perfectionist approach to things and found his constant demand for re-takes frustratingly tedious. Because of this, they never worked with him again.
So what makes it number one on this list? Because in this writer’s opinion, it is AC/DC at the peak of their glory. It is not generally considered to be their best album, but the collection of songs presented here are very strong indeed. The opening title track is one of the band’s most celebrated numbers, being to this day one of the main highlights of their live shows. Other great tracks include “Let’s Get It Up” “Inject The Venom” and “Breaking the Rules.”
AC/DC… We Salute You!
Updated June 4, 2023
Top 10 AC/DC Albums article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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