In May, 1978 ACDC released their 4th proper studio album Powerage. It is somewhat both overlooked and definitely overshadowed by the following 2 albums proper Highway To Hell and Back In Black. With this said, Powerage really is the band truly finding their feet and sound. No real stand out career songs but the whole is better than the sum of its parts for sure.
Arguably Bon Scott at his best with Angus Young finding real style backed by that pure rock n’ roll bluesy hard rock sound. A formula so simple – yet so hard to actually pull off. Rock n’ Roll Damnation cuts the cloth of Powerage with in your face dark style. Down Payment Blues is packed with great lines “doin’ nothin’ means a lot to me”. Rich visual words and teasing riffs offering signals of explosion at any given point.
Gimme A Bullet has echoes of earlier ACDC yet Bon Scotts delivery takes the track further than it really merits. The 12 bar mutated blues of Riff Raff has the jangle that harks back to Chuck Berry and influentially that trash heavy rock lingering guitar phases that would rise to huge success with band like Guns N Roses a whole decade later.
Sin City shows the real sound ACDC would use as a blueprint for the rest of their career. Towering rising and falling riffs pushed aside by fuelled guitar solos of guise and style. The mood of What’s Next To The Moon is evocative throughout. Lyrically painting a rock n’ roll picture throughout coloured in with a clattering jam and quite wonderful guitar runs.
The little steps of the more controlled Gone Shootin’ is a blueprint for Rock & Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution yet with a far, far better singer. Listen to it and one can almost see Angus taking them little staggered steps as his guitar bleeds pure rock n’ roll.
Up To My Neck In You is classic Bon Scott. Those twisted love song lyrics delivered with a nearer bar brawl almost Punk style echoing the fast changing music scenes in the late 70’s. Kicked In The Teeth closes the album with little shadows of a riff drunk Led Zeppelin. Racking up speed throughout with that perfectly tracking bass and off shooting guitar threatening to take off and actually doing so at the exact point it needs to.
Some editions of Powerage contained ACDC’s real lost classic Cold Hearted Man yet most editions do not have the track included. I’m not totally sure why yet in truth the album is not really any weaker for its omission and it’s highly worth tracking down on the Iron Man 2 soundtrack and expanded editions.
Powerage isn’t exactly a lost classic album as it has sold over a million copies – albeit over a very long period of time. What it really does retrospectively is catch ACDC at their real take off point and for that alone it’s an incredible record…