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Highway to Hell

Atlantic 19244
Released: August 1979
Chart Peak: #17
Weeks Charted: 83
Certified Gold: 12/6/79

AC-DCJust as a tiger can't change its stripes, this veteran Australian band can't change the style it has been playing since its inception. High energy, lowbrow heavy metal is what this quintet plays and it is played well. Outside of two blues flavored tunes each cut is uptempo in a Foghat/Foreigner vein. Without the visual stage antics of guitarist Angus Young, however, the pulverizing instrumentation and sameness of subject matter (girls) gets to be wearing. Best cuts: "If You Want Blood (You've Got It)," "Walk All Over You," "Night Prowler," "Highway To Hell."

- Billboard, 1979.

Bonus Reviews!

This is a classic of hard rock/heavy metal noise-grunge-skronk-pillage-and-burn. Earlier AC/DC albums had great riffs and killer chords, but Highway to Hell proved the boys could write too. Not a clinker on this thudfest, and songs like "Highway to Hell" and "Girls Got Rhythm" have appropriately become rock staples. * * * * *

- Tom Graves, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

AC-DC - Highway to Hell
Original album ad art.
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This smoking album with the most prophetic title ever marked the last time the world would hear devilishly excellent founding lead singer Bon Scott's terrorizing yowl. The Brothers Young knocked out fast blues riffs and made schoolboy rock with blasting simplicity; crank it up in traffic to beat road rage 'cause this foray into mayhem kicks ass in the classic sense. * * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

Upon being promoted from the band's driver to its lead singer, Bon Scott immediately came up with his singular formula for recording vocals. He downed half a bottle of bourbon, chased it with some weed and a fat rail of blow, and proclaimed, "I'm ready." Then he got the take. Scott was a force of nature, and by AC/DC's fourth studio album, he and guitarist Angus Young had become an explosive one-two punch. "You'd need several volumes of Britannica," Young noted, "just to chronicle what Bon got up to in one day." Inevitably, Scott's wicked ways caught up with him, and he was dead six months after Highway's release.

Highway to Hell was chosen as the 199th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.

- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.

The riff to the opener and title track of Highway To Hell is perhaps the best in rock and roll, topped only by the opener and title track to the band's later work, Back In Black. AC/DC's sixth studio set, Highway To Hell was the first AC/DC album to be produced by Mutt Lange and the last to feature frontman/wildman, Bon Scott. By far their most popular album at the time of its release, Highway To Hell expanded AC/DC's audience considerably.

Further reading on
Super Seventies RockSite!:

Album Review: Back In Black

Album Review: Rock or Bust

DVD Review:
Let There Be Rock


AC/DC Lyrics

AC/DC Videos

Angus Young Mugshots

Bon Scott's premature death in London in February 1980, some six months after the record's release, was all the more poignant since the album scored the success in the US the band had long been seeking. It opened the door for the expatriate Scottish rockers to make the leap from club gigs in their adopted Australia, and later in the UK, to the big time in the US. The music is typically uncompromsing AC/DC material; hard rock songs such as "Touch Too Much," "Get It Hot," "Love Hungry Man" and of course the stunning title track, leave few if any doubt that here was a band who relished having a good time. The album's success in the UK -- a Number Eight placing -- was less surprising than its Number 17 in the US. The success of Highway To Hell paved the way for the multi-million selling comeback album Back In Black a year later -- and still one of the US' biggest selling records of all time -- and a 1981 release in the US for the 1976-recorded Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.

As of 2004, Highway To Hell was the #27 best-selling album of the 70s.

- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.

Whilst AC/DC's music could be criticized for its technical simplicity, to this day they remain one of the most influential groups in rock 'n' roll. Their rough, ballsy style epitomizes the very essence of rock. Combined with blues influenced chord structures and a perfect balance of power and restraint in equal measures, few heavy rock fans can resist their basic, working-class appeal. Based around the strong guitar riffs of brothers Malcolm and Angus Young (the man who earned the respect of the metal fraternity worldwide wearing a school uniform and tie on stage), simplistic drum rhythms, and the tough vocal styling of Bon Scott, AC/DC's music is infectious.

Although the band had moderate success through the Seventies, Highway To Hell is heralded as their "breakthrough." Recorded at Roadhouse Studios in London, producer "Mutt" Lange manages to control their brute force with eloquence. Highway To Hell, whilst being their first release to achieve platinum status also became Scott's swansong following his death in 1980.

Living up to its title, the album serves as a celebration of sin (Angus even sports devil horns and a tail on the cover art). Lyrically it is an ode to sex, songs such as "Girl's Got Rhythm" and "Touch Too Much" being particularly frank about the topic. However the title track and "If You Want Blood" move slightly off the subject. Similarly, "Walk All Over" and "Night Prowler" ease the pace slightly, providing an element of space within the ten tracks. It is not often that every track on an album could stand up as a single, but AC/DC have come pretty close to it on Highway To Hell.

- Claire Stuchbery, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

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