I went out of order with my AC/DC album reviews, so I already reviewed Powerage (1978) back in June 2020. Feel free to check out that review and see how far I’ve come with my AC/DC knowledge, haha. The next album on the agenda is Highway to Hell (1979), an album that is the most nostalgic for me. Well, at least the album cover is.
My dad had Highway to Hell and Back in Black (1980) in his collection and had them lying around his coffee table. I remember the Highway to Hell album cover so vividly because I was terrified of it! Every time I saw that pic of Angus with his devil horns and big lips, and Mal giving you the death stare, I turned the other way. I avoided that album for a reason, and once I got into rock music in 2018, I’ve regretted it ever since. To think I was scared of Mal back then is pretty funny because he wasn’t a scary guy at all!
Ok, enough about that! I only knew “Highway to Hell” because almost every movie with people trying to be bada** played it (Wild Hogs and Megamind). I liked the sound of it, and Wild Hogs is one of my favorite movies, so I got into it over time. It took me about eight years to search up the song, but hey, it’s better late than never. Little did I know that “Highway to Hell” was only the beginning!
The album starts with the classic title track, and that riff sounds like it came from the devil himself. Bon Scott screams like there’s no tomorrow, and you can’t even understand a word he’s singing. But his unique voice and attitude give the track an edge. The next song, “Girls Got Rhythm,” was a game-changer for me. The fingerwork for the riff got me hooked because I’ve never heard anything like it before, and Mal plays it like a boss! Scott woos the ladies with his charm and goes on about why he can’t live without them.
“Walk All Over You” has a nice drum intro from Phil Rudd, and the verses are faster-paced, but it slows down for the chorus. The backing vocals were so good that I thought Mal and Cliff Williams were American for a second because I couldn’t hear their accents. I don’t care for “Touch Too Much” because it sounds like they are just singing the title nonstop (even though there were more words than that), and it’s just a boring mid-tempo track. “Beating Around the Bush” has a fast riff, and Rudd keeps time effortlessly. Scott’s lyrics are humorous and playful, so the audience can interpret them however they like.
I know Rudd performed “Shot Down in Flames” a few times with his band, so I think of him every time I hear it. For the longest time, I couldn’t make out the lyrics for the chorus when it was just “Shot down in flames / Shot down in flames / Ain’t it a shame / To be shot down in flames.” Rudd lays down the groove, and I am a sucker for his loose hi-hat sound. AC/DC created plenty of fun dance tracks, whether they like it or not, one of them being “Get it Hot.” It has a great melody, playful lyrics, and a steady beat. My only complaint is that it’s a bit short as it is only two and a half minutes.
“If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)” has a good build-up with the main riff and the drums before Scott screams up a storm. It is a fun headbanger, and compared to the title track, “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)” is the next best thing to feeling like a bada**! The lyrics are tongue-in-cheek, and the main riff is killer. “Love Hungry Man” is another boring mid-tempo track with a weird title, and the words don’t help much. However, it does have a subtle bass riff, Angus does a tasteful guitar solo, and I like the second half of the song better than the first half.
“Night Prowler” has a haunting feel to it, it’s very blues-oriented, and Scott’s vocals send chills down your spine. The song is known for being associated with the serial killer Richard Ramírez, who claimed it inspired him to commit his vicious killings. Nicknamed the “Night Stalker,” Ramírez gave the song a bad rep when it’s really about sneaking into your girlfriend’s bedroom window when her parents are sleeping. The controversy behind “Night Prowler” makes me like it even more.
Highway to Hell is AC/DC’s last album with Scott on vocals, as he passed away due to a heavy night of drinking on February 19, 1980. Although tragic, Scott ended his run with the band on a high note because he delivered some mad pipes on this album (despite not understanding half of what he was singing). Sadly, I couldn’t hear the bass, except on a couple of songs. I have bad ears for bass players; I’m sorry, Cliff, you know I love you, man! But overall, Highway the Hell is a brilliant record; Mutt Lange produced it, so how can I not love it? Therefore, I’d give this album 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Comment below your favorite track from AC/DC’s Highway to Hell!
Take care and see ya real soon!