AC/DC have arguably defined hard rock more than any other band since the 1970’s. Although the band has experienced its share of ups and downs with the passing of singer Bon Scott and the retirement of founding-member Malcolm Young due to health concerns, the Australian combo has been able to release countless studio, live and compilation albums. Here we will rank their 15 full-length international studio album from worst to best. This is my subjective ranking, hence, it is completely okay if you disagree. That said, what is your favourite and least favourite AC/DC album?
15. Stiff Upper Lip (2000): The turn of the century was hard on many hard n’ heavy acts, also on AC/DC. Hence, Stiff Upper Lip turned out rather ‘okay’. I can’t even name a song that makes me take off my jacket and jump into the pool for fun on this album.
14. Black Ice (2008): See my comment to Stiff upper Lip. I guess not much had changed eight years later, although Black Ice is easier to listen to than its predecessor.
13. Ballbreaker (1995): The album is said to have been influenced by a rather unharmonious collaboration between the band and producer Rick Rubin. Nevertheless, Ballbreaker turned out to be a good successor to the highly acclaimed The Razor’s Edge album. Although Ballbreaker stands at #13 in my list, it is a good album that goes down smoothly, with the title-track being the most notable song.
12. Flick of the Switch (1983): The album is characterised by a more mellow feel, which brings a welcomed variety to AC/DC’s catalogue. Notable songs are Guns For Hire, Badlands, Rising Power, and Deep in the Hole.
11. For Those About to Rock We Salute You (1981): It is always difficult to upstage a masterpiece, as was the case here with Back in Black being released the year before. Nevertheless, For Those About to Rock was able to shine with a certain kind of hard rock simplicity and great songs such as For Those About to Rock (We Salute You), Let’s Get It Up, and Spellbound.
10. High Voltage (1976): AC/DC’s first international album release encompasses hard rock classics such as It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll), The Jack, T.N.T., and She’s Got Balls and has written music history. A strong album full of energy from a young and hungry hard rock band.
9. Rock or Bust (2014): This is the first AC/DC album without founding-member and riff-master Malcolm Young, who retired the same year due to health concerns. Maybe, expectations were low, and because of that yours truly was extremely positive surprised by this record. Rock or Bust combines a phenomenal modern production that catapults its listeners back to the 70’s with clever songwriting and obviously tight playing. Among my favourite songs on the album are Play Ball, Sweet Candy, and Rock or Bust.
8. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (1976): I can’t believe that I rank this album #8, but there are so many more phenomenal AC/DC albums to rank. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap is raw and eccentric. The title-track as well as Problem Child or Big Balls are timeless classics that make this album a milestone in hard rock history.
7. Back in Black (1980): AC/DC made one of the greatest musical comebacks in history with Back in Black after the tragic passing of frontman Bon Scott. Singer Brian Johnson put his mark on the band with his charismatic voice and presence, but AC/DC still sounds like AC/DC, just more cosmopolitan. Songs such as Shoot to Thrill, You Shook Me All Night Long, and Back in Black are known to all generations across the globe and will probably live on forever. Truly immortal.
6. Let There Be Rock (1977): I remember how my jaw dropped the first time I saw the video for Let There Be Rock on TV as a kid. The band rockin’ out in a church, playing the raunchiest and most intense music I had heard to that point in time. Later on, I learned about the rest of the classics on the album, like, Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, Whole Lotta Rosie, or Dog Eat Dog. Simply wow!
5. Highway to Hell (1979): AC/DC’s last album with the great late icon Bon Scott brought us immortal hard rock anthems like Girls Got Rhythm, Touch Too Much, Shot Down in Flames, If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It), and the legendary title-track. Maybe the most adult album of the band’s Bon Scott era and definitely a masterpiece in rock history.
4. The Razors Edge (1990): Not only Bruce Fairbarn’s high-gloss production and the band’s over-the-moon songwriting make this album an instant classic, also the grown-up attitude of iconic songs like Thunderstruck, Moneytalks, Mistress for Christmas, Are Your Ready, or Got You by the Balls. Just can’t get enough of this album.
3. Fly on the Wall (1985): I learned about the Fly on the Wall album through the band’s 5-track video single of the same name. The video cassette included the songs Fly on the Wall, Danger, Sink the Pink, Stand Up, and Shake Your Foundations. The story sees AC/DC play in a bar in Brooklyn (USA), while shady characters are up for no good. The very entertaining musical short-film made me pick up the vinyl as soon as I had the necessary money and it has ever since been one of my favourite albums across all genres.
2. Powerage (1978): Although highly acclaimed by critics, I feel Powerage is still an underrated AC/DC jewel. Not only does it include the strongest and most beautiful lyrics in the band’s catalogue, its songs are timeless classics. Just stop doing what you’re doing, put on this album and listen to Sin City, Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation, Riff Raff, Gone Shootin’, Kicked in the Teeth, well… just listen to all 9 songs. This is my definition of hard rock.
1. Blow Up Your Video (1988): I will never forget the moment my friend Damir came to see me after school with a copied cassette of this album and ordered me indulge in the following sonic cloud. I was 10 and that’s when my live changed for good. The opener Heatseeker almost blew my speakers and with them my mind. The song That’s the Way I Wanna Rock ’n’ Roll instantly became my favourite song and my life’s motto. Meanstreak, Kissin’ Dynamite, Some Sin for Nuthin, as well as This Means War, all spoke to me and changed my life for good. I am aware Blow Up Your Video is not the most popular album among critics and fans, but in my book, it’s the best AC/DC album because of it’s 1980’s ‘anything goes’ attitude, the band’s authentic stand about who they are and what they want to do, and excellent songs.