Tidal Catalog #33: AC/DC

Introduction: For those of you that have stumbled across this website and are interested in reading about my trek through the universe of the Tidal streaming service, let me tell you a bit about what I did. Back in 2016 I thought it would be kind of cool to listen to an artist’s catalog from start to finish and rank them from best to worst. After all, who doesn’t like a good list? I thought I might do a few of them and see what happened, hoping it would introduce me to records that were foreign to me in the arsenal of an artist I was familiar with. I also thought that it would be pretty cool to get out of the “one off” mode of listening to a new record, years after the previous one, in order to get a true sense of how the artist matured over time. Fast forward to June of 2019 and 250 catalogs later, I ended the trek. I posted these all on Facebook over the years as they were completed but I’m going to move them all over here, starting with #1, in order to expand them out a bit more. Facebook doesn’t exactly allow for too many details.

As with all my catalogs, to be considered in the ranking, an album has to meet certain criteria:

  • The artist must actually perform on 80% of the tracks (soundtrack and rap provision)
  • No compilations of previous released material will be included.
  • However, compilations of previously recorded material will be included if they are remixes, bonus tracks, outtakes… mostly music that hasn’t been part of a main release before.
  • The album must have been released officially and within the realm of the label that the artist would have been on at the time or official releases posthumously (normally applies to a slew of live records)
  • Any EPs must contain new new music and be relevant to the catalog, not be more like a single with a b-side or two.

Entrance Point: My introduction to AC/DC was Back in Black and as an 80s collector, I had heard all the 80s material and through The Razor’s Edge in 1990. At some point I went backwards and heard Dirty Deeds and Highway to Hell.

Not Included: Who Made Who – the soundtrack is comprised of mostly previously recorded hits, so it doesn’t contain enough new material.

All albums ranked on a 10 point scale:

  • Back in Black (10)

Back in fucking Black man. How could this record be anything but a perfect 10? It’s a masterpiece of rock music and even if you think every AC/DC record sounds exactly the same from this point out, this is at least one of the records you should go back to if you want to listen to the band. Really, what I focus on when I think about this record is that it was the first with Brian Johnson after Bon Scott died. You never know what’s going to happen when you replace a singer, especially one as unique as Bon Scott and yet here’s Brian Johnson, stepping into big shoes, presented with some of the best rock music ever written and knocking it out of the park on the first try. He joined the band at the peak of their creativity and really, became an instant legend. And of course this is a Mutt Lange produced record and Lange demanded perfection. It’s why his records still hold up 40(!) fucking years after their release. If you don’t know any songs from this record, please – and I don’t mean to be an asshole – but please, exit this post.

  • Highway To Hell (9.5)

Highway to Hell was also a Mutt Lange produced record and the last with Bon Scott on vocals. And whomever said AC/DC didn’t know how to properly open an album, were crazy. Wait – no one said that? My bad. Jeez – I mean, “Hells Bells” from Black in Black and the title track from this record simply hit you over the head at the start and the energy never lets up from there. I think the only reason the latter gets the top spot over this is that the flip side of this record isn’t as memorable but it’s certainly one of the top 1-2 punches in the history of rock n’ roll. In reality, it’s not all that different from Back in Black in the end. Super polished, note-for-note perfection and hooks for days. And since Brian Johnson’s voice has a similar tone to Bon Scott, they certainly flow like companion pieces.

  • Flick of the Switch (9.5)

The only reason I even bothered to stop at this one and say anything is because the vast majority of critics have shit on this record and I have to disagree with them. AC/DC put out For Those About to Rock, after Back in Black and that was the sound of a band that seemed to be tired and rundown. Flick of the Switch was the follow up to that record, in 1983 and marked the beginning of a long period where critics gave them hell. I’m sure I bought into that, because going into this catalog I even wondered if I could rank these records as they would all sound the same. Well, they don’t but yeah, this one in particular kind of does. Flick of the Switch was the first one of the last four, not produced by Mutt Lange. The band said they wanted to get back to the rawness of earlier albums. They failed at that. AC/DC created an album that was slightly looser and not quite as perfect as the Mutt Lange productions but sonically it was pretty much the same. But the critical opinion is that the songs were dull and I find them anything but that. This album is a rockin’ good time from start to finish, even if you’ve heard it all before.

  • The Razor’s Edge (9)

Admittedly the two albums to close out the 80s were somewhat dull compared to the ones above and at this point it was pretty easy to wonder if they’d ever release another great record. But then 1990 rolls around and not only do the boys put out a great record but it actually – gasp – sounds kind of different from their regular three riffs. Again, they start the record with the massive “Thunderstruck” but there’s also “Moneytalks” which while still clearly being an AC/DC song, had a bit more of a pop chorus and sounded different from anything else they’d ever made. Not that different but different enough. And while “Mistress of Christmas” is kind of a dud, it’s made up for with great rockers like the title cut and “Got You By the Balls.” Without The Razor’s Edge, I don’t know that AC/DC would still be around today. This album clearly got their career back on track and frankly, they can release music forever if they wanted to now.

  • High Voltage (9)
  • Let There Be Rock (8)
  • Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (7.5)

The last album I want to talk about here is Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. It was recorded in 1976 but didn’t get released here in the US until 1981 after Bon Scott died. When the Young brothers stated that they wanted to get back to the rawness of their earlier sound when they recorded Flick of the Switch, you can certainly point to this record as a reference point for that. The record definitely doesn’t have that slick studio sound or impeccable playing style that Mutt Lange required. It feels like an album where a bunch of dudes just went into a studio and started recording. After all, how else does “Big Balls” end up on any record otherwise? With their 70s records, the blues-rock influence was more prominent than on anything from the 80s forward, which you can hear on a track like “Rocker” or “There’s Gonna Be Some Rockin’.” In the US the track listing was pretty different on the ’81 version from the original UK version and with it, there was a lack of flow that wasn’t an issue on the original. And since it was released after Back in Black but didn’t represent the production values the band had at that point, it really wasn’t much of a hit. The title track will get played forever and “Problem Child” is pretty awesome (false ending notwithstanding). Overall, the album is decent enough but the original form is better than the US version (which is what I based this off of) and it’s too bluesy for my tastes.

  • Rock or Bust (7)
  • Blow Up Your Video (7)
  • ’74 Jailbreak (7)
  • For Those About To Rock We Salute You (6.5)
  • Powerage (6.5)
  • Backtracks (6.5)
  • If You Want Blood You Got It (6)
  • Stiff Upper Lip (6)
  • Live at River Plate (6)
  • Black Ice (5.5)
  • Ballbreaker (5.5)
  • Bonfire (5)
  • AC/DC Live (5)
  • Fly on the Wall (4)

Summary: 21 albums, average 7.0

Tidal Catalog #32: Marilyn Manson

Introduction: For those of you that have stumbled across this website and are interested in reading about my trek through the universe of the Tidal streaming service, let me tell you a bit about what I did. Back in 2016 I thought it would be kind of cool to listen to an artist’s catalog from start to finish and rank them from best to worst. After all, who doesn’t like a good list? I thought I might do a few of them and see what happened, hoping it would introduce me to records that were foreign to me in the arsenal of an artist I was familiar with. I also thought that it would be pretty cool to get out of the “one off” mode of listening to a new record, years after the previous one, in order to get a true sense of how the artist matured over time. Fast forward to June of 2019 and 250 catalogs later, I ended the trek. I posted these all on Facebook over the years as they were completed but I’m going to move them all over here, starting with #1, in order to expand them out a bit more. Facebook doesn’t exactly allow for too many details.

As with all my catalogs, to be considered in the ranking, an album has to meet certain criteria:

  • The artist must actually perform on 80% of the tracks (soundtrack and rap provision)
  • No compilations of previous released material will be included.
  • However, compilations of previously recorded material will be included if they are remixes, bonus tracks, outtakes… mostly music that hasn’t been part of a main release before.
  • The album must have been released officially and within the realm of the label that the artist would have been on at the time or official releases posthumously (normally applies to a slew of live records)
  • Any EPs must contain new new music and be relevant to the catalog, not be more like a single with a b-side or two.

Entrance Point: Everything. I am a fan, I had listened to everything and I did this pretty short catalog simply because I was in the mood for some rock that I was familiar with at the time.

All albums ranked on a 10 point scale:

  • The Pale Emperor (9.5)

If you scroll down and look at my ranking real quick, you’ll see Marilyn Manson’s last three albums at the top of my list. I’ve always been a fan, never because of his controversy but always because he made music that didn’t sound like anyone else but I started really thinking he made great records when he stopped trying so hard to be controversial and simply wrote great songs. But notice the first two records here as the music was written by guitarist Tyler Bates, who was then a member of Manson’s band. After the band stopped having real hits and radio play for their songs, the music got a bit mellower and darker. No longer was it just straight loud industrial rock with a built in shock factor. There are hard rockers for sure but the vast majority of his tunes are dark, slow and heavy but his voice also works well with acoustic tracks, like the three you get on the deluxe version of this record. For every song that sounds like a classic version of the band (“Slave Only Dreams to Be King”) there’s three that sound much darker (“Killing Strangers”, “Warship My Wreck” “Cupid Carries a Gun”). And now both sounds really interest me but more so, the new updated, slower version. These are well crafted songs, even if some of Manson’s wordplay is a bit silly in the end. The band has had the same general feel for the last four or so records now and Bates only contributed to two of them but it’s a partnership that I wish Manson would get back to, as the two of them together make the band sound better than ever.

  • Heaven Upside Down (9)

Now of course above I say that I like the darker side of Manson more now and then he goes ahead and creates a pretty rockin’ record with Bates writing the music again. I was hesitant at first, solely based on the title of the first single, “We Know Where You Fucking Live,” which sounds cheesy on its own. But the track is catchy as hell and contains what I think is one of Manson’s best lines in “What’s a nice place like this doing around people like us?” The almost NIN atmosphere of “Say10” is really intriguing and for some reason, my mind is so clouded by how good this record is, that I almost completely forgive him for his pseudo-rapping on “Tattooed In Reverse,” (but I did take off a little for it). But other than being louder than The Pale Emperor, it’s got a similar vibe to the previous album thanks to the band remaining the same, so there’s very little not to like about this disc, including the eight-minute trippy “Saturnalia.”

  • Born Villain (9)
  • Antichrist Superstar (8.5)

So here’s where I go back to the hit period of his career and looking back, it’s still pretty amazing to me that a band like Marilyn Manson had hits of any sorts. But the MTV generation made stars out of so many artists that would never be known if they started out now. And while I said above that I really like their newer, darker music, that doesn’t mean that this early industrial rock side isn’t great either. I loved the band’s earliest records as well but they aren’t quite as consistent from start to finish as the later albums and at 16 tracks long, inconsistencies are bound to happen. The drawback to this record is just that, it’s looooooong…. but is had the great single “The Beautiful People” on it and blistering tracks like “Irresponsible Hate Anthem” and “Dried Up, Tied and Dead to the World” plus one of my favorite non-singles of the band, “Angel with the Scabbed Wings,” but back here in 1996, I don’t think anything but the rock tracks worked. Darker tunes like the title track and “Minute of Decay” don’t have the same impact on my as the same type of track on the newer records. In the end though, I ate this up when it was released and I still play “The Beautiful People” in bars now and again and scare the shit out of women and children everywhere.

  • Mechanical Animals (8)

Love the record or hate the record, Mechanical Animals is without a doubt the record that changed Marilyn Manson’s musical path forever. After hitting the world over the head with the industrial grind of Antichrist Superstar, Manson put out a hard rockin’ glam record and it was clear right from the first single, “The Dope Show” that this was going to be a different record. It was a pretty bold move for a guy that was a pretty big star at this point and had only two records under his belt. But it set his path forward to be a guy/band that might actually be taken seriously down the road. Could it have derailed him? For damn sure. But talent outshines all. At the time of release in 1998 it seemed like a weird call but looking back now, if he had made another Antichrist Superstar, he might not be around today. Manson adjusted his style to the musical climate at the time. And now more than 20 years later, it seems like a pretty genius move. Change your game up at your peak because you know without a doubt, that people will listen to the album no matter what. And if the fan base stays, then you’ve been able to do what you’ve set out to do – remain relevant. While true hit songs (not counting rock charts but true Billboard Hot 100 songs) aren’t really in the cards any more, Manson still draws a crowd and I attribute that to this turning point. Even my wife (who still likes some rock music but is heavily into country now) has “Coma White” on her iPod and not by accident.

  • The Golden Age of Grotesque (8)
  • Eat Me, Drink Me (8)
  • Portrait of an American Family (8)

1994, man. I listened to the hell out of this record. And I’m sure without a shadow of a doubt that at first it was due to the shock rock of a song like “Cake and Sodomy” which lead off the record. But I have always stuck with records because they contain quality tunes – no other reason. And I still like this record. Part of the fun of listening to catalogs in chronological order is that by itself, I might have ranked this album higher but in the grand scheme of what the group put out afterwards, Portrait… certainly doesn’t hold up as well. Musically, it’s got that early industrial grind to it and lots and lots of audio samples as intros/outros to songs but it also is certainly rawer than anything afterwards and Trent Reznor helping to produce the record certainly put the focus on the grinding industrial notes rather than the hooks and melodies that future albums would have. Overall, most of the songs are still really good but in 2020 some of the tracks sound like shock for shock value only while the rest of the catalog sounds like they took the time to write better songs. It’s a product of the time and environment for sure.

  • Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) (7.5)
  • The High End of Low (7)
  • The Last Tour on Earth (6)
  • Remix & Repent (3)
  • Smells Like Children (2)

Summary: 13 albums, average 7.2