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The Razors Edge

Are you ready for a good time?

Then you’ve come to the right place.

The Razors Edge is a prime slice of AC/DC: all killer riffs and tough-as-nails songcraft.  Nor is there a lack of the lads’ signature, slyly salacious lyrics touching on the eternal verities: hard liquor, cheap sex, fast money and the endless quest for a good time.  Like all AC/DC albums, The Razors Edge is designed to rock you.  But beyond that, the 1990 release marked a pivotal point in the long and eventful career of rock’s most enduring riot brigade.

Rock was running rudderless at the dawn of the Nineties.  Hair metal was on the wane.  Punk was just a memory, and still years away from revival as a commercial formula.  But AC/DC had just completed a hook-heavy album that would catapult them to new heights.

The Razors Edge contains two tracks – “Thunderstruck” and “Moneytalks” – that would turn out to be all-time AC/DC anthems and reestablish the band’s rightful place of honor on rock radio.  Once again, AC/DC weathered the vicissitudes of rock fashion by sticking to their guns.

“We started as a rock and roll band,” says Angus Young, the man with the schoolboy suit and cannon fire guitar riffs.  “Rock and roll is what we play best and we never claimed to be anything else.  In the middle ‘70s they called us a punk band.  And in the ‘80s they lumped us in as heavy metal, which offended me more than the punk thing.  Over the years, they’ve had other names for us too, like power pop.”

“You put all those names together,” adds singer Brian Johnson, “and it spells bulls**t.”

And that is one subject in which AC/DC has never trafficked.

The boys unquestionably had a bagful of great songs circa 1989 when they repaired to Little Mountain Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia to cut The Razors Edge with the late, legendary rock producer Bruce Fairbairn.  Consider, for instance, the opening track.  With “Thunderstruck’s” frenetic hammer-on guitar riff, its tense-and-release dynamics and football hooligan chant (“Thun-DER!”), is it any wonder that the song has become a staple of AC/DC’s live show?  It is custom-made for the big arenas and clattery rock and roll sheds, building incessantly on a simple B major tonal base, achieving maximum thrust before collapsing exhausted in a wind-down ritardando.  Like nearly every great AC/DC song, “Thunderstruck” was written by Angus in collaboration with his brother, and AC/DC’s rhythm guitarist, Malcolm – rock guitar’s greatest one-two punch.

“It started off from a little trick that I had on guitar,” Angus recalls.  “I played it to Mal and he said, ‘Oh I’ve got a good rhythm idea that will sit well in the back.’  We built the song up from that.  We fiddled about with it for a few months before everything fell into place.”

Lyrically, Angus adds, “It was really just a case of finding a good title, something along the lines of ‘Powerage’ or ‘Highway To Hell.’  We came up with this thunder thing and it seemed to have a good ring to it.  AC/DC = Power.  That’s the basic idea.”

Who could argue with that?  Especially with bassist Cliff Williams and drummer Chris Slade down in the boiler room.  The chrome-domed veteran stickman made his first appearance as a member of AC/DC on The Razors Edge.

And then there’s Brian Johnson… A decade earlier, Johnson had replaced the late great Bon Scott as AC/DC’s lead singer, making a strong debut on the legendary Back In Black.  And by the time The Razors Edge came out, Johnson had become – with no disrespect to Scott – the voice of AC/DC for many fans.  And what a voice.  An ungodly marriage of croak and shriek – like the sound of some nasty little magpie with its mind in the gutter.  How can the human larynx produce such a tonality?

“Well, what you do is get a truck and drop it on your foot,” suggests Angus.

“Oh, there isn’t any secret,” Brian demurs.  “When you’re singing with AC/DC and everybody’s whackin’ away 100%, it just comes natural.  As Ang and Mal have always said, the voice can be like another instrument.  Rather than just standing in the front wiggling his hips like a big tart, the singer can contribute to the sound of the band.”

Johnson outdoes himself in the leering seduction that is “Moneytalks.”  He seems to take particular delight in his lyrical role as a rich git trying to lure some tootsie with the size of his wallet.  And if “Thunders6truck” is a prime example of AC/DC’s riff-driven side, “Moneytalks” beautifully embodies the hooky hit machine that is also AC/DC.  The intro guitar riff morphs into giddy, sing-along choruses more infectious than a dose of “the jack.”

“We never wanted to be a singles band,” says Malcolm, “and we try not to be anywhere near pop.  But there are some great riffs that just sing themselves.”

The Razors Edge marks the first time that Angus and Malcolm wrote lyrics entirely on their own – an arrangement that continues to this day.  A difficult divorce had distracted Johnson from his usual role as co-lyricist, but the brothers Young managed to carry the torch proudly.  AC/DC’s celebrated penchant for double entendre is alive and well on The Razors Edge.  It is doubtful, for instance, whether the discharge they have in mind on “Fire Your Guns” has anything to do with artillery.

“With AC/DC sometime the most innocent thing can sound not-so-innocent,” Angus muses.  “Somebody once said, ‘Thank goodness they never wrote Cats.  Think what they would have called it!’  Lyrics are a bit like jokes.  Any comedian can get a laugh saying ‘f**k.’  But the really funny guys are the ones who can get onstage and not use a dirty word, but you think, they have.  You think it’s a blue joke but it’s not.  That to me is clever.”

On the other hand, “Mistress For Christmas” ain’t exactly “Frosty The Snowman.”  Nor is it likely to turn up on too many compilations of family Christmas favorites.  One can only hope that Santa granted Johnson’s wish for “a woman in red at the bottom of [his] bed.”

“Got You By The Balls” is hardly subtle either.  Lyrically, it reprises the “Moneytalks” theme of “love for sale,” this time casting Johnson as a pimp hawking female flesh – another role the singer attacks with particular relish.

Fans of the riff-driven, arena rock AC/DC will find plenty to love on The Razors Edge – from the disc’s dramatic, flamenco-influenced title track to scorchers like “Goodbye And Good Riddance To Bad Luck” and “If You Dare.”  And for devotees of great AC/DC pub sing-alongs, there’s the relentlessly hooky “Let’s Make It” plus two of the band’s finest “rock all night” party anthems: “Shot Of Love” and “Are You Ready.”

The Razors Edge brought AC/DC roaring into the Nineties.  And by the end of the decade, they would become full-fledged members of the classic rock pantheon, with artists in many genres acknowledging the enduring power of the band’s songcraft.

– Alan di Perna














All songs written by A. Young & M. Young
All titles published by J. Albert & Son (USA) Inc. (ASCAP)

ANGUS YOUNG: lead guitar
MALCOLM YOUNG: rhythm guitar
CLIFF WILLIAMS: bass guitar

Produced by Bruce Fairbairn

Engineered and Mixed by Mike Fraser

Additional Recording by Ken Lomas and Ian Taylor

Assistant Engineers: Brian Dobbs and Sean Leonard

Equipment Technicians: Richard Jones and Allan Rogan

Originally Released as Atco 91413 on September 21, 1990

Digitally Remastered from the original master tapes by George Marino at Sterling Sound

Mastering Supervision: Mike Fraser and Al Quaglieri

Digital Assembly: UE Nastasi

Reissue Booklet Design: SMAY Vision

Photography: inside digipak (left): © George Chin;
inside digipak (right): Barry Plummer;
pages 2-3, 14-15: Michael Johansson/Idols;
page 4 (left): © Liza Leeds;
page 4 (right): © Jeffrey Mayer;
pages 5 (left & right photos), 10, 11 (top): Neil Zlozower;
page 5 (middle): Alpha/Globe Photos;
page 6: Ola Sergman/Idols;
page 7: Mick Hutson/Idols;
pages 8 (left), 11 (bottom): Barry Plummer;
pages 8-9: Pierre Terrasson;
page 12: Annamaria DiSanto;
page 13: © George Chin
booklet back cover: Eddie Malluk

Additional artifacts courtesy Albert Productions and Arnaud Durieux.

This CD takes advantage of ConnecteD technology and will work as a key to unlock exclusive bonus music, videos, photos and more at www.acdcrocks.com





© 1990, 2003 Leidseplein Presse B.V./ (P) 1990 Leidseplein Presse B.V./ Manufactured by Epic Records, A Division of Sony Music/ 550 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022-3211/ “Epic” Reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off. Marca Registrada/ WARNING: All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.

This compact disc was manufactured to meet critical quality standards.  If you believe the disc has a manufacturing defect, please call our Quality Management Department at 1-800-255-7514.  New Jersey residents should call 609-722-8224.

69699 80213-2

This package consists of previously released material.
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