AC/DC – The Razors Edge (1990)

FrontCover1The Razors Edge is an album by Australian hard rock band AC/DC. It was the band’s eleventh internationally released studio album and the twelfth to be released in Australia. It was a major comeback for the band, featuring the hits “Thunderstruck” and “Are You Ready”, which reached #5 and #16 respectively on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks Chart, and “Moneytalks”, which peaked at #23 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album went multi-platinum (5 million copies sold) and reached the US top ten. The album reached #2 on the US Billboard 200 and #4 in the UK, a smash commercial success that returned the band to the popularity of its glory years of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The album has been certified 5x platinum (5 million copies sold) in the US, and was re-released in 2003 as part of the AC/DC Remasters series. The album was produced by Bruce Fairbairn.

The Razors Edge was recorded at Windmill Road Studios in Dublin, Ireland and Little Mountain Studios in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and was mixed and engineered by Mike Fraser and produced by Bruce Fairbairn, who had previously worked with Aerosmith and Bon Jovi. According to the book AC/DC: Maximum Rock & Roll, George Young was involved early on but had to bow out because of personal issues. Lead singer Brian Johnson was unavailable for several months while finalising his divorce, so the Young brothers wrote all the songs for the next album, a practice they continued for all subsequent releases (In a 1995 interview, Johnson told Guitar World that he was relieved at not having to deal with the pressure of writing the lyrics anymore).

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The instantly recognizable opening riff to “Thunderstruck” features Young alternating between fretted notes and playing the open string. In a 1993 interview with Guitar World’s Alan Di Perna, the guitarist recalls, “I was just fiddling with my left hand when I came up with that riff; I played it more by accident than anything. I thought, ‘not bad,’ and put it on a tape. That’s how me and Malcolm generally work. We put our ideas down on tape and play them for one another.” He expanded in greater detail in the liner notes of the 2003 re-release of The Razor’s Edge:

It started off from a little trick I had on guitar. 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, it was really just a case of finding a good title…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.”

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“Moneytalks” is also one of AC/DC’s biggest hits, breaking the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100, the UK Singles Charts, and the Australian ARIA Singles Chart. It is still the band’s highest charting single in the United States, at number 23 (no other AC/DC single has even cracked the top 30). During their subsequent world tour, thousands of “Angus Bucks” were dropped on the audience during the song. A music video of the song, directed by David Mallet, was also released, featuring a live performance during the tour. Author Murray Engleheart states in his band memoir AC/DC: Maximum Rock & Roll: “On songs like ‘Mistress for Christmas’ and “Moneytalks,’ Malcolm and Angus showed their working-class roots, despite multi-millionaire selling albums, by taking aim at the high flyers in the business world.”

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In a February 1991 interview with Guitar World Angus Young stated, “I think the funniest song on this album is ‘Mistress For Christmas.’ That song’s about Donald Trump. He was big news at the time, so we thought we’d have a bit of fun and humor with it.” In the same interview, he declared that his best guitar solo on the LP was on the song “The Razors Edge,” which also features a rare foray into finger picking. Although AC/DC had always remained apolitical when it came to their music, the title track was a commentary of sorts, with Young explaining to Muchmusic in 1992:

“The Razors Edge” comes from an old saying farmers used to use in Britain where you’d have a fine sunny day, you know, a very good day with a hot sun, and then all of a sudden right in the distance you could see these black clouds coming over the horizon, an ominous thing…I thought it was a great title. The world was at peace again and everyone thought, “Ah, the Berlin Wall’s come down and it’s all gonna be fun and games, a party every night,” and you can see now that it’s not that way. It’s just our way of saying the world’s not perfect and never will be. (by wikipedia)

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Although AC/DC’s popularity had decreased by the early ’90s, the band still had a lot of life left in it. Arguably the Australian headbangers’ strongest album in over half a decade, The Razor’s Edge is quintessential AC/DC — rowdy, abrasive, unapologetically fun metal full of blistering power chords, memorable hooks, and testosterone-driven lyrics. Lead singer Brian Johnson sounds more inspired than he had since 1983’s Flick of the Switch, and lead guitarist Angus Young isn’t about to take any prisoners on such hard-hitting material as “Shot of Love,” the menacing title song, and the appropriately titled “Got You By the Balls.” Although not quite in a class with Back in Black, Highway to Hell, or Let There Be Rock — all of which would, for novices, serve as fine introductions to the distinctive band — The RazoYear Of Recording: 1990r’s Edge was a welcome addition to AC/DC’s catalog. (by Alex Henderson)

The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards - Telecast

Personnel:
Brian Johnson (vocals)
Chris Slade (drums, percussion)
Cliff Williams (bass, background vocals)
Angus Young (lead guitar)
Malcolm Young (guitar, background vocals)

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Tracklist:
01. Thunderstruck 4.52
02. Fire Your Guns 2.53
03. Moneytalks 3:48
04. The Razors Edge 4.22
05. Mistress For Christmas 3.59
06. Rock Your Heart Out 4.06
07. Are You Ready 4.10
08. Got You By The Balls 4:30
09. Shot Of Love 3.56
10. Let’s Make It 3.32
11. Goodbye & Good Riddance To Bad Luck 3.13
12. If You Dare 3.08

All songs written by Angus Young and Malcolm Young

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Sonny Rollins – Saxophone Colossus (1956)

FrontCover1Saxophone Colossus is a studio album by American jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins. It was recorded on June 22, 1956, with producers Bob Weinstock and Rudy Van Gelder at the latter’s studio in Hackensack, New Jersey. Rollins led a quartet on the album that included pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Doug Watkins, and drummer Max Roach. Saxophone Colossus was released later that year by Prestige Records to critical success and helped establish Rollins as a prominent jazz artist.

In 2017, Saxophone Colossus was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or artistically significant.”

There are five tracks on the album, three of which are credited to Rollins. “St. Thomas” is a calypso-inspired piece named after Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands. The tune is traditional and had already been recorded by Randy Weston in 1955 under the title “Fire Down There”. (In the booklet provided with the boxed set, The Complete Prestige Recordings, Rollins makes it clear that it was the record company that insisted on his taking credit.) In any case, the piece has since become a jazz standard, and this is its most famous recorded version.

Finally, “Blue 7” is a blues, over eleven minutes long. Its main, rather disjunct melody was spontaneously composed. The performance is among Rollins’ most acclaimed, and is the subject of an article by Gunther Schuller entitled “Sonny Rollins and the Challenge of Thematic Improvisation”. Schuller praises Rollins on “Blue 7” for the use of motivic development exploring and developing melodic themes throughout his three solos, so that the piece is unified, rather than being composed of unrelated ideas.

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The original 22 June 1956 session was recorded by Rudy Van Gelder.
In a contemporary review for Down Beat, Ralph J. Gleason wrote:

“Almost as if in answer to the charge that there is a lack of grace and beauty in the work of the New York hard-swingers comes this album in which Rollins displays humor, gentleness, a delicate feeling for beauty in line, and a puckish sense of humor. And all done with the uncompromising swinging that has characterized them all along.” (by wikipedia)

Sonny Rollins recorded many memorable sessions during 1954-1958, but Saxophone Colossus is arguably his finest all-around set. Joined by pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Doug Watkins, and drummer Max Roach, Rollins debuts and performs the definitive version of “St. Thomas,” tears into the chord changes of “Mack the Knife” (here called “Moritat”), introduces “Strode Rode,” is lyrical on “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” and constructs a solo on “Blue Seven” that practically defines his style. Essential music that, as with all of Rollins’ Prestige recordings, has also been reissued as part of a huge “complete” box set; listeners with a tight budget are advised to pick up this single disc and be amazed. (by Scott Yanow)

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Personnel:
Tommy Flanagan (piano)
Max Roach (drums)
Sonny Rollins (saxophone)
Doug Watkins (bass)

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Tracklist:
01. St. Thomas (Rollins) 6.48
02. You Don’t Know What Love Is (de Paul/Raye) 6.29
03. Strode Rode (Rollins) 5.15
04. Moritat (Mack The Knife) (Weill) 10.06
05. Blue 7 (Rollins) 11.14

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