AC/DC Family Jewels Review
“Long Hair” rock has always been a staple of popular music - with The Darkness proving that face-melting guitar riffs, and bass-heavy ballads can still prosper in an era of political unrest. Any fan of Jack Black will tell you that rock’s main purpose is to “stick it to the man”; something that AC/DC take to heart. After 30 years, their brand of heavy power-chords and playful lyrics is still going strong. With DC’s entire back catalogue available in re-mastered form, new fans are spawning all the time. While they never quite reached the heights scaled by their contemporaries - Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, or even Queen - their popularity was never in doubt. It’s rather odd then, that Kerrang! and its fellow music channels barely give them the air time they deserve. In fact, “classic” rock (particularly from the 70’s), is usually swept aside.
Seeing AC/DC on television is pretty rare these days. Of course, it was always a necessary evil during their rise to stardom, but since then, their profile has dwindled. It’s a shame, since when AC/DC did take to the stage, the atmosphere was always electric. They were one of the most influential hard rock bands of the 70’s and 80’s; rebelling against “art rock” and pop-enthused records. AC/DC’s music is minimalist in my eyes - despite the booming guitars, there’s a genuine sense of purpose to their tunes; with the tracks boasting space and restraint. It’s loud, balls-to-the-walls confection, but it’s not meaningless. Therefore, I’d rather see them on Kerrang! than Good Charlotte or Blink 182 - prime examples of how unthreatening rock music has become. It’s growing ever-more commercial, and “sticking it to the man” is now largely left to rappers. Therefore, it’s pretty enlightening to see Family Jewels on DVD. This set collects all of AC/DC’s television appearances, putting modern alternatives to shame...
AC/DC began life in Australia, in 1973. Guitarist Malcolm Young formed the group after his previous troupe, The Velvet Goldmine, collapsed (not to be confused with the seminal American group). His younger brother Angus became the lead guitarist, aged only 15. Therefore, his sister suggested that he wear his school uniform during performances. Somehow the look worked, and Angus continues the trend to this day. During their time in Sydney, they cut the single "Can I Sit Next to You," and later moved to Melbourne. It was here, that the group unleashed two albums - High Voltage and TNT - in 1974 and ‘75 respectively. This led to tours in the UK and America, with Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap following soon after. It was in the fall of 1977, that AC/DC finally cracked the U.S., with their barnstorming album Let There Be Rock. And there was plenty of the latter, with nearly a dozen records to their name by 1993.
Family Jewels is overflowing with highlights, and it’s wonderful to see them performing their most renowned tracks. It’s impossible not to get a buzz when hearing “Highway to Hell” and “Girls Got Rhythm” performed live (in this case, on Spanish TV). It brought back memories of listening to Back in Black in high school - easily their most famous contribution to music. Regulars like “It’s a Long Way to the Top...” and “Hells Bells” are all present and correct; sitting beside some of their more obscure compositions. We also get the anarchic “Jailbreak” video, and a fully charged rendition of “High Voltage”. It’s all rather cheesy - most of the clichés associated with 80’s rock are readily apparent - but the quality of these tracks hasn’t diminished. DC’s cheeky reputation (especially during the Bon Scott era), makes them easy to like; particularly in the first track, in which Scott takes to the stage dressed as a rather ugly schoolgirl. Even when Brian Johnson replaced the dead frontman, the band took pride in their self-deprecating nature.
Rock has always been an acquired taste, so AC/DC isn’t a band that will appeal to everyone. Yet, for those familiar with the Aussie rockers, Family Jewels is clearly worth a look. Very much a no-frills affair (like the band itself), it's probably not the best introduction to their music (the "Live at Donnington" DVD is more appropriate), but as a collection of their video output, it’s the best - and only - release there is.
DVD #1 (1975 - 1980)
1. Baby Please Don’t Go (live, April 1975)
2. Show Business (live, June 1975)
3. High Voltage (promo clip, June 1975)
4. It’s A Long Way To The Top (promo clip, February 1976)
5. T.N.T. (live, 1976)
6. Jailbreak (promo clip 1976)
7. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (live, December 1976)
8. Dog Eat Dog (promo clip, 1977)
9. Let There Be Rock (promo clip, 1977)
10. Rock N Roll Damnation (promo clip, 1978)
11. Sin City (from The Midnight Special, September 1978)
12. Riff Raff (live from Glasgow, April 1978)
13. Fling Thing/Rocker (live from Glasgow, April 1978)
14. Whole Lotta Rosie (Live from BBC show “Rock Goes To
College,” October 1978)
15. Shot Down In Flames (promo clip, July 1979)
16. Walk All Over You (promo clip, July 1979)
17. Touch Too Much (promo clip July 1979)
18. If You Want Blood (promo clip, July 1979)
19. Girls Got Rhythm (live from Aplauso TV Show, February 1980)
20. Highway To Hell (live from Aplauso TV Show, February 1980)
DVD #2 (1980 -1993)
1. Hells Bells (promo clip, 1980
2. Back In Black (promo clip, 1980)
3. What Do You Do For Money Honey (promo clip, 1980)
4. Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution (promo clip, 1980)
5. Let’s Get it Up (live promo clip, 1981)
6. For Those About To Rock (live promo clip, 1983)
7. Flick Of The Switch (promo clip, 1984)
8. Nervous Shakedown (promo clip, 1984)
9. Fly On The Wall (promo clip, 1985)
10. Danger (promo clip, 1985)
11. Sink The Pink (promo clip, 1985)
12. Stand Up (promo clip, 1985)
13. Shake Your Foundations (promo clip, 1985)
14. Who Made Who (promo clip, 1986)
15. You Shook Me All Night Long (promo clip, 1985)
16. Heatseeker (promo clip, 1988)
17. That’s The Way I Wanna Rock & Roll (promo clip, 1988)
18. Thunderstruck (promo clip, 1990)
19. Moneytalks (promo clip, 1990)
20. Are You Ready (promo clip, 1991)
This two-disc set (available in a shiny digipack), is probably a must for AC/DC completists. Sony and BMG have made the archive material look and sound the best it can, though the lack of decent bonus material is a low-point. Features aside, this is a full-blooded presentation, that should satisfy aficionados...
The Look and Sound
As you’d expect, these television broadcasts (dating back to ‘75) aren’t going to blow you away with their clarity, but they certainly pass muster. Each of the vignettes look pretty good for their age, with plenty of detail, that gets better as the years go on. Colour - especially in those early tracks - can be a little muted, but this improves too, naturally. If you can forgive the fashions of times gone by, you’ll probably appreciate Sony’s transfer here - it’s above-average considering the materials at hand, and I doubt fans will mind the inconsistencies in picture. AC/DC Family Jewels looks great for what it is.
Sound however, is a little disappointing. A Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS option would have been brilliant (which you can find on various other AC/DC discs), but once again, the restraints of the material made that impossible. Instead, the 2.0 track is more than adequate. The music is vibrant and layered, with the guitars packing plenty of force. While surrounds would have been perfect for DC’s head-banging tunes, Sony have given these classics plenty of clout. A satisfactory presentation overall.
All we get is a snazzy and informative booklet, enclosed in the digipack, and a discography; listing the band’s productive career. Perhaps Sony can produce a documentary next time?
The Bottom Line
A must-buy for AC/DC fanatics, Family Jewels is a rip-roaring trawl through their brilliant back-catalogue. Video and audio are hardly top-notch, but it’s the music that matters, and it continues to make today’s rock seem anaemic by contrast. A worthy purchase.