High Voltage was the first Bon Scott album I bought after Highway to Hell. I remember reading the collage of made up letters on the back cover. Band members were scolded by various authority figures for being juvenile delinquents, except for Bon. He of course, received a love letter from a lady friend instead.
The version of High Voltage that we got in North America is a compilation of the band’s first two Australian albums. Only two of the tracks are from their debut, which was also named High Voltage and the rest are from the T.N.T. Having fully listened to both Aussie albums I can say for certain that this compilation does represent the best of AC/DC in their formative years.
High Voltage has a raw sound to it. Guitarists Angus and Malcolm Young’s tone is much thinner when compared to their sound on Back In Black or Highway To Hell, but the album has it where it counts with plenty of hooks. This is a band that worships the guitar riff and there are some classic ones here.
Lead singer Bon Scott’s lyrics were fantastic for the most part as he chronicles his life with now iconic tunes like It’s A Long way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll) and Rock ‘N Roll Singer. (Side note: The Cult totally ripped off the riff for Rock ‘N Roll Singer with Wild Flower. Fight me on it.)
Live Wire is an underrated track with a slow build with the Mark Evan’s bass thumping away to start, then guitars, then drums. It’s a formula the AC/DC would return to often in their career. Most famously with Thunderstruck.
T.N.T kicks off side two. Muddy Water’s influence is all over this one with those iconic pauses between the chords. They still played it live at just about every show.
Little Lover is a sleazy blues number with some… cheeky lyrics:
Killed me when I saw
The wet patch on your seat
Was it Coca Cola?
Legend has it that Bon wrote the lyrics for She’s Got Balls with an ex-girlfriend in mind.
The studio version of The Jack is the albums only real weak part. The band is fine on it, and Angus’ solo is brilliant as it is basic, but the lyrics contain too many double entendres with card playing. And their more lame than clever. The song’s real lyrics can be heard on live albums like If you Want Blood… You Got It! which is a huge improvement.
Can I Sit Next To You Girl was written before Bon Scott joined the band and it feels a little out of place, but it is fine.
High Voltage wraps up the album with is chord progression of A C D C. It does work as it is spliced together nicely with a blues rock shuffle.
I would recommend to hard core fans that they seek out AC/DC’s first two original Australian albums over this, as it is missing some key tunes. But is probably more than enough for most who only want the best from the early days.
As an AC/DC album: 4/5
Compared to everything else: 5/5