For a period of about three years from (’89-’91ish) I saw a few of my favorite aging artists come out with some solid releases. You had Ozzy’s No More Tears, Van Halen’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, Neil Young’s Ragged Glory, and my personal favorite out of the bunch, AC/DC’s The Razors Edge from 1990. AC/DC has some success in between, but for the first time since Back In Black, The Razors Edge is where all the right elements fell into place.
The first was founding member Malcolm Young turning an unfortunate situation into a positive. With his addiction to alcohol reaching a level where he became unreliable, he had skipped the “Blow Up Your Video World Tour” to get off the sauce. Between AA meetings he focused his energy into writing tunes using an acoustic guitar, keyboards, and a drum machine. It was the first time he wrote from home instead of coming up with ideas on the fly between gigs and during studio sessions. This different approach set the foundation for what would become some of their best tunes in almost a decade.
The band then took a full year off to allow Malcolm to continue with his program while little brother Angus to continue to work on tunes. Eventually, the two joined their older brother and producer George Young in Ireland and the three laid the ground work for most of the album. Unfortunately, George was unable to finish it due to personal reasons, so the band signed recommended and hotshot producer Bruce Fairbairn (RIP).
Now you have all of these elements, and a tune like Thunderstruck begins to happen. According to interviews, Malcolm explains how Angus came to him with the lead riff during the Who Made Who sessions. They both liked it but at the time they could not find a place for it. But for The Razors Edge, everything was falling into place.
Upon Fairbairn’s suggestion, Angus tries the lead riff prior to rhythm and ends up playing it through the whole tune on his own. The guttural chants, the THUN-DER, the vocal melody all fall into place. It is a little bit of that unscripted magic every great album requires.
But one tune does not make an album. Along with Thunderstruck, MoneyTalks and Are You Ready? were radio and MTV hits for the band. Round those out with some hard-rocking album tracks like Fire Your Guns, The Razors Edge, Rock Your Heart Out, and Shot Of Love, and you have yourself the makings of a “return to forum” album.
It isn’t perfect. The final few tunes do drag a bit. Let’s Make It and Goodbye and Good Riddance to Bad Luck are not bad tunes, just ones that I don’t sit through very often. This is the first time they went beyond 10 tracks on an album, and I’m not sure if we have the “new” CD format’s extra space to blame here.
It is a otherwise flawless album, with some tight metal sounding chords and riffs. It is easily their best “clean meets heavy” album.
As an AC/DC album: 4.5/5
Compared to everything else: 5/5
PS: I die a bit inside every time I’m forced leave out the apostrophe in The Razors Edge.
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