[Boxset Review] AC/DC | Backtracks (Deluxe Edition)

When Napster was brand spankin’ new I remember the first tunes I downloaded were all of those tasty Australian AC/DC tracks I did not have access to. R.I.P. (Rock In Peace), Crabsody In Blue, Cold Hearted Man, etc. Each song took at least 20 minutes to download at a bitrate of 128k, but I could hear them at last! Technology!

In 2009, AC/DC gave them the official release treatment in North America via the boxset, Backtracks. There were two versions, a 2CD/1DVD budget release for approx. 40 moose bucks and a deluxe edition that got you 3CDs, 2 DVDs, the rare studio tracks on vinyl. But 200 moose bucks! Yikes!

In 2009, Sarah was starting a new job and I had quit my miserable one for one with less misery and pay. So, I became a Backtracks peasant with the budget release. That was until 2018, when the bank account was in a much safer state and I found a deluxe edition on amazon for 180 moose bucks, shipped. I didn’t even know they still had any! It was pricey but worth it if your level of fandom is high enough.

For brevity, I’m just going to stick to the audio and video content of the set. I made an unboxing video in 2018 where you can check out the packaging and physical items, including a (sort of) working guitar amp:

For the three CDs in the set, none are built for a balanced listening experience. They are designed for fans who want an archive of the tracks they are missing. Backtracks delivers them in chronological order, starting with the studio tracks that were only officially available in Australia since the ’70s through to the bonus tracks from extended edition of Stiff Upper Lip from 2000.

CD 1 is made up of studio rarities. It makes for an excellent addition to your collection if you own all of their studio albums, Who Made Who (the soundtrack for Maximum Overdrive), the EP ’74 Jailbreak, and the Bonfire Boxset because this will make you whole. You’ll have everything they released. If you don’t, well it is a bit of a bummer how the complete discography is still spread out among all those releases. Backtracks makes none of them obsolete.

It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll) and Rocker are a couple of odd inclusions. They have been released here previously in North America, and even if they are the “Australian versions” they are not any different. You do get extended versions of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Ain’t No Fun Waiting Around to Be A Millionaire, and High Voltage. The songs were originally edited due to them getting switched around onto different releases in North America. Although, High Voltage still fades out before it is supposed to… but meh. That is getting really picky.

Discs 2 & 3 do a better job of making collecting easier. They are loaded with the live tracks that were originally spread out among numerous singles and one extended edition. So, these two CDs save you from having to collect all of those.

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Over on the DVD side, DVD 1 is the continuation of Family Jewels. The original 2 disc set ended after the promotional videos for The Razors Edge were done. This 3rd disc begins with Big Gun from 1992 through to the Black Ice promo videos from 2009. Also included are any duplicate videos that were previously skipped on Disc 1 and 2. So you have alternate videos from Highway to Hell, You Shook Me All Night Long, Jailbreak, and It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n Roll). It is funny to see how the (already outdated by 2009 standards) menu system is still intact, but at least the videos are enhanced better for a widescreen TV. No VHS transfers here.

DVD 2 is a real treat. It is of a performance the band did in Munich, Germany at Circus Krone in 2003. A couple of tunes from this show are on Plug Me In, but this time you get the entire show. The venue’s intimate setting combined with the band mixing up the setlist makes for a stellar show. It opens with album track Hell Ain’t A Bad Place to Be and is loaded with others like What’s Next To The Moon and If You Want Blood… You Got It! When they broke into Rock ‘n Roll Damnation it sounded like they were still in 1978. Johnson’s voice was the only giveaway.

The other bonus is the crowd. They were WAY into it. Brian was even joking with them about how they know what song is coming before he did. And Phil lighting a cig while playing The Jack are is another highlight. Really good times.

The final disc with music on it is Rarities, a vinyl record with the rare studio tracks minus the deluxe exclusives. None of the tracks on here are easy to track down on vinyl, so this makes for a solid edition.

This is a tough one to judge. It is not entirely practical, but for someone like me who needed to fill the blanks in my collection, this does a 5/5 job. But, none of these rare tracks are going to rival Whole Lotta Rosie or Riff Raff for the title of the best song, nor are any of the live tracks a “definitive edition.” For those reasons, I think most will be satisfied with the budget edition of Backtracks even if you are missing out on a few goodies like the Circus Krone show. At least you can enjoy what they posted from it on YouTube. Like this one:

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47 comments

  1. Shoot I want footage of Phil lighting a cigarette during “The Jack”! Did I just say that out loud? Anyways, great review Kevin! The deluxe sounds awesome and I’d get that just for the Circus Krone show, if I can find it. Amazon doesn’t have the deluxe edition anymore, so I’ll have to keep my out for that. I love that you included your unboxing video. You’re pretty good playing “Thunderstruck” and “Riff Raff”!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a cool move. I don’t think I’ve seen Phil look cooler, lol

      I didn’t play either song very well. I should have warmed up my hands before shooting that part, lol. It is always nice when something you did a few years ago becomes handy again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That takes skill to light a cigarette during a song, I’ll admit lol!

        Oh I thought you did a decent job since AC/DC songs are hard to play. It’s a compliment that people recognize what song you’re playing (and not destroy it)! Yeah I’m glad you included the video, very in-depth and I didn’t know it was an actual amp, I thought it was just a cardboard box that looked like an amp.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. We have a space trivia book that my girls are really into these days – and I think 128KB was more memory than they had on the Apollo 11 lunar module!
    So, your Napster download days was like taking giant leaps by comparison, which is hard to fathom now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My first home computer was a Commodore Amiga 500. Yup, 500k. Load in the workbench, you were down to about 300k. Add your game or program and you’re way down again. I remember it taking about six 3.5″ floppy discs to store a high school essay. Friends had the C64 so, yup, 64k. Man oh man.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I can see that from an Austrailian. Much of what is here were once on those original albums, and it seems like they want the Austrailian market to conform to the international one rather than the other way around. I wish they would have made the Aussie albums the norm, but I don’t that will ever happen at this point.

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      1. All I know is that every Australian artist who tried to break into the North American market had their Australian albums redone with different covers and song lists. For the ones who didn’t succeed the Australian releases are the norm and for the ones who succeeded, the North American releases became the norm.

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    1. It is up there. I didn’t think I’d see it again so I took the plunge. There is the 2 CD version that gives you most of what you would need anyway. I wouldn’t be surprised it you found that during one of your travels.

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      1. That 2CD/1DVD set is on Amazon for about 30 moose bucks, I’d consider it even then. I’ve kinda stopped hoping for getting back into the world. When it happens, good, but I can’t live with the hope any more.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. That is where my mind goes. I mean, I know for sure I’m here in the house until the end of the school year, and then likely over the summer. Will it make sense in August as we’re deciding about September? Who knows. My guess is no. Gah.

            Liked by 1 person

              1. Well, we still have to wait and see but I am not hoping anymore. The hope is like a weight, and I don’t wanna carry it anymore. So I’m just going to let things happen and it’ll be what it’ll be, whenever it be, you know?

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