It’s hard to consider that AC/DC could have an album that could be overlooked, but Powerage, slotted between 1977’s Let There Be Rock, the album that first saw them achieve a measure of international success, and the live, If You Want Blood… You’ve Got It, it seems to be an album which gets oddly overlooked when assessing AC/DC’s output.
In one sense, there’s an argument to be made that Powerage is the definitive Bon Scott fronted AC/DC studio album, as it was the one where they weren’t really streaching for the next level of success like they were on Let There be Rock or Highway to Hell, instead Powerage is an album which saw AC/DC consolidate their position. Let There Be Rock had seen them take a leap forward with their super-amplified rock and roll and shaggy-dog tales of the shadier side of life, but reaching the next level of success had seen them giving Mark Evans his marching orders, so Powerage was an album that saw them hone their established approach, get Cliff Williams settled in on bass and underline the band’s rock and roll riffing reputation. AC/DC weren’t exactly spinning their wheels, or in a holding pattern on Powerage, but it’s an album where you can hear them just enjoy being AC/DC instead of making a few tweaks to increase their airplay.
Home to such enduring classics as “Riff Raff”, “Downpayment Blues”, “Rock and Roll Damnation” and “Sin City”, Powerage is chock full of AC/DC tunes that fans of the band love, but fair-weather fans might struggle to name. It’s also an album which very much makes the most of Malcolm Young’s relentless rhythm guitar work, always a highlight on previous albums, but very much taking centre stage on Powerage. Subtle is not a word that you can usually use to describe AC/DC, but when describing Malcolm Young’s increasing musical prominence on this album, it’s entirely fitting.
One of the benefits of Powerage being one of AC/DC’s slightly more obscure albums, is that its songs haven’t been played to death on the radio, so you’re much less likely to be over-familiar with it, unless you want to be. It’s the AC/DC album to reach for when you want a blast of the Young brothers and Bon Scott at the top of their game, but don’t want something you know word for word, beat for beat, back to front. It is simply an entertaining, hard rocking album, fronted by one of the most charismatic low life’s in rock and roll, with two of rock and roll’s finest guitar players and a water tight rhythm section. This is AC/DC at their most AC/DC, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.