Release Date: Nov 10, 2009
Record label: Columbia
As handsome as this package is -- or in the case of the super limited edition, housed in a working guitar amp, as ridiculous -- Backtracks is essentially just a clearinghouse for AC/DC rarities, rounding up all the released tracks and videos that have yet to appear on a collection, throwing in a full-length DVD of 2003 for good measure. In other words, it's a set designed for the kind of diehard who would purchase a box set housed in a working amplifier, but its pleasures aren't limited to the dedicated, particularly when it comes to early AC/DC. Prior to 1979's Highway to Hell, all the band's LPs differed in their Australian and international incarnations (one, 1975's TNT, was just cannibalized for other albums), so there are quite a few stray tracks -- a full 12, ranging from the priceless boogie "R.
With gross earnings topping an astronomical $105 million, to say that it’s been a good year for AC/DC is a bit of an understatement. With a third generation discovering the band’s music, they’re now more popular than they’ve ever been, there’s no venue too small for them to play, exorbitantly-priced shows are selling out left and right, and to top it off, their spirited fifteenth album Black Ice did not disappoint when it came out a year ago. And typical of a huge act, they know how to sell their brand.
Pity the poor punter approaching an AC/DC boxset in the hope of getting a definitive best-of. The Bonfire set from 1997 wrapped up some demos and a couple of live sets; this one brings together studio rarities, live B-sides and assorted videos. What's more, completists wanting the full five discs have to pay the best part of £200 for the deluxe edition, which comes packaged in a working guitar amp.
One would think there would be a limited market for a box set like Backtracks. Collecting two discs of rarities (one studio, one live) and a DVD of promotional clips, marketed as an add-on to 2005's exhaustive double DVD set, Family Jewels, the box is mostly perfunctory. The live disc is unnecessary. The promotional video clips are mildly interesting, in a you'll-only-ever-watch-them-once kind of way.
The Beatles boxes included ashes of John and George, Neil Young Archives Vol. 1 had R2-D2-type holograms, and 13th Floor Elevators bomb shelter Sign of the 3 Eyed Men came with real eyeballs. None feed back when you lay an electric guitar atop them as does the Marshall amp edition of AC/DC's Backtracks. A 9-volt battery inside the lid of the foot-high cardboard box set powers a sole transistor speaker topside.