AC/DC

Black Ice (Columbia)

Phases & Stages

AC/DC

Black Ice (Columbia)

Even Rick Rubin, messiah of rock & roll second comings, failed to produce a proper AC/DC phoenix with 1995 nadir Ballbreaker. One Stiff Upper Lip (2000) later, the Aussies continue to chisel out heavy brick and mortar R&B on 14th studio LP Black Ice without the urgent indecency and iron force that defined the Bon Scott era. There are a few cheap thrills on the hourlong Wal-Mart exclusive, such as back-burner boogie "Big Jack" and the voltaic thunder of "Skies on Fire," while the title track and opener "Rock n' Roll Train" hop the rails of Highway to Hell. Eternal problem child Angus Young kicks and screams with tightrope guitar seizures as brother Malcolm locks down the back line, but the two don't deliver lyrically ("War Machine"), and singer Brian Johnson's wheezy throe has weakened considerably with age. For those who truly want to rock around the clock, Black Ice never brings the heat. (AC/DC's AT&T Center show in San Antonio, Friday, Dec. 12, is sold out.)

**

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