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Thursday, April 13, 2006


We will take it as given that Mutt Lange blew his load sometime in the early eighties. It's my opinion that Def Leppard's 'High N Dry' was his last great record, quickly followed by AC/DC's 'For Those About To Rock' later the same year which was good, but not great - but we can blame the band for that. From that point he went back to Def Leppard for 'Pyromania', which began a long descent into crap from which he has yet to emerge.

None of that is the point of this blog.

The first AC/DC LP that Mutt did was 1979's 'Highway to Hell'. The album prior, 'Powerage' was produced by the former Easybeats team of Vanda and Young (George Young - elder brother to Angus and Malcolm). Atlantic wanted AC/DC to go with another producer, they tried Eddie Kramer for three weeks - didn't work. Angus is quoted as saying that Eddie couldn't produce a decent fart. I don't know about that. Anyway, they ended up with Mutt, and history was made.

'Highway to Hell' is certainly a glossier, cleaner sounding record than 'Powerage', but is that better? I'm not convinced. AC/DC would revert back to Vanda/Young for 1989's 'Razor's Edge', their most successful record since Back In Black (Mutt). They missed the grit, as did many others, including the newly appointed Atlantic exec at the time.

AC/DC is about grit, grit and great songs. There is no doubt that Mutt got great performances, and thusly great records out of AC/DC, and at a time when they needed a more professional touch to appease the American record company, but MY favorite AC/DC records are not the Mutt Lange produced offerings (Highway to Hell, Back in Black, For Those About to Rock). I prefer the earlier, dirtier records; 'High Voltage', 'Let There Be Rock', and 'Powerage'.

As far as Def Leppard is concerned, or I should say - as far as I'm concerned there are only two Def Leppard albums; the first one, and the second one. The second one, 'High N Dry' is the better one, produced by Mutt, but that's not why it's better. It's better because the songs are better.

'Exile' is underproduced, but it's the best thing the Stones ever did. 'Dirty Work' is a overproduced piece of crap (except for the two Keith songs).

What is best in life? Great songs.

Jackson likes it dirty.

Amen. The only AC/DC I consistently listen to is that Australian T.N.T. record.

Btw, I was listening to Husker Du's The Living End yesterday at work. HD are great when I need them, grabbing that nerve and doing the Hokey Pokey with it. And Bob's guitar sound to me is orgasmic. Not sure if it was the V or the Explorer. Probably the V.
I've often been disapointed with Bob's tone on Husker tunes - one of the reasons I like Black Sheets of Rain so much.
I know what you mean. I think the Husker Du records were really poorly engineered/recorded/whatever. The CDs from SST even worse. That's why I took all my HD records and put them onto CD. They sound better. But The Living End is a live album. Unfortunately not one straight show, but songs from different venues on their last tour in 1987. I'll lend it to you. I think you'll appreciate it.
orry to be the odd man out here, but Highway to hell sounds tons better than Powerage. Good songs always over come bad production, but Highway just makes them all that much better.
Tony - it sounds tons better TO YOU. That is the distinction I'm trying to make here - waht IS better? For me, BETTER, means what I like MORE, and I like 'Powerage' more - I like the songs better. The first side of 'Highway To Hell' is great - but the second side droops a bit, whereas ALL of 'Powerage' rocks with undeniable ferocity - sure MOST people will prefer glossier production over good songs - Def Leppard's 'Hysteria' bears that point. 'Back In Black', songwise, is a better Lp that 'Highway to Hell', but there's no Bon Scott, and not to beat a dead horse - Brian Johnson is no Bon Scott. IF Mutt had produced 'Powerage' maybe then we'd get a different story from you. I'm just not more in love with production than I am with songs - in the end I choose attitude and songcraft over production value.
When we briefly listened to cuts from both records out here, I liked "Highway to Hell" better. I guess I just like the songs more as well.

What sounds "good" can be entirely subjective - or not. As a listener, you alone decide what sounds good. When you are playing the role of an engineer or producer, however, you are operating within a defined but infintely malleable template of "good," at least within a tightly structured form of recording like guitar based rock.

In that light, Highway to Hell obviously sounds much better. Without a certain quality of sound, record labels and radio stations will not play a record (generally speaking; we all know there are exceptions). Bad sound is not something a radio station wants to be associated with, even if the songs really are better.

One could say the songwriters are responsible for ensuring the quality of the songs, while the producer is responsible for ensuring the quality of the record.

You say the songs always win (and of courxe you're right) - would you still like Powerage better than Highway if the songs were switched between the two records? In other words, if it were Mutt's production on the songs you like better?

Would the songs really trump the production if it were the other way around? Or would you be as influenced by your sound preferences as "SOME PEOPLE"?

I ask not to be snarky, but to really try to pull apart the song versus the performance versus the sound.

One thing's for sure - when they go together (the sound and the songs working for you, like on "Powerage") you get what you would call A Great Record. And that's A Good Thing.
I believe I addressed that issue in my response to Tony's coment:

"IF Mutt had produced 'Powerage' maybe then we'd get a different story from you."

...and maybe we'd get a different story from me.

I'm not saying great production sucks - I'm saying that I like Powerage better, because I like the songs better - and - that the dirtier production somehow works for a band like AC/DC - not that better production didn't work, obviously Back in Balck and Highway to Hell both outsold Powerage by a rediculous margin - people, in general, prefer a clean production.

BUT not always, which brings me back to my point about Exile on Main Street - 99% of all die hard Stones fans AND critics choose this as their favorite record - it is the poorest recorded Stones lp.

Why is that?

Does immaculate production matter if the songs are superior?
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