AC/DC: BONFIRE (1974-1979/1997)
CD I: 1) Live Wire; 2) Problem Child; 3) High Voltage; 4) Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be; 5) Dog Eat Dog; 6) The Jack; 7) Whole Lotta Rosie; 8) Rocker; CD II: 1) Live Wire; 2) Shot Down In Flames; 3) Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be; 4) Sin City; 5) Walk All Over You; 6) Bad Boy Boogie; CD III: 1) The Jack; 2) Highway To Hell; 3) Girls Got Rhythm; 4) High Voltage; 5) Whole Lotta Rosie; 6) Rocker; 7) T.N.T.; 8) Let There Be Rock; CD IV: 1) Dirty Eyes; 2) Touch Too Much; 3) If You Want Blood (You Got It); 4) Back Seat Confidential; 5) Get It Hot; 6) Sin City; 7) She's Got Balls; 8) School Days; 9) It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock And Roll); 10) Ride On; CD V = Back In Black.
Many fans were seriously disappointed with AC/DC's first attempt at contributing to the «Boxset Movement». They expected rarities a-plenty, outtakes, demos, previously unheard or, at least, well-remastered live recordings, and other surprises. After all, even though the boxset was only supposed to cover the band's years with Bon Scott — hence the punny name — there must have been plenty of gold stuff lying in the 1970s vaults, no?
Well, either no or else they are letting it age for a couple more decades. Let us see. The first CD is a live performance from the Atlantic Studios, recorded
By the fourth CD, Volts, we finally get to the vaults (get it? vaults — volts! genius!), and this is where things become really odd: studio rarities are basically limited to two alternate versions of songs from Highway To Hell with only slightly different arrangements (this is AC/DC; their arrangements of one single song cannot be seriously different), and two early versions of 'Whole Lotta Rosie' and 'Beating Around The Bush' that are given different lyrics and, hence, different titles, but that is obviously not enough to fool anyone. Then there are a couple more live versions and a few tracks from early Australian-only releases.
Finally, the fifth CD is Back In Black. 'Nuff said.
The biggest mistake that one can make about Bonfire, however, is to think of it from the perspective of hardcore AC/DC fans, who, for some reason, thought this boxset was for them. It is not. First and foremost, it is for Bon Scott, whose memory the band still lovingly cherishes after all these years, and for the band members themselves, who seem to have taken far more delight in designing and materializing this boxset than in raking in the money from its sales. Second, it is for novices who do not, as of yet, own any AC/DC, and for whom a combined set of Back In Black and some well-recorded live performances (always a better choice than regular best-of compilations) will do nicely as an introduction to the sleazy magic of Scott. Third, it is for the rock critic — to give him a nice pretext for ranting on how disgustingly cool and how street-wise intelligent AC/DC's former frontman has always been in comparison to his replacement.
For all those reasons, Bonfire is actually one of the better boxsets on the market. And the performances are kick-ass. One finally gets unabbreviated live versions of 'Whole Lotta Rosie', ten awesome minutes of 'Rocker', thirteen of 'Bad Boy Boogie' (alright, this one is not so fine: much of it is just basic chugga-chugga on rhythm guitar, while Angus is busy stripping — there was a good reason they filtered that part out on If You Want Blood), and quite a few Bon-sung numbers from Highway To Hell, including a 'Girls Got Rhythm' that discards all the «poppy» production elements and realizes its hardcore potential to the max.
As to the surprising lack of studio rarities, the Youngs have gone on record stating that there actually were none — the band pretty much used up all the good ideas it ever came up with, and bad ideas are hardly worth releasing. Besides, who needs outtakes from AC/DC sessions if each second album they release sounds like a bunch of outtakes anyway?