AC/DC – Back in Black

AC/DC’s seventh studio album, Back in Black, was released on the 25th of July in 1980 by Albert Productions and Atlantic Records. The album marked an important time for the bad as it was the first album to feature the bands new vocalist, Brian Johnson, following the death Bon Scott, the band’s previous vocalist.

Back in Black capitalised on the commercial success of their previous album, Highway to Hell, becoming one of the band’s most successful albums, with many fans being very impressed with Johnson’s vocal style. The band recorded the album over a seven week period that they spent in the Bahamas, between April to May 1980. The band took their producer who they had worked with on their previous album, Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange. The album was mixed at the Electric Lady Studios in New York City, and the album cover was designed to be black as a sign of mourning for Scott.

Back in Black is currently one of the best-selling albums in history, having sold an estimated 50 million copies across the world. Part of the success of the album was the band performing a yearlong world tour, which also helped to cement them as one of the most popular live musical acts in the early 1980s. The album remains popular today, regularly being included on numerous lists of ‘greatest’ albums. Since its initial release, it has been remastered a number of times for each reissue, most recently in preparation for digital release.

The album had an influence on many individuals who would go on to become artists themselves, with the album being hailed by many critics as a crucial album in metal’s history. The journalist Joe S. Harrington said that at the time of Back in Black’s release, metal and hard rock stood on a precipice and was in serious danger of becoming unpopular in commercial markets, with many bands turning toward slower tempos and longer guitar solos. The album was instrumental in proving that there was still a large market for metal, having an additional effect that many other bands were able to achieve greater levels of success in musical markets that they may not have been able to achieve if Back in Black had not been the success that it was.

Michael Jackon – Thriller

One of the most popular pop album of all time, Michael Jackson’s Thriller was his sixth studio album and was released on the 30th of November in 1982 in the United States. Thriller was released in the US under Epic Records and CBS Records internationally. The album is a continuation of Jackson’s style, following on from his previous album, ‘Off the Wall’. Thriller is a mixture of pop, disco, rock, and funk, with songs often blending two genres at once in order to appeal to multiple audiences at once, something that critics generally agree was achieved. Recording for the album took place over a longer time than is common, with the recording period being between April and November in 1982 at the Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles. Part of the extended recording time was due to the album’s large budget of $750,000, which allowed for the recruitment of many guest musicians on the album, but due to large numbers of recording conflicts had the effect of extending the recording period.

In a little over a year, Thriller became the best-selling album in the world, selling an estimated 66 million copies, although exact numbers were a lot harder to obtain back then rather than today. The album recently dropped to the second highest-selling album in the world, losing out to the Eagles’ album Their Greatest Hits (1971 – 1975), although Thriller was the first album in the world to reach 30x platinum.

The album holds the record for being awarded the highest number of Grammy Awards, winning eight awards, including Album of the Year. There were seven singles that were released from the album, all of which were well received amongst fans and commercially. The singles released were: ‘The Girl Is Mine’, ‘Billie Jean’, ‘Beat It’, ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin”, ‘Human Nature’, ‘Pretty Young Thing’, and ‘Thriler’, all of which managed to secure top 10 spots on the US Billboard 100. Part of the success of the album was Jackson’s ability to break through racial barriers in pop music that helped to enable Jackson’s appearances on MTV, as well as his meeting of President Ronald Reagan at the White House. Thriller was also one of the first albums to make extensive use of music videos as a promotional tool, a trend that has remained firmly in place today. The music videos were known for their high-budgets compared to other music videos.

Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd’s critically acclaimed album, The Dark Side of the Moon, was the eight studio album recorded and released by British psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd. The album was released on the 1st of March in 1973 under the record label Harvest Records. The album was unique in that it was largely developed during live performances, with the band tweaking sounds and concepts that they were using while live on-stage. The album was prototyped a number of times before Pink Floyd even found themselves in a recording studio, with the band premiering a very early version of the record several months before recording began. Two separate recording sessions took place in 1972 and 1973 at the Abbey Road Studios in London, with a large amount of the work going into the album being added after live recording was finished.

The album was a slight change from their previous albums, as the band had started to move away from the extended instrumental segments that they had used for their previous albums, with some critics speculating that they wished to make some of the tracks more friendly to radio, as radio stations generally favoured shorter tracks to longer tracks, a trend that continues through to today. Although the album is designed to be listened to in one go, rather than picking and choosing which tracks to listen to, a number of the songs work very well on their own, although some critics have stated that the tracks do sound better when listened to as a part of the whole album.

The Dark Side of the Moon has often been described as a concept album, with songs that explore various themes, including life, death, money, fame, and the downsides of them all. The group also experimented with advanced recording techniques that had only recently been invented, such as multitrack recording techniques, tape loops, and analogue synthesizers. The album was also one of the first to use audio samples from conversations that had been had with both the crew, as well as philosophical quotations that are played through the album, particularly in the intermission segments. Alan Parsons, an audio engineer, was responsible for many of the special audio effects that appear throughout the album as he was already known for his experimental style which complemented the album well.

The album was immediately successful upon its release, with a number of critics calling it one of the greatest albums of all time, at least within the psychedelic rock sphere. The album managed to reach number one of the US Billboard 200 and remained charted for over 900 weeks in total, a feat that very few albums have managed since.

Eagles – Hotel California

The Eagle’s fifth studio album, Hotel California, was recorded between March and October 1976 before being released on the 8th of December in 1976. The album contains three singles that each managed to do well in commercial charts, reaching high numbers in the Billboard Hot 100. ‘New Kid in Town’ managed to reach number 1 in the US, ‘Life in the Fast Lane’ managed to hit number 11, and ‘Hotel California’ also managed to reach number 1. The album is currently their second highest-selling album, behind their compilation album, Their Greatest Hits (1971 – 1975). In total, the album has managed to sell more than 42 million copies across the world and has been certified 26x Platinum in the United States.

Recording Chief Bill Szymczky helped to bring the album about at both the Criteria and Record Plant studios between March and October 1976, with the album being released in December of the same year on the Asylum record label. The album was the first to feature the guitarist Joe Walsh, who was brought on board to replace guitarist and founding member Bernie Leadon. Walsh’s guitar style added much to the album, with many critics pointing this out as a critical component of the album’s success.

The title song of the album, Hotel California, was written as a warning about the excesses of fame and success within America, particularly related to the failing of the American dream, as it was believed at that time that the American dream was unattainable for most Americans.

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV

The fourth studio album from acclaimed British rock band Led Zeppelin followed the naming convention set by their previous album and was titled Led Zeppelin IV. The album was released on the 8th of November in 1971 under the record label Atlantic Records. The album only took three months to record, which was done between December 1970, and February 1971, mostly in the country house Headley Grange. Jimmy Paige served as the album producer, helping to ensure that the sound quality remained high, although some have speculated that this was also to ensure that his guitar solos were considered loud enough according to his own tastes.

The album was a huge hit amongst fans, as well as commercially, as the band had been more experimental when compared to some of their previous albums due to their financial freedom that the success of their previous albums allowed them. One of Led Zeppelin’s most well-known songs, Stairway to Heaven, was released on the album. Breaking with their tradition of not including cover songs on their albums, Led Zeppelin did include one cover, a rock reinterpretation of the blues song ‘When the Levee Breaks’.