"Chinese Democracy" (Geffen; 2008)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

It was of course impossible for the long-awaited (and I mean long-awaited) Guns N'Roses album, "Chinese Democracy," to live up to the hype. The longer fans had to wait, the more likely it seemed that the album would be nothing but an embarrassment for the infamous Axl Rose.

Surprisingly, there's nothing embarrassing about "Chinese Democracy" at all.

Solid from start to finish, "Chinese Democracy" is a varied collection of rough-edged rockers ("Chinese Democracy," "Scraped"), razor sharp "ballads" ("Sorry," "Street of Dreams,"), and songs that don't fit into any category ("Reid and the Bedouins," "If the World"). It's got raging guitars throughout ... but then how could it not with guitarists like Robin Finck, Buckethead, Paul Tobias, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal and Richard Fortus involved. The overall feel of the album is more like a conglomeration of the two "Use Your Illusion" CDs rather than the band's undeniably brilliant debut, "Appetite for Destruction." Unlike "Appetite" and its raw, meaty feel, "Chinese Democracy" boasts huge production values and a well-controlled and -designed mix of musicians, instruments and songwriting. It has an epic sound that adds to the album's already huge mystique.

Of course, the Guns N'Roses that recorded "Appetite for Destruction" was a completely different band than those who recorded "Chinese Democracy" and many years have passed since that first album's release. Nonetheless, that edgy, raw nerve style is still here and it still sounds great. Axl himself sounds as good as he ever did but, as always, his vocal style may be a bit of an acquired taste. If you weren't an Axl fan from the old days, this album probably won't make you one today.

Even if "Chinese Democracy" were the greatest rock'n'roll record ever recorded (and it's not), it couldn't live up to the hype the past thirteen years have been building. Still, it is an astonishingly good album. Any fears that Axl's well-documented delays and other troubles were hiding a bad record should be put to the rest with this album's release.

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"Greatest Hits" (Geffen; 2004)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

This controversial collection of the "greatest hits" of perhaps the most volatile band in rock'n'roll history is nothing more than a compilation of their biggest radio hits. But guess what? Even though most of the songs on "Greatest Hits" have been played ad nauseum on every rock station in the United States, they're still damn good songs and, for a time, Guns N'Roses were one of rock'n'roll's greatest bands.

Like most "Greatest Hits" compilations, one can argue the song selection. Many would say (and I agree) that nothing from the band's ill-received and -conceived "The Spaghetti Incident" should be included in any greatest hits package. But here they are - tracks 12 and 13, "Ain't It Fun" and "Since I Don't Have You." There are at least a half dozen other classic GNR songs that would fit here better. Like the vast majority of the tracks on "Spaghetti," these two just don't have the charisma and energy that the greatest GNR songs do. The inclusion of the band's Rolling Stones cover, "Sympathy For the Devil" (from the "Interview with a Vampire" soundtrack) is a nice bonus but probably doesn't deserve to be here either.

Overall, however, "Greatest Hits" is a welcome reminder that Guns N'Roses were once such a great band. 

By the way, this is the CD the band doesn't want you to buy. In a lawsuit filed against the record company, the band claimed they were not consulted on the track listing, artwork or the re-mastering of the chosen songs and that "Greatest Hits" should not be released because "not only will the audience be misled into believing that the planned compilation is an authorized release, but that it will hinder the release of the band's long-awaited new studio album, "Chinese Democracy."

Okay, I can understand the band being pissed about not being consulted, but it's the interminable delay and myriad excuses that are hindering "Chinese Democracy."

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"Live Era '87 - '93" (Geffen; 1999)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

So much has happened - to the band and to heavy metal in general - since Guns N'Roses exploded on the scene that it's hard to remember what it was like when these guys were the kings. This two CD set will bring a memory of that excitement back to you and remind you why Guns N'Roses were so popular and so critically successful back in the day.

Featuring 22 songs, so many of which became big hits and a few of which are genuine hard rock classics, "Live Era" is a well-produced and well-recorded live album that catches the raw fury of a onstage performance while at the same time utilizing the medium of recorded music to the fullest extent. In other words, you can clearly hear one guitarist on one side of the "stage" and another on the other. Plus, the highs and lows are pure and powerful. It's not every live CD that sounds this good.

Plus, with Axl taking the band on the road again soon, "Live Era" is a great place to start refreshing your memory of the band.

One important caveat (at least in my opinion): This CD, like so many others, is available in a "explicit" and "edited" version. For goodness sake, buy the explicit, unedited one. Frankly, although I can understand their place in the Wal-Marts of the world, I cannot stand edited CDs. Not because I'm a big fan of profanity but because a sudden gap in any recording (where the offensive word used to be) knocks me clean out of the moment and makes the music seem disjointed. As you can imagine, this CD is heavily edited and the many gaps drive me up the wall.

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"Appetite For Destruction" (Geffen; 1987)

Reviewed by TBJ

Never has a band struck me the way these guys did back in '87.

In a time where, in mainstream rock, what only mattered was how far up in the air your poofy hair went, or how shiny your leather pants looked, there came a band that was nothing but down n' dirty, real rock'n'roll.

Borrowing from the glam era and straight-ahead rock and successfully tearing it all up to pieces and rebuilding it to what they thought rock should sound like, these guys showed that it didn't matter if you weren't fancy, what was important was the music, and the music alone.

Welcome to the jungle became an instant classic, both appealing to the mainstream masses and the metalheads alike, its riffs blending blues and metal like no one did before, its rhythm section pumping out like a runaway train, its vocals - well, let's just say no one to that time had ever been able to mix so many different styles into one set of vocal chords like Axl Rose did.

It would take forever to explain what each of these songs sounds like but overall they give an insight of what five talented guys with very different influences can do. Each song deals with real things like emotions, erratic lifestyles, alcohol, well, just about everything these guys had gone through. No bullshit indeed.

Album highlights include basically all the songs (with the possible exception of "Everything Goes"), but my favorite may very well be "Rocket Queen." This song became a premonition to the epic style they further explored in their next full-lengths. Its mix of heavy rock in the first part and soulful vocals and leads in the second proved why these guys kicked just about everyone's asses back then.

Guns N'Roses are: W. Axl Rose - vocals, Slash, Izzy - guitars, Duff - bass, Steve Adler - drums.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright 2008 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 10 Jul 2022 15:03:27 -0400.