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Guns and Roses - Chinese Democracy

Label: Geffen Records
Format: CD
Released: 2008
Reviewed By: Rich Catino
Before I begin my rant, let it be known I think “November Rain” is the best piece of music GnR ever created, but this Chinese Take Out is the Axl Rose hooray for me show. Axl, when you have a hundred people playing on your album, its called a solo project. Where is the unity in players to call this Guns n Roses??? This is NOT Guns n Roses and its insulting for Axl to use the name to sell albums. And to boot, you would think that Guns were the only great dirty hard rock n roll band EVER given the pedestal size the critics, and fans, put them on.
All the fanfare has been elevated to Godly proportions and nauseated me. I think Guns are one of the most overrated bands, EVER. Granted, the original lineup with Slash and Izzy on guitar, Duff on bass, and Steven on drums, was of course something special. “Appetite for Destruction” is one of the greatest hard rock albums off all time. I think its great. And the additions of Gilby Clark and Matt Sorum for “Use Your Illusion” kept some of that original chemistry in tact and didn’t hurt the music. But I mean cummon, they only released three studio albums before imploding as a band.

Motley Crue were always better than Guns and if the they wrote an epic like “November Rain” maybe we wouldn’t have this problem.

Same issue exists with Metallica when it comes to popularity and recognition. Aren’t people smart enough to realize just because critics, radio, and Rolling Stone magazine glorify an artist or band doesn’t mean they are the only great name from that sound/style? NEWS FLASH: Guns n Roses were never going to save hard rock and Metallica are not gonna revitalize thrash metal. Great bands, yes. Well, once great, Metallica fucking amazing, but not the be all end all.

SAVATAGE. Now that’s a fucking talented highly underrated band that never got the respect they deserved (Criss Oliva R.I.P.). Well that is until now as the success is bitter sweet and in the form of the Trans Siberian Orchestra (which consists of all Savatage members plus producer Paul O Neil). And in 2008, now adding two more from Savatage to the live setlist, “Prelude to Madness” and “Believe” from “Streets” which would be their “November Rain”.

Back to GnR. Axl Rose has brought in many musicians for “Chinese Democracy” and created an album of music that is influenced by, and explores, the various sounds that hard rock music has gone through during the thirteen years it took to finish the album. The opening title track, which starts off with Axl’s high pitched scream, is the closest thing on the album to the raunchy no frills hard rock of “Appetite”. “Shackler’s Revenge” contains an industrialized Rob Zombie type guitar riff and a Korn influenced solo. “Better” follows, and again, opens with an annoying effect on the guitars with rhythmic drum beat to this flat rocker, well the arrangement takes a slight progressive turn mid way and is a welcomed improvement. Here, I’d like to make an observation of Axl’s voice, which is taken seamlessly through several facets within his range, that being a unique raspy mid tone, to more melodic and smooth, to a bit more harsh and aggressive. Piano based “Street of Dreams” with accenting strings is an average ballad with a solo that is more Slash (GnR’s former lead guitarist from the classic lineup) than anything heard up to this point.

Speaking of guitarists, two names, Buckethead and Bumblefoot (beside Axl), have become one of the few consistencies tied to the album (aside from all the rumors and controversies). Buckethead (yes, that’s him…the clown who really wore a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket on his head on MTV) plays acoustic guitar for “If the World”, a Latin/70s flavored track. Different and interesting. A slightly funked up “Scraped” begins with Axl’s multiple personalities singing together, “Riad N’ The Bedouins” are the lone real straight ahead riff based rockers amongst the pomp orchestrations of “This I Love” and “Madagascar”, and psychedelic “Sorry”. Look, I will be the first to take notice of and appreciate great orchestral and symphonic elements in my hard rock and metal, and Guns did it really well on “Use Your Illusions 1&2”. But with all these different players on every song, there is air of inconsistency to “Democracy”. With that in mind, “This I Love” from start to finish I think is one of the strongest compositions, from its simplicity to its dramatics.

In the end, has it been worth the wait? Not at all for this casual fan and journalist. Over ten years of work and this is the end result?? I think if “Chinese Democracy” was released as an Axel Rose solo project, then my opinion would differ. But others deserve the attention getting wasted on Axl and his shenanigans. I’m calling a spade a spade.

Reviewed By: Todd Knowlden

Is this the most anticipated record ever? You would think, with all the hype, single leaks, release dates and new hairdos. First off let me say that this is not a Guns and Roses Cd. It is an Axl Rose Cd, just using the Guns and Roses name[ which he won the rights to in the lawsuit against the other original members]Would he sell any Cd’s if he called it The Axl Rose Band?! If it was the original band[g-n-r] the Cd would have a totally different vibe to it.

But like the rest of the world I was excited, curious, and anxious to here what Axl has been keeping under wraps for years. 13 years to be exact. Come on Axl you’re not Mozart!! But after listening to this 3-4 times it is becoming my dirty little secret. You start to understand where Axl was going or wanted to go when he wrote ‘ November Rain and Yesturday’ many moons ago. I have found myself singing parts of songs [‘Chinese Democracy’, ’Catcher in the Rye’ and the best on the Cd’ Better.’ Track 4 ‘If the World’ Axl’s voice is at his finest. he hits such high notes and than takes it an octave higher[ like to see that happen in a live performance],the angry and pain in ‘Street of Dreams’ is what really sets Axl apart from so many other singers in our generation and generations before and after him[Rolling Stone magazine list him #64 in the top 100 Greatest Singers of all Time].

At times “Chinese Democracy” is too theatrical and electronic like in ’This I Love’, and on many tracks if not all, he has five, yes five guitarist [Robin Finch, Paul Tobias, Bumblefoot, Buckethead, Richard Fortus] all playing at varies times sometimes together throughout. Sebastian Bach fills in on backing vocals on ‘Sorry’ and the only remaining G-n-R member along with Axl is Dizzy Reed handling the keyboards/piano and some backing vocals.

My last word… It has taken 13 years for Axl to complete his operatic, psychotherapy, rock and roll fuck you Cd the only way he knows how! Full throttle, vulnerability, and paint pealing vocals is what this is all about, and I love it. Maybe Axl is the modern day Mozart!!
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