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Guns 'N' Roses - Chinese Democracy (CD)

Guns 'N' Roses
Chinese Democracy
by Dimitris Antoniou at 27 November 2008, 5:09 PM

14 years. That's how long it took Mr. Axl Rose to record his latest album Chinese Democracy. 14 years of constant changes in the lineup. He kicked out all the original members, he hired new ones, kicked them out too, and hired some others. 14 studios in 4 different US cities. Over 14 million dollars just for the recordings. He also announced the release 5-6 times and delayed it again, did about a dozen promo tours and half of them failed, changed numerous engineers, producers and managers. And of course the question that we, the fans, have to answer is was it worth it?.

Personally I don't know. My problem is that I grew up with GUNS 'N' ROSES. Appetite For Destruction was my introduction to heavy music. The albums Use Your Illusion I & II were the major release and event when I was a teenager in 1991. Whatever music I was listening to, during the different periods of my life, GUNS 'N' ROSES were always there. I am not a die-hard fan, yet they are one of the bands that I never stopped listening to their music. And now after 17 years since the …Illusion… albums I am listening to something that has the name GUNS 'N' ROSES on the cover but sounds like something entirely new.

There are only very little bits left from the old Gn'R sound. The aggressiveness and the attitude of the past is not present. They are not a dirty, sleazy band anymore. No more mean riffs, solos full of sexual tension and bastard feeling. The only thing remaining from the past is Axl's distinctive voice.

Axl obviously grew up, at least musically, and decided to expand his horizons. The album sounds fresh, a perfect example of the music being released today by Rock bands. It contains some crossover elements with hip-hop loops in some songs, industrial effects in some others, guitar lines that are characteristic of this decade. I have to admit that even if I long for their old sound, this album doesn't lack inspiration. There is no doubt that Axl put heart and soul (and tons of dollar bricks) in Chinese Democracy. Nevertheless it's not up to my personal expectations.

Track by track the CD has some songs that smell faintly of the past. Street Dreams and I.R.S. (if you go past the intro) could be in the …Illusion… era. The more interesting ones though are those where Axl felt that moving forward was the answer for him. Chinese Democracy, Shackler's Revenge and the eerie Sorry with Sebastian Bach in the backing vocals are songs that not only are decent but are very inspired.  The slow piano ballad This I Love is probably one of the most sentimental songs he ever wrote. On the other hand there are songs that are completely off even for Rock standards. The pop elements in tracks like There Was A time or If The world are so unfitting for the GUNS 'N' ROSES name that made me want to press stop and forget about this release.  

Obviously diversity is not only part of Axl's plan to release something interesting, it was also unavoidable. 14 years is a very long time to compose an album, especially when you get other people to help you with the songwriting (the famous Buckethead and Robin Fink from NIN being among the most important ones). This complexity sometimes gave me the feeling that the CD is neither solid, nor tight but has the loose connection between songs in a best of album, or even worse in a collection of different artists, something like NOW! Hits.

Conclusion? I am still very skeptic about this release. Maybe I will be proven narrow-minded and in the future Chinese Democracy will be celebrated as one of the most important albums of this decade, though I highly doubt it right now. As a Gn'R fan I was impressed that Axl can be so diverse and multidimensional in his music yet I am not satisfied because in the end this is not GUNS N' ROSES anymore and sometimes it's not even Hard Rock. In my personal and humble opinion, this album could be a lot better if it stayed a bit more focused. I would not suggest however to ignore it totally. Give it a try cause in some parts it can be very rewarding. After all before you buy it you can listen to it for free in their MySpace page at Guns N Roses on MySpace Music - Free Streaming MP3s, Pictures & Music Downloads.

3 Star Rating

Chinese Democracy
Shackler's Revenge
Street Of Dreams
If The World
This I Love
There Was A Time
Riad N' The Bedovins
Axl Rose - Lead Vocals (all tracks), Backing Vocals (track 7), Keyboards (tracks 1, 6, 13)
Robin Finck - Lead Guitar (all tracks), Backing Vocals, Keyboards (tracks 3, 5)
Bumblefoot - Lead Guitar (all tracks)
Richard Fortus - Rhythm Guitar (tracks 1, 3, 4, 6, 14), Backing Vocals
Tommy Stinson - Bass Guitar (all tracks except 5), Backing Vocals
Dizzy Reed - Keyboards, Piano, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Frank Ferrer - Drums, Percussion (tracks 1, 3, 5, 6, 11)
Bryan Mantia - Drums, Percussion (all tracks except 1)
Chris Pitman - Synthesizer, Programming, Bass (tracks 5, 6, 12)

Guest musicians:
Buckethead - Lead Guitar (all tracks except 7, 13)
Paul Tobias - Rhythm Guitar (all tracks except 2, 8, 13)
Sebastian Bach - Backing Vocals (track 10)
Patti Hood - Harp (track 13)
Marco Beltrami - Orchestral Arrangement
Paul Buckmaster - Orchestral Arrangement
Pete Scaturro - Keyboards (track 10)
Record Label: Geffen Records


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