So called 17 years in the making, 15 years I have waited for another Guns N’ Roses fix, hell yes I have enormous expectation on “Chinese Democracy”. And the good news is, I am so delighted that this most expensive album never made has finally see the daylight. To the naysayers who toss a few stars lesser than what “Chinese Democracy” deserves, do you even love Rose’s music in the first place?
Axl Rose is my hero, my inspiration. Sure, he heck cares about his fans and if not for the lyrics of the last song “Prostitute”, I wouldn’t even have a glimpse on what the heck Axl Rose has been fighting for, for 15 or 17 years (depending if you are counting from his band’s last studio album or cover album). If his music has been in your head for the last 2 decades, you should have no problem relating to the music and the lyrics of “Chinese Democracy”.
First, let me clear the air here for those who say G N’ R is no longer G N’ R. I own both albums by Velvet Revolver (formed mostly by the ex-band members of Guns ‘N Roses). Guns N’ Roses without Axl Rose (read: Velvet Revolver) sounds nothing like Guns N’ Roses. Even with one original member left, “Chinese Democracy” still sounds very much like a G N’ R production.
I think most exceptional artists are kind of eccentric. Axl Rose is no exception. What Guns N’ Roses has done with “Use Your Illusion I & II” is exceptional, unheard of. A simultaneous release of two mega rock albums? In recent years, Red Hot Chili Peppers released a double album “Stadium Arcadium”. That is the only production that remotely reminds me of “Use Your Illusion (1991)”. Still, songs like “November Rain”, “Don’t Cry”, “Civil War”, and “14 Years” have such a deep impression that till today, I still listen to. Rewind to “Appetite for Destruction (1987)”, which electric guitarist wouldn’t be tempted to learn playing “Sweet Child o’ Mine”? I have. At least the beginning bit.
In fact, one of the first few songs I learned after I picked up guitar as my new hobby in my UK days was “Patience” from the “G N’ R Lies (1988)” album. Lovely acoustic piece. And strange to say, I do like the cover album “The Spaghetti Incident? (1993)” a lot. Not their commercial success, I suppose. But it is a rare gem. Being able to execute so flawlessly in one cohesive album, only G N’ R can do it.
14 songs in “Chinese Democracy” total up to over 70 minutes of solid music. The reassembled G N’ R has been touring for decades, without an album. Hence, there is no surprise that the songs from this album sound so tight. Pay attention to how the pieces of instruments weave together, pay attention to how well each piece balances with one another, no band these days make albums like this anymore – both from the music and recording perspectives. To demonstrate my point on sound engineering, pick up an old rock CD (like one or two decades old) and play on your audio system. Now, pick a recent rock CD and play. Don’t you think that music these days are loud and in-your-face? From the sound engineering’s standpoint, “Chinese Democracy” sounds just like a good old rock album. Very well balanced. Good stuff.
From the music standpoint, “Chinese Democracy” certainly contains more variety probably due to the countless number of band members coming and going and returning over such a long period in time. One number starts with a Spanish guitar; all the songs come with solid memorable guitar solos; some I enjoy listening to the keyboard and piano tracks a lot. The slower measures such as “If The World”, “There Was A Time”, and “Madagascar” are great tracks. When Axl Rose sings the lines “It was a long time for you, it was a long time for me”, I can’t help but to smile at this subtle sad irony though the song appears to refer to something else. And in the song “Sorry”, listening to the lines of “I’m sorry for you, not sorry for me. You don’t know who in the hell to or not to believe”, I can’t help but to imagine this subtle message from him to his ex-band members.
When I first read the song title “Prostitute” (last song), I took the song at face value. So it did seem that the song is about a prostitute. Then the following line hits me: Ask yourself why I would choose to prostitute myself to live with fortune and shame. That just occurs to me why Axl Rose may have been fighting with his record company or the system for so many years.
No doubt Axl Rose’s recorded vocal track sounds better than all that I have previously heard of. The signature high notes are everywhere, overloaded with the signature pitch bending. There is a nice tender side that shines, and the harshness that adds texture to his vocal track. I can feel the emotion when he sings, as though he means everything he sings. Awesome.
Today I am a happy man. 15 years of waiting is over. Isn’t life simply awesome?
External Link: G N’ R Official Site