APPETITE FOR DISCUSSION
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APPETITE FOR DISCUSSION
Welcome to Appetite for Discussion -- a Guns N' Roses fan forum!

Please feel free to look around the forum as a guest, I hope you will find something of interest. If you want to join the discussions or contribute in other ways then you need to become a member. We especially welcome anyone who wants to share documents for our archive or would be interested in translating or transcribing articles and interviews.

Registering is free and easy.

Cheers!
SoulMonster

Chinese Democracy (Album)

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Post by Blackstar Sun May 30, 2021 4:20 am

Review in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Nov. 22, 2008:
Guns 'N Roses' album disappoints

GUNS 'N ROSES
"Chinese Democracy" (Geffen)
Critic's Call: Two Stars


By Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

After 15 years of gloriously absurd drama, the most anticipated album in rock history should have been the second coming of "Sgt. Pepper."

Right?

Oh wait. Axl Rose is no Lennon-McCartney, and this isn't the summer of love.

The reality of "Chinese Democracy," which comes out today, is that it's more likely to go down in the books not as a killer Guns 'N Roses album, but the album that took 15 years, cost millions of dollars, led to every other member leaving, won Americans a free Dr. Pepper and is really an Axl Rose solo record.

By taking so long, the biggest struggle Rose had here -- besides wrestling with his own ego -- was making an album over 15 years with 15 musicians in 14 different studios that didn't sound like an overthought, overwrought case of ProTools gone amok.
Banish any thought of GNR summoning the unhinged glory of "Appetite for Destruction." OK, there are a few moments, such as an opening title track that cops the riff from Judas Priest's "Living After Midnight." As it rolls on ... and on, the songs suffer from too many ideas and too many layers of stuff. "Better," for instance, sounds so much like four genres and four eras of metal all clashing together, it's liable to give people whiplash. Even metalheads.

"There Was a Time" is a good, soaring ballad until Rose beats it to death with pure hysteria for the last three minutes or so. A lot of these songs go on a minute or two or three too long -- like a summer blockbuster overwhelmed by special effects. And, my, how those shrill vocals strain their appeal. Rose can still get up there in the register, as he displays repeatedly.

Part of Axl's new shtick seems to be borrowed from Queen, minus the irony. Shifting between rock shrieker and Broadway something-or-other, Rose sounds positively schizophrenic on bombastic ballad "Street of Dreams." He employs at least four different multi-tracked voices at once on the hard-driving "Scraped" -- one of the band's best moments -- to get across that "sometimes I feel like the world is on top of me."

That's his lyrical drift throughout much of "Chinese Democracy."

Does the album have its moments? Yeah. You have to admire how on "If the World" Rose and guitarist Buckethead merge Al Di Meola with Isaac Hayes with Nine Inch Nails and somehow hold it together. "I.R.S." flashes some of the aggression of early GNR; "Catcher in the Rye," obviously about Lennon's assassination, pulls off the Queen thing nicely; and the closing power ballad "Prostitute" has a certain soaring nobility that feels like an ending. Plus, there's plenty of wankery to satisfy the long-haired dudes who hang out in guitar shops.

It's remarkable, though, that after 15 years in the making this record would end up a victim of bad timing, dropping right after Metallica started sounding like a beast again.

Lastly, considering the thin connection to "Chinese Democracy," I wish they had just called this "Free Dr Pepper."

Dr Pepper promised a free can of soda to every American if Guns 'N Roses delivered. To apply for your coupon, go to www.drpepper.com on Sunday only.
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Post by Blackstar Sun May 30, 2021 4:22 am

Review in The Baltimore Sun, Nov. 23, 2008:
DEMOCRACY' SOUNDS LIKE A 14-YEAR EFFORT

Guns N' Roses
Chinese Democracy
(Black Frog/Geffen Records) ***


By Rashod D. Ollison

The pop music world was a very different place in September 1991, the last time Guns N' Roses released new material. The albums - Use Your Illusion I and II, issued simultaneously - debuted atop the charts and would eventually sell more than 14 million copies combined. At the time, Axl Rose and crew dominated MTV, the network was barely a decade old and the World Wide Web had only been around for about a month.

Many people bought the latest hits on compact discs and cassettes. The iPod wouldn't come for another 10 years. Some of today's biggest pop sensations - Taylor Swift, Chris Brown and Rihanna - were still in diapers. Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato, the Disney tween queens, weren't even born. Resplendent in sparkly genie pants, his feet shuffling at warp speed, MC Hammer was the hottest "rapper" in America. Garth Brooks was the country king of pop.

Two years later, Guns N' Roses, perhaps the most visible hard-rock band in the world, put out The Spaghetti Incident? set of glam-rock covers. Not long after that, the group started work on a collection of new songs. That album, Chinese Democracy, would take 14 arduous years and a reported $14 million to complete. Finally, it arrives today, sold exclusively at Best Buy and BestBuy.com.

The reasons for the holdup are numerous and convoluted. Heated personnel changes, obsessive tinkering, leaked album cuts and Rose's overdeliberation are just a few. With so many missed released dates, fans and even some of GNR's original members thought the album would never come out.

Although no CD is worth such an exhausting wait, Chinese Democracy should appease hard-core GNR fans, and it may pull in new ones. The big, searing guitar riffs and grinding, steel-bolted grooves are as solid as anything the group has done before. At times, Rose folds in different instrumental touches: a wash of orchestral strings, an Indian sitar and French horns. Samples of Braveheart and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. even haunt the mix. But the various musical additives and incongruous vocal excerpts aren't necessarily game-changing. They're just there.

With a battalion of producers and musicians contributing to the project in the past 14 years, Chinese Democracy can't help but sound overstuffed and laborious in spots. The title track and first single, which opens the album, is a prime example.

But afterward, in the first half, the music is a bit leaner and more pointed. "Shackler's Revenge," a standout, is an unrelenting metal-dance number that perfectly sets up "Better," another danceable marriage of pop and metal. After a few body-slamming cuts, Rose ventures into power balladry. The soaring, almost cinematic backdrop of "Street of Dreams" is nicely juxtaposed with Rose's melodic, feet-on-fire screams.

Many of the tracks were recorded in the '90s, and the production touches sometimes echo the era. But it's apparent, especially in the latter half of the album, that the reclusive Rose kept an ear to the trends. A swaggering, R&B-friendly groove drives "If the World," and a slight techno pulse informs "Riad N' the Bedouins."

Although the arrangements are overcooked in spots and a few songs don't quite congeal right away, Rose sounds invested. His signature vocals blaze through the metallic thicket of jagged guitars, drums and keyboards. Chinese Democracy surely isn't the classic that Appetite for Destruction is. Given pop's fragmentation in the past 14 years, the album probably won't achieve the cultural ubiquity of the Use Your Illusion sets. But the most-delayed album in modern-rock history is hardly an overpriced letdown.
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Post by Blackstar Sun May 30, 2021 4:26 am

Review in Phoenix New Times, Nov. 23, 2008:
Why I Was The Last Man In America To Hear Chinese Democracy

By Martin Cizmar

I very well may be the last man in American to hear Chinese Democracy. Almost certainly, I was the last music critic, and among last Guns n' Roses fans. Honestly, though, as bad as I wanted to hear it, I couldn't bring myself to log on to MySpace to hear the record I've been waiting for since seventh grade.

So this morning, I did it right: I got up at 9:30 a.m. after a long night of drinking, put on my Appetite for Destruction shirt and went to my neighborhood Best Buy where I was, not surprisingly, the only person there picking up the record. And now I'm listening to it. Finally.

Call me old fashioned, but I was really looking forward to the experience of hearing the complete record the traditional way. I remember when the releases of landmark albums were real happenings. The midnight sale with screaming fans, cutting the plastic off the jewel case with your keys, blaring the record on the drive home. That's what I wanted. To stand outside a record store with a bunch of other dudes, drinking free Dr Pepper, ready to hear the record. This, I hoped, would be that experience.
Of course it wasn't. The record leaked last week, deflating a lot of the excitement. When I called Best Buy (the exclusive retailer) to ask if they were doing a midnight sale the clerk seemed confused. I could almost hear her inner monologue: Doesn't this creepy old guy know you can, like, download it for free? Why does he want to come out here at midnight when I am supposed to be drinking tequila with my boyfriend? God, I hope my manager does not get any ideas from this creeper! So I was the only one standing in an eerily silent Mesa Fiesta plaza parking lot, waiting for the doors to open, then searching for the Chinese Democracy display among piles of videogames and peripherals.

(Side note: I just got to "Street of Dreams," which is, it turns out, "The Blues." Awesome. As I wrote back when the release date was announced, that was my favorite track leaked years ago, and I would have been disappointed to not hear it. I like this version better, too, though the strings are a bit cloying in the last minute.)

In his review - and I only skimmed the first part of it, as I wanted my opinion to be unbiased - Chuck Klosterman, who I consider the definitive commentator on this or any other relevant record by an 80s metal band, called Chinese Democracy "the last Old Media album."

"It's the last album that will be marketed as a collection of autonomous-but-connected songs, the last album that will be absorbed as a static manifestation of who the band supposedly is, and the last album that will matter more as a physical object than as an Internet sound file."

I think ol' Chuck's right. Or at least I wanted him to be right. To me, this album mattered as a physical object and as an experience. If it was worth waiting to hear, it was worth waiting to hear right with decent sound quality and liner notes. I wanted to instantly review it with friends crammed in to a car, not read what some douchenozzle online was writing about it in Internetese: "Color me not impressed thus-far through 5 songs." Ugh.

(Side note: "If The World," shows Axl still has the pipes, but I was happier having never heard a guitar solo that weird on a Guns N' Roses song, though, in principle, I think Buckethead is probably the only metal guitarist besides Slash with enough solo star power to keep Axl in line. Too bad that did not work out.)

So, having finally heard most of the record, I'm more excited about the future than this effort. The songs leaked or played live long ago, are the best. (Side note: the more aggressive live version of "I.R.S." was much better than this one.) The epic "Madagascar" and "This I Love," Axl's first full-on piano ballad show that he's actually doing something new and different here. I've long held the theory that as soon as Democracy comes out, Axl will be free to release the storehouse of material he's undoubtedly accumulating over the last 15 years, and maybe finally reunite the boys, having successfully finished his vanity project. Sebastian Bach, Axl's good friend, basically said as much in an interview a few years back. It's a trilogy, Sebastian says, and Axl wanted everything done before he put any of it out. Maybe I'm naive, but I believe it.

Then again, I'm the only guy in America who lined up outside Best Buy on a Sunday morning to buy something I could've heard on MySpace last week.
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Post by Blackstar Sun May 30, 2021 4:29 am

Review in Lincoln Journal Star, Nov. 23, 2008:
Guns N' Roses, 'Chinese Democracy'

By L. KENT WOLGAMOTT / GZO

Twenty years ago, Guns N’ Roses was at its peak as “Appetite for Destruction” sold in the millions, rocketing to the top of the charts and staying there.

Brilliant and chaotic in concert, Guns N’ Roses was a full-blown disaster off stage. They were such a booze-and-heroin fueled mess that, as Stephen Davis notes in his new book, “Watch You Bleed: The Saga of Guns N’ Roses,” barriers separated the G N’ R dressing rooms from those of the newly cleaned-up Aerosmith during their tour.

Now, 17 years after its last album of original material, Guns N’ Roses finally has released “Chinese Democracy.”

In truth, calling it a Guns N’ Roses album is a bit of a misnomer. The only original Gunner on the record is Axl Rose, who in a fit of megalomania forced his former bandmates to sign the name “Guns N’ Roses” over to him.

The rest of the players on “Chinese Democracy” are a mixed bag of musicians who cruised through Rose’s domain in the past 15 years: the likes of avant garde guitarist Buckethead, former Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson and pianist Dizzy Reed, who was brought into G N’ R when Rose decided to turn it from a two-guitar, assaultive punk-metal band to a keyboard-oriented ensemble.

But this record is all about Rose, who spent upwards of $13 million recording and rerecording and rerecording.

Not surprisingly, the record is overstuffed to the point of explosion — as if Rose decided he had to throw everything he possibly could onto each track.

What is surprising is that “Chinese Democracy” winds up being a solid hard-rock record. There’s no “Welcome to the Jungle” or “Sweet Child O’ Mine” on the disc. But as an album, which is how it was conceived, it works pretty well.

There’s still not a more impassioned screamer in rock, and Rose’s wailing then vulnerable vocals connect while the music channels bits of Queen and Curtis Mayfield, Judas Priest and even a little vintage G N’ R. But not too much: There’s always a keyboard ready to swoop in atop the rock guitar riffs.

“Chinese Democracy” is split between rockers, such as the title cut, and ballads, such as the piano-soaked “Street of Dreams,” while the soaring “There Was A Time” combines the two into a power ballad that’s heavy on the power. Some of the rockers really connect, most notably “Riad N’ The Bedouin” and “I.R.S.,” a surging mid-tempo number introed by a pseudo hip-hop rhythm.

Like most good albums, “Chinese Democracy” gets better on repeat listenings as the overstuffed music starts to make sense. But figuring out exactly what Rose is trying to say in his big artistic statement isn’t so easy.

“Catcher in the Rye,” a very Queenish song, doesn’t appear to have much to do with J.D. Salinger but everything to do with the troubled Rose. In Davis’ book, he comes off as a sad case, a tormented talent diagnosed as bipolar and subject to mood swings and violent outbursts.

Elsewhere, he appears to again lash out at anyone who has the temerity to confront him. Taunts like “Don’t you try to stop us now,” which opens the throbbing “Scraped,” don’t exactly ring true from a guy who has seemingly stopped himself for years.
Sorry, Axl, it’s just hard to care about your demons after all these years.

Last week, I got out the old G N’ R records and confirmed that “Appetite for Destruction” was the last great hard-rock record and the only G N’ R masterpiece.

“Chinese Democracy” isn’t likely to come close to it in sales, and it certainly won’t have its mass cultural impact. But Rose has made a decent record that easily links up with the band’s previous releases. That is about the best that could be expected.
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Post by Blackstar Sun May 30, 2021 4:33 am

Review in Houston Chronicle, Nov. 23, 2008:
Democracy falls

Long-anticipated GNR album unable to meet expectations

By ANDREW DANSBY; Staff

Waiting for Chinese Democracy has been like waiting for Godot. the real tragicomedy has been in the anticipation. Only in this script people waited 17 years. and Godot finally showed up. and, frankly, things were more interesting before he got there.
Chinese Democracy (which is available exclusively at Best Buy) is an easy target, a bloated gazillion-dollar ode to antiquated rock'n' roll excess in the middle of lousy economic times and a changed music industry. no artist alive could make music to match the fervor that has surrounded this project. and the true believers have heard much of this, either during concerts or through internet leaks.

This isn't to say rock is dead or that hard rock is dead, but rather that rock needs to be savvy to survive. Metallica scored a hit this year re-embracing its roots; AC/DC scored one by refusing to change its tune. But Axl Rose and this band he calls Guns `n Roses want it both ways. With this album he tries to run from the past, while never letting go of its wrist. no surprise, then, that it's a herky-jerky trip.

Rose has followed the Peter Principle to the letter. He had his chaps and Aquanet phase, but when other Sunset Strip hardrock bands dressed like Culture Club and sounded like pop acts, he and his GNR droogs took a darker turn on Appetite for Destruction. But a 20 million-plus debut album creates a certain amount of pressure.

Rose clearly aspires to be an ambitious guy; someone like David Bowie. Only he's been promoted beyond his capabilities. after successfully selling a particular brand of hard rock to the masses, the only places to go were theater and self-parody.
So it's not that surprising Chinese Democracy seems like it's from 1999, a good year for theatrical rock. a reclusive type, Rose apparently missed the memo announcing the arrival of the 21st century. Rather than being the work of GNR5.0, Chinese Democracy is the best Marilyn Manson album since Holy Wood.

The title track kicks it all off all atmospheric-like with a creepy Far Eastern-sounding siren and some digitized chattering playing like a tip to Welcome to the Jungle. But alas, you're nowhere near as frightening as the jungle. You're in the muddle, baby.
A crisp buzzsaw guitar revs up and things go from cold to thrilling, then cold again. The song has grown on me after a dozen plays, but there's nothing particularly soulful about it.

Shackler's Revenge tries to stick a shiv in your ears with an electronic screech before sludging through its lumbering paces, digital spittle spattled all over the place. It's the kind of song that exists when an artist has too many buttons to push.
Better is the first sign of tenderness. Rose knows that ballads sell. They tipped GNR in a way the hard stuff never could. Rose could spew misogynistic bile like he was possessed, because he could always make it up to her later with the slow stuff. It was icky. But it sold.

Street of Dreams, another of his Elton Rose piano songs, is even wimpier. The affectation in his voice at the outset is chilling for its brazen phoniness; even he doesn't seem to believe the self-involved things that come out of his mouth. The lyrics, never Rose's strong point (yet not his weakest either) are ripped from a Trapper Keeper.

"All the love in the world couldn't save you/all the innocence inside/You know I tried so hard to make you/I want to make you change your mind.''

Or, "it hurts too much to see you/and how you left yourself behind/ You know I wouldn't want to be you/Now there's a hell I can't describe.''

Yet he just did.

The modern and exotic touches are jarring throughout. A flamenco guitar on If the World gives way to a wah-wah '70s porn flick guitar. Drum loops and strings run around like kids with buckets on their heads, knocking against riffs aped from Slash (because Axl has to get the last dig), Kurt Cobain (because Axl has to get the last dig) and others that reflect the artier leanings of the 37 guitarists who contributed to this album.

Somewhere in here is a possible 30-minute gem, but Rose, never one for restraint, turns in 72 minutes of utterly claustrophobic rock.

Scraped would've been a good place to pick up after the title track; its a capella intro is intriguing and then it gets blasted out of the water by an Appetite-worthy riff.

Madagascar is a formidable rocker, taking a world weariness and turning it into gritty fire and defiance.

Rose tries to serve up a mission statement in the song: "I won't be told anymore/That I've been brought down in this storm/ And left so far out from the shore/That I can't find my way back, my way anymore.''

Only Rose has been lost longer than even he knows, and, like a lousy politician, he's surrounded by yes men. So Chinese Democracy springs from his navel, sonically and lyrically.

If Izzy Stradlin was GNR's heart and Slash its crotch, that made Axl its brain, only Guns n' Roses wasn't great because it was a brain band. It was a crotch and heart band with enough brain to elevate it above its dumber brethren. It was a dark groove band, which is why people compared Guns - and not Poison or Motley Crue - to the Stones.

So now this rotten Frankenstein's monster of a band is merely a lumbering vessel for a floating head; waxy, primal, sharp-toothed and corn-rowed like a hard-rocking Predator screaming at people before trying to rip out their skull.

As a guy who found merit even in GNR's covers album The Spaghetti Incident, I find it frustrating that Chinese Democracy's saving grace is that it's still better than anything by Velvet Revolver.
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Post by Blackstar Sun May 30, 2021 4:36 am

Review in The Detroit News, Nov. 23, 2008:
Guns N' Roses' 'Chinese Democracy' an over-the-top masterpiece

Guns N' Roses
"Chinese Democracy"
Geffen Records

GRADE: A


By Adam Graham
Detroit News Pop Music Writer


In a word: Epic.

"Chinese Democracy" — Guns N' Roses' long-gestating manifesto that many thought would never materialize, and many more thought would be an unlistenable mess should it ever see the light of day — is a crazed masterpiece, a big, bold triumph of perseverance and modern studio wizardry. Yes, it's overblown, overindulgent and totally over-the-top, but it is also audacious, defiant and ambitious beyond belief. It's every bit as gigantic-sounding as you'd expect, given its unbelievable back story and the parties — namely, one W. Axl Rose — involved.

It's the sound one of rock's most maniacal perfectionists who is struggling with his relevancy and wrestling with his demons, both personal and creative, while concurrently dealing with the self-inflicted pressures of making the Greatest Album Ever.
No one but Axl Rose could have set the stage as grandly and as absurdly as he did for this album, with a decade's worth of missed release dates, aborted tours, and the general rock star insanity that has surrounded this album since its inception. And frankly, for better or for worse, no one else but Axl Rose could have made "Chinese Democracy."

In an odd way, finally hearing the album in all its boffo grandeur helps the drama that has been "Chinese Democracy" make perfect sense. It couldn't have happened any other way; it had to be like this. And yes, it was worth the wait.

The first sounds you hear on "Chinese Democracy" are echoes and chatter and spooky laughter, which are all quickly silenced by the arrival of a killer buzz-saw guitar riff. It seems to be Axl's way of addressing the rampant speculation and rumors surrounding the project, and putting a stop to them by finally letting 'er rip.

The Meta themes continue throughout the album, and in many ways, "Chinese Democracy" reads like a concept album about the making of "Chinese Democracy." The journey to today's release date has surely been rife with its share of heroes (Axl, mainly), villains (Axl, mainly), strife and struggle, so why not?

The self-referencing unfolds in songs like the vaguely Middle Eastern-flavored "If the World" (the chorus supposes, "if the world would end today," which surely seems plausible given the improbability of "Chinese Democracy's" release) and the rip-roaring "Riad n' the Bedouins" (Axl sings of all his "frustrations" and "salvations" being "caught up in lies," which probably means people were trying to tell him what to do). It continues in the bluesy dirge of "Sorry" (when Axl sings "you don't know why I won't give in/ to hell with the pressure, I'm not caving in," he might as well be talking to a label boss asking him to just finish the album already) and the caustic "I.R.S." ("would it even matter the things that I say?/ You made your mind up on your own anyway," he seems to be singing, pre-emptively, to his critics). Even on the zeppelin-sized (the balloon, not the band) "Madagascar," when no less than Martin Luther King's sampled voice announces, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last," it's not hard to read it as Axl's own statement of liberation from the burden of completing the album.

Ironically, given its title, "Chinese Democracy" is the product of anything but a democracy, Chinese or otherwise. With ex-Guns Slash, Duff McKagen and Matt Sorum long since having moved on, Guns N' Roses is now a dictatorship, led by Axl himself. This Guns N' Roses bares little resemblance to the young, hungry band of jackals that crafted one of hard rock's finest-ever moments in 1987's masterfully raw "Appetite for Destruction." This Guns N' Roses is more a band that thought 1991's famously bloated "Use Your Illusion" double album just wasn't big enough.

In many ways, "Chinese Democracy" is a '90s rock album through and through, a monolithic relic of a bygone rock era. It's a Hummer at an electric car convention, celebrating its excesses at a time when everyone else is scaling back and running for cover. But that's what Axl knows, and that's what Axl is. Don't hate the player, hate the game.

If you spend 15 years making an album, it better sound like it, and "Chinese Democracy" sounds every bit like Rose has been tinkering with it non-stop since the first Clinton administration. Guitars are layered on top of guitars, with a thick coat of guitars on top; symphonies of strings drop in, say hello, and bow out; choruses of angels add soothing background vocals. (Is that what took so long? Was it the auditioning of angels that tied Axl's hands?)

And then there are Axl's vocals, which are alternately screeching, preening, dark and wicked, and sound as if they've been sent through a lifetime's worth of vocal processing. Yes, "Chinese Democracy" may well be the most overproduced album of all-time — there's nothing remotely spontaneous about it, and every millisecond is filled with a drum loop, a guitar overdub, something — but it's a badge it wears proudly. This far into the game, it's go big or go home, and "Chinese Democracy" is nothing if not a Hail Mary with 0:00 left on the clock.

Musically, "Chinese Democracy" is fascinating, filled with experimental electronic flourishes and guitars that light up the sky like a Fourth of July fireworks display (together, guitarists Buckethead, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal and Robin Finck form a veritable offensive line of dive bombing guitars). But underneath the studio bluster and Pro Tools perfectionism there's plenty of old school song craft at play. "Street of Dreams" — known in early, leaked versions as "The Blues" — would easily be the album's "November Rain," if there weren't already a half dozen other songs jockeying for the same position. It's got strings, massive guitars and the album's most winning vocal performance, but at the heart of the song is Axl and his piano, and it recalls Queen or Elton John in its scope and delivery.

Equally seismic is "There Was a Time," another holdover from leaked versions of the album, which rides a skeletal hip-hop backbeat early on before becoming a gloriously excessive parade of orchestra swells, guitar riffs, keyboards and general madness. The whole thing sounds like it's going to implode at any minute, but it hangs on, and roars proudly like a wild beast.
Make no mistake, "Chinese Democracy" is a colossal listening experience that isn't likely to be topped anytime soon. For sheer drama alone, "Chinese Democracy" is in a class all its own.

Some 70 minutes after it opens with those cackling detractors it closes with a calming orchestral outro, which seems to be Axl's way of saying he is finally at peace. He's delivered his magnum opus and he can now move on, and so can we.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.
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Post by Blackstar Sun May 30, 2021 4:39 am

Review in Chicago Sun-Times, Nov. 23, 2008:
We waited 17 years for this?
Guns N' Roses disc won't fulfill fans' appetite for uncluttered rock


By Jim Derogatis; The Chicago Sun-Times

Guns N' Roses, "Chinese Democracy" (Geffen)
Rating 2 out of 4


With the very rarest of exceptions, rock 'n' roll is a dish best served steaming hot, with as little delay as possible between the inspiration of the creative oven and the final garnishing of the finished album. Even some of its most celebrated epics -- "Led Zeppelin IV," "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" by Genesis or "The Dark Side of the Moon" by Pink Floyd -- had relatively quick, no-muss, no-fuss origins.

So even if many of their diehard fans argue that the long-, long-, long-awaited sixth studio album by the corporate enterprise that 46-year-old Indiana native W. Axl Rose still calls Guns N' Roses should be judged only on the merits of its grooves, the back story must be mentioned.

The rock world, or at least a significant and still proudly mullet-wearing portion of it, has been waiting 17 years for this album, which already had racked up production costs of $13 million by March 2005, prompting the New York Times to call it "the most expensive album never made." Now, with 14 studios and dozens of hired hands listed in the credits -- none of whom, save Rose, were members of the group that released the phenomenal, 28-million-selling "Appetite for Destruction" in 1987 -- "Chinese Democracy" is finally here ... or rather, it's waiting at the nearest Best Buy, which, in another of the currently in vogue slaps in the face to the struggling survivors among the mom-and-pop record stores, is the only retailer that has been authorized to sell it.

First, the good news: This is not the music world's "Heaven's Gate" or "Ishtar," two of the most notorious and costly Hollywood flops ever made. Now, the perhaps inevitable bad: It is rock's "The Godfather: Part III," a late-career installment in a beloved franchise that we never thought we'd see, which evokes just enough of what we enjoyed in the distant past to prompt an occasional smile, but nowhere near enough to stand as an equal artistic accomplishment, or even a particularly satisfying experience.

The biggest problem is the same one that marred the band's last batch of original material, the two "Use Your Illusion" discs released in 1991. Determined to be hailed as more than just a "mere" hard-rocker, Rose began to worry entirely too much about his reputation as an artiste, incorporating diverse experimentation in other genres for which he had little feeling or talent, and cluttering things up with a thoroughly annoying and distracting brand of orchestral bombast. At their best -- and "Sweet Child o' Mine" always will be the classic example -- the Gunners evoked a poignant and dramatic grandeur with the simplest of ingredients, chief among them what Rolling Stone called Rose's "rusted-siren" wail, but just as importantly the dual guitars of tempering forces and co-songwriters Slash and Izzy Stradlin. The grand pianos, soaring string sections and progressive-rock aspirations just weren't necessary.

About half of the 14 songs here wear out their welcome shortly after you're done marveling at all of the filigree. Under the Mellotrons, vocal choirs, French horns, Indian sitars, Spanish guitars and Martin Luther King Jr., "Cool Hand Luke" and "Braveheart" samples, there just isn't enough song in songs such as "If the World," "There Was a Time" and "Madagascar" to make a significant impact. Even worse are hair-metal ballads such as "This I Love" and "Street of Dreams," which find Rose reaching for Elton John and Queen, but missing even Bon Jovi to arrive at plain irritating and almost unlistenable.

If these tracks represented the entire disc, "Chinese Democracy" would be even worse than the musical equivalent of Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman as lounge singers crossing the desert on camelback. But the album is redeemed in part by its most straightforward, hardest-rocking and simplest moments -- the opening assault of the title track, "Shackler's Revenge" and "Better," along with "Scraped," "Riad N' the Bedouins" and "I.R.S." later on -- though even these require us to accept that "simple" can describe a song with five or six studio guitarists shredding simultaneously.

Needless to say, it all makes for an extremely inconsistent ride best programmed selectively on your iPod -- pretty ironic, considering Rose's disdain for downloading -- though his lyrical themes are, as always, familiar from track to track, focusing on his unwavering belief in his ability to survive/succeed and his devotion to self-reliance. He'll never admit that he needs his old mates, though he does pine after that woman who done him wrong, and while the album-closing "Prostitute" is supposed to be one of these lost-love songs, it's hard not to hear it as a statement about the 17-year wait for this music.

"It seems like forever and a day / If my intentions were misunderstood / Please be kind / I've done all I should," Rose sings. Actually, Axl, you've done way too much, and for that reason, two out of four stars is as kind as I honestly can be.
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Post by Blackstar Sun May 30, 2021 4:45 am

Review in Associated Press/The Press of Atlantic City, Nov. 25, 2008:
Music review / Whether it's GNR or Axl Rose alone, a vote for 'Democracy'

By JOHN CARUCCI
Associated Press


When an album takes longer to finish than the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, lofty expectations are part of the deal. "Chinese Democracy" may not be high art, but for any GNR fan, it was certainly worth the wait.

The quality of the music was never much in question, seeing as Axl Rose had ample time to perfect it. The going concern has always been: With Rose as the only original member involved, is this to be considered a legitimate Guns N' Roses album?
Slash, Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagen are all gone, chased off by their control-freak frontman at worst; or just long since moved on to the next thing. Keyboardist Dizzy Reed stuck it out with Rose over the years, but he didn't join the band until the early 1990s.

But where "Chinese Democracy" is technically more a Rose solo project than a Guns N' Roses album, it at least feels like the singer paying homage to his former band. Forgetting that for a moment, it is one heckuva record.

Rose's high-pitched, staccato delivery sounds strong as ever, and other GNR touchstones are revisited -- from the six-minute piano ballad ("Sorry" is no "November Rain," but it has that feel) to a sampling of the same "failure to communicate" bit from "Cool Hand Luke" he used as the intro to "Civil War" in 1993.

The perfection of its warp-speed guitar solos, ambition of its proglike twists and turns, and flawlessness of its production are in line with the endless years "Chinese Democracy" took to make. Considering the carousel of characters who brought something to bear here, however, it's not surprising that its weakness is that the sum of these superior parts does not equate as a whole.
Maybe under normal time constraints, this would be considered a masterwork. Given the protracted production and soaring costs -- an estimated $13 million -- "Chinese Democracy," at best, meets expectations.

Check this track out: "Madagascar" will easily fit into a playlist OF GNR's best. No surprise -- Axl has played it live over the last couple of years.
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Post by Blackstar Sun May 30, 2021 4:52 am

Review in The San Diego Union-Tribune, Nov. 27, 2008:
WELCOME TO THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF AXL
Guns N' Roses' 'Chinese Democracy' is a monument to Chairman Rose -- and to overkill


Guns N' Roses
"Chinese Democracy"
Geffen
** 1/2


By George Varga; POP MUSIC CRITIC

Understatement is a quality rarely ascribed to W. Axl Rose, the lone original member of Guns N' Roses featured on his new solo album -- oops, the new GNR album -- "Chinese Democracy."

Bombastic? Petulant? Charismatic? Absolutely. But understated? Not unless you regard Madonna and Lil Wayne as models of gentility and good taste. That's why it's such an unexpected pleasure to hear Rose, 46, sing the gentle piano ballad "This I Love," the penultimate selection on this long-overdue 14 song album.

Or, to be more precise, the first 30 seconds of "This I Love," after which his vocals kick into overdrive and four orchestras -- one live, three synthesized -- begin to swell and surge before the band enters. Then comes a piercing, Jeff Beck-styled guitar solo by Robin Finck, along with a choir and brass section that are almost buried in the too-busy mix.

Then again, who would expect less from a release that comes 17 years after GNR's previous studio album of new songs? Recorded at eight studios in Los Angeles, four in New York and one each in Las Vegas and London, "Chinese Democracy" utilizes five producers, including Rose and Queen veteran Roy Thomas Baker, along with nearly 40 audio engineers and assistant engineers. As of 2005, the album's price tag was $13 million and rising.

"Field of Dreams," which boasts one of Rose's better vocal performances, features six guitarists and two bassists, along with five credits for "orchestral arrangement" and two for "drum arrangement," despite only one drummer actually playing on the song.
But the many credits are no surprise, considering how many short-lived band members and "special guests" (including Moby, Queen guitarist Brian May and, um, Shaquille O'Neal) have come and gone since Rose acquired sole rights to GNR's name in 1997. (In the CD booklet, he thanks several hundred people, including the staff at City National Bank.)

Given the album's insanely drawn out gestation period, it's also no surprise that many of the songs sound instantly dated. Less expected is how derivative some of them are.

The thunderous title track would make a greater impact if its opening guitar riff didn't recycle The Scorpions' "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and Humble Pie's version of Ray Charles' "I Don't Need No Doctor." Then there's "Shackler's Revenge" (which sounds so much like Nine Inch Nails that Trent Reznor could sue), and "Riad N' the Bedouins" (whose wordless vocal refrain echoes both Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant's Song" and, especially, Audience's "Raid").

At 72 minutes, "Chinese Democracy" -- which is only available at Best Buy and from iTunes -- is too long by half. Anything shorter would require a sense of understatement that W. Axl Rose clearly doesn't have -- or care about.
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Post by Blackstar Sun May 30, 2021 4:55 am

Review in The Orlando Sentinel, Nov. 28, 2008:
Guns N' Roses
Chinese Democracy
***


By Jim Abbott, Sentinel Pop Music Critic

How is it possible not to be somehow disappointed with an album 15 years in the making?

After all, it's only rock 'n' roll, as some famous singer once told us, but in this case the long-awaited Chinese Democracy is only occasionally likable. Perhaps the Dr. Pepper folks didn't like it so much, since the company had to make good on its offer of a free soda for everyone in America on Sunday, when the album managed to make its debut in 2008.

The music?

It's epic in scale, if not in content. The best part is the rockers that emphasize the guitar squalor and that signature Axl Rose scream, still plenty formidable. That voice is perhaps the most discernible link to the band's original DNA, which could hardly be expected to survive a boatload of personnel changes.

More than a dozen musicians contributed to the 14 tracks, including ex-Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson, Nine Inch Nails touring guitarist Robin Fincke and avant-garde ax slinger Buckethead.

The opening title track introduces the band with a wash of moody, ambient sounds, more like a movie soundtrack than a rock record. Fortunately, there's a quick payoff when the scorching guitars strafe the landscape with sonic napalm.

The guitars are also raw and powerful in "Shackler's Revenge," the first showcase for that signature Axl Rose screaming. When he pushes into the upper register, it's still with confident force atop the sea of soaring noise.

Alas, the ballads are less kind to Rose and the band.

Above a foundation of piano, "Street of Dreams" makes his overblown warbling sound like a parody when it aims to be moving. Likewise, the band throws way too many strings at the midtempo "There Was a Time," turning a stab at grandeur into bloated overkill.

In other moments, however, it all comes together: "Catcher in the Rye" is a 6-minute romp that turns the excess into something astounding. "I.R.S.," with its slinky guitars, puts the band closer to a stripped-down rocker.

If Rose had managed to find such focus more often, Chinese Democracy might have been worth the wait. As it is, it's a blip, not a bang.
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Post by Blackstar Sun May 30, 2021 4:58 am

Review in The Northwest Herald, Nov. 28, 2008:
Guns N' Roses
"Chinese Democracy" (Geffen)
1-1/2 stars


By BRYAN WAWZENEK

It's a testament to Guns N' Roses' legacy that anyone cares about "Chinese Democracy," the band's first album of original material in 17 years.

Of course the "band" that exists now bares little resemblance to GN'R circa 1991. Izzy Stradlin, Slash and Duff McKagan packed up their guns a long time ago.

The intervening years saw a truckload of new members welcomed to the jungle, where they didn't do much more than work on "Chinese Democracy." Virtuoso guitarist Buckethead came and left. Moby was brought in to produce, and he stuck around for even shorter. Now the band includes a dude named Bumblefoot.

A while ago, GN'R became frontman Axl Rose's show. It's almost unfair that "Chinese Democracy" is credited to Guns N' Roses. Back in the late '80s, the snarling, direct rock of "Appetite for Destruction" laid waste to these sort of overblown albums.

Although Rose has plenty of snarl left in him (listen to him howl "I don't give a f--k 'bout them because I am crazy" on "Riad N' the Bedouins") and there's some gnarly fretwork on "Democracy," the album is missing the danger that first made GN'R exciting.

One has an image of Rose hunched over a studio mixing board, second guessing every solo, over-producing every track, slowly removing the life from this record over the course of a decade.

He's ended up not with 14 songs, but 14 chunks of sound that almost all clock in at 5 minutes each.

These are 14 tangles of guitars, screams, guitars, flutes, guitars, horns, guitars, keyboards and more, more, more.

It's rumored this album cost about $14 million. That million-per-track statistic means that Axl got his money's worth, even if the listener didn't. "Guitar Hero" is a more lively rock 'n' roll experience than "Chinese Democracy."

And why does every track have to be an epic? Down the stretch, "Democracy" turns into "November Rain" on repeat, all lumbering tempos, skyscraper choruses and mind-numbing excess. Underneath all that fluff, it's a good bet "Sorry," "I.R.S.," "Madagascar" are all the same song. The only way to differentiate is "Madagascar" features samples spoken by Michael J. Fox and Martin Luther King Jr. (Too much? Nah), "Sorry" features Sebastian Bach on backing vocals and "I.R.S." references the President. Whether Rose means George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush or Barack Obama is anyone's guess.

The "Use Your Illusion" albums hinted at it, but "Democracy" proves Rose never wanted to be Mick Jagger or Johnny Rotten, but some awful amalgam of Elton John, Freddie Mercury and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Rose's work is worse than just overcooked and dense. At times, "Chinese Democracy" is flat-out awful.

"Shackler's Revenge," featuring a sadly strained, lower-register growl from Rose, jumps on the "let's rip off White Zombie" bandwagon about 15 years too late. Imagine that, an album in the works this long turns up outdated on arrival.

The a capella screeching that opens "Scraped" might be the worst noise in the history of recorded music. Rose has got an unholy wail, but it's best heard over a crushing guitar crescendo.

And, with respect due to Mr. Buckethead and Mr. Bumblefoot, the best way to experience Rose's sweaty cries is in tandem with Slash's greasy guitar licks. That is the version of Guns N' Roses that would be worth waiting 17 years for.

Although the anticipation surrounding "Democracy" can be chalked up to GN'R's enduring legacy, this album only tarnishes it.
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Post by Blackstar Sun May 30, 2021 5:01 am

Review in The Tuscaloosa News, Nov. 28, 2008:
After all these years, Axl is still Axl

This ain't your daddy's Guns N' Roses.

Gone are the swagger and leather panted debauchery that came so easy to the original lineup — guitarists Slash and Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagen and drummer Steven Adler (later replaced by Matt Sorum) — who seized, albeit briefly, the Los Angeles rock god crown.

But that doesn't mean that 'Chinese Democracy,' the 14-years-in-the-making album from the band now calling itself Guns N' Roses, is bad. In fact, most of it's pretty damn good.

It's got thundering rockers (the title track, 'Shackler's Revenge'), melodramatic power ballads ('Street of Dreams,' 'Sorry,' 'This I Love') and some things that fall in between (see the closing — and excellent — track, 'Prostitute').

But what it doesn't have is the organic chemistry that comes from the same group of guys working to create something bigger than themselves. Something like, say, 'Appetite for Destruction.'

The album credits list five guitar players on some tracks (two have six guitarists, counting frontman Axl Rose), two drummers on others, and up to three keyboardists on some more.

The 14 songs feature producers and pre-producers; many of the guitar solos were produced, engineered, then later re-amped, edited and engineered again.

Yet despite this scattered, erratic process, most of the songs come off remarkably cohesive.

Aside from the opening track of 'Chinese Democracy,' which opens with a babbling montage of Chinese voices that gives way to something that resembles Alice in Chains or 'Badmotorfinger'-era Soundgarden, the strongest track on the album may be 'Shackler's Revenge.'

This three-and-a-half minute sonic onslaught made its debut on the video game Rock Band 2 and features outstanding guitar work from Buckethead, Robin Finck and Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal, the latter of whom provides the mind-warping solo. Whether any these guys will be in the touring version of the band (Buckethead and Finck already have moved on to other things) remains to be seen, but if Axl's voice can match the radical octave changes that he displays here, the song likely won't suffer too much.
'Better' is one of the most cohesive songs on the record, despite five guitarists — two of whom offer solos — contributing. Like many of the songs, the absence of Slash is glaring, but this is certainly impressive work , especially the bridge/transition in the middle that would sound good in any decade.

For 'Madagascar,' Axl put together a lengthy audio collage that incorporates pieces of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' and 'Why Jesus Called Man a Fool' speeches and dialog from five movies. This montage comes about midway through a song that opens with a slow, rhythmic chant of French horns, swells to an emotional climax of Buckethead solos and drops the listener with Axl howling 'I cant find my way back, my way anymore.'

'Riad N' the Bedouins,' 'There Was a Time' and 'I.R.S.' went through few modifications since their seemingly mastered versions were leaked to the Internet in June. All three are solid songs (although the chorus of 'I.R.S.' could've used some of the old lineup's brazenness to take it from slightly cheesy to pretty cool), and the intricacies of each are better appreciated with each listen. Additionally, 'Time' contains some of Axl's best lyric work ever — it's certainly on par with the best of the 'Use You Illusion' efforts.

This album, all in all, may not live up to all the hype it's generated since the title first surfaced in a Rolling Stone story in 2000, and some may question where the $13 million (as of 2005) went.

But for those who grew up with the original band and have been wondering what Axl Rose has been doing for the last two decades, 'Chinese Democracy' answers a lot of questions.
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Post by Blackstar Sun May 30, 2021 5:07 am

Review in The Dallas Morning News, Nov. 24, 2008:
An Axl to grind
Who let the frontman fade into the background?


Guns N' Roses
Chinese Democracy
B-


By MARIO TARRADELL; Music Critic

The most telling flaw about the long-delayed Guns N' Roses CD, Chinese Democracy, is the muted vocal presence frontman Axl Rose has on each song. Track after track of this ambitious, 71-plus-minute opus finds Mr. Rose, a man with an ego the size of Europe, mixed into the background as if he were a guest singer.

That's a blemish that won't wash out. Neither will the effort's lack of drum-fortified bottom. It sounds thin, a problem that contrasts with the Chinese Democracy back story - more than a decade in the making, recorded in 14 studios and costing in the millions.

Musically, Chinese Democracy, which debuted Sunday and is being sold only at Best Buy, finds GNR in Use Your Illusion mode. It's more a big, bombastic, hugely orchestrated work than a lean, mean, piercing rock record à la the seminal Appetite for Destruction. Nothing wrong with that, except that Mr. Rose couldn't self-edit the excesses.

The Democracy credits take up five pages of the booklet. Each song has a huge cast of players, all essentially studio musicians, because Mr. Rose is the remnant of the original GNR lineup. On one cut, the sprawling "Madagascar," he samples dialogue from five movies: Mississippi Burning, Cool Hand Luke, Braveheart, Casualties of War and Seven.

The song's a rock epic, as are "Street of Dreams" and "There Was a Time." Mr. Rose is a grand thinker who refuses to make meat-and-potatoes rock 'n' roll. Let's give him credit for elevating the art form.

And yet he makes it difficult for listeners. Chinese Democracy isn't an immediate disc. It takes patience and intense study to reveal its nuances. In a year where good old-fashioned RNR has made such a huge comeback, thanks to the great urgency of the new Metallica and AC/DC albums, Guns N' Roses feels like the audible equivalent of Shakespeare.

Perhaps it's all Axl Rose's way of silencing his critics, the ones that keep blasting him for taking 17 years to come up with a fresh studio CD of original material. In the end, he's in total control. He's even demanding time and effort from the very fans that support him.
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Post by Blackstar Sun May 30, 2021 5:10 am

Review in Arkansas Traveler (University of Arkansas), Nov. 24, 2008:
CD Review: Guns N' Roses return with 'Democracy'

By Brian Washburn; U. Arkansas

(CSTV U-WIRE) FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- It has finally arrived. The moment people have been waiting for all of their lives - or for maybe half of their lives. After 14 years, $5 million and countless musicians, Axl Rose and his giant performing circus (a.k.a. Guns N' Roses) released "Chinese Democracy."

In the short life I have already lived, there have been countless instances of moments and items I never thought I would see. There are those where I rejoiced (Barack Obama being elected president, "The Dark Knight," the St. Louis Cardinals finally winning a World Series, the iPhone, Brand New's Deja Entendu and the epic genius of Say Anything). However, I have also scowled and felt embarrassed at a few other things that I never thought I would see in my lifetime (the success of Nickelback and Hinder, the "Scary"/"Epic"/"Disaster"/"Date Movie" franchises, "Saw 2-5," Metro Station, the breakup of Blink 182, and the mind-blowing frenzy of the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus).

Even though all of those items elicit talking points, nothing has been more anticipated over the past 15 years than GNR's "Chinese Democracy." But I couldn't decide if this was something I was going to scowl at - because of my love for the original Guns N' Roses - or an album that would live up to the hype.

After one listen it was clear. This is not the original Guns N' Roses - this is Axl's new bunch of epic tunes. And while some do resemble classics off "Appetite for Destruction" and "Use Your Illusion," they take on different sounds, influences and genres to combine into something completely unseen in music right now.

The opening and title track of the album gives listeners a more modern, grunge-esque guitar tone that you cannot believe at first is GNR … until you hear that familiar high-pitched scream you have only recently found in your old CD collection.
But this is not an old album, and this is definitely the new Guns N' Roses, as Axl goes deep with his vocals throughout the entire opening track, which is a bit of a letdown for fans who wanted more of an explosive vocal opening. But the guitar solos do save the track and highlight much of the album.

The absence of Slash and Izzy is definitely noticeable. The replacement guitarists, which also include guitar virtuoso Buckethead, do a phenomenal job with solos and rhythm sections.

The album even contains intense moments of sweeping. The first few tracks (title track, "Shackler's Revenge" and "Better") offer more of a nu-metal tone and a sound that can be classified in the modern hard rock genre, which is not necessarily a good thing.

The middle part of "Chinese Democracy" is really where Axl reaches into his inner-genius. "Street of Dreams," "If the World," "Scraped" and "IRS" reach back to past GNR and give fans what they've been craving for the past decade and a half.

Lyrically, Axl has reached into his soul and the world around him to give listeners a few thought-provoking and a bunch of cliché songs. But GNR was not born on the idea of lyrical prose and Shakespearean influence. Remember, this is the man who penned "My Michelle."

"Chinese Democracy" might not be the most miraculous album in the world as Axl would have made you think because of the time and money allotted for the recording process. But it is a solid effort and will probably cap off one of the greatest, shortest and tumultuous careers in rock n' roll.

Just imagine the possibilities if the original Guns N' Roses would reunite, record and tour. World domination would only be an appetizer because of the band's appetite for destruction.

Final Thought: Guns N' Roses might not be up to the legendary levels of the Stones, the Beatles or even Zeppelin, but they have encountered their fair share of epic status. While a reunion of the original line-up might be out of the question, let's hope they contemplate and eventually reunite when they are inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame.

And let's hope for reunions of Blink 182, At The Drive-In, The Starting Line, The Promise Ring and the returns of Foo Fighters and Incubus, who have both stated they will be on "indefinite hiatus" shortly.

Oh, a man can dream.
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Post by Blackstar Sun May 30, 2021 5:12 am

Review in Badger Herald (University of Wisconsin), Nov. 24, 2008:
CD Review: Long-awaited Axl album overblown

By Jason Smathers; U. Wisconsin

(CSTV U-WIRE) MADISON, Wis. -- Even though several friends listen to "Appetite for Destruction" as if it was the pinnacle of '80s rock, I can't help but start laughing whenever Axl Rose reached one of his classic falsetto yelps. Maybe it's just because the idea of that rock 'n' roll mating call being a classic part of the music as a little silly, or maybe it's because when Rose tried his signature siren at the MTV Video Music Awards a few years back, it sounded unhinged and closer to an animal's death rattle than vocal virtuosity.

But then again, I doubted many looked at Guns N' Roses - at least, in its present form - as anything respectable in the least. It's been 17 years since the group released "Use Your Illusion" and their fans - and just curious onlookers - have been wondering what would become of their rather ominously titled "Chinese Democracy."

Well, it's here. But now I'm confused by what everyone expected. Or at least those who seem to balance American culture on their own literary scales.

OK, so I'm talking about Chuck Klosterman. He seems to exist on a different plane of existence with his praise for "Chinese Democracy." He's got some good points on the album, which, if evaluated in a vacuum, is actually pretty decent. He notes how ridiculous some of Axl's production tricks are and the infusion of nearly every musical technique he knows, and how many of the times what he thinks he's doing and what he actually ends up doing are separated by a gaping hole as large as Rose's ego.

But Klosterman, who loves to muse and riff just a hair too far, seemed to overstate the importance of "Chinese Democracy." Chuck gives Guns N' Roses the wonderful privilege of having the "last album that will be marketed as a collection of autonomous-but-connected songs, the last album that will be absorbed as a static manifestation of who the band supposedly is, and the last album that will matter more as a physical object than as an Internet sound file."

Just because the album is called "Chinese Democracy," that doesn't give one license to overstate its grandeur or impact. First off, albums are still, despite the ability to unbundle them with makeshift iTunes singles, marketed as a collection of songs. Concept albums might become more prevalent as the art form has to prove itself, but singles-only production lost its luster a long time ago and won't be coming back anytime soon. Second, as much I would love to imagine a solid lineup for Guns N' Roses, this album credited 14 studios, spanned 15 years and still has remnants of ex-drummers and guitarist "Buckethead." Static it ain't. This is just the collective workings of one controlling, spindly one-time hair metal (now cornrow-laden) hero.
But Klosterman's right - this album is more important than the MP3's or ACC's most people will take in.

And that's what disappoints me. "Chinese Democracy" is a great glam rock album. In fact, it may be the pinnacle of achievement that proves once and for all why Guns N' Roses were worth more than all the Poison's and Motley Crue's put together.

But also know that American musical tastes since the 1980's have survived on the three R's - re-listen, review, revise. When the turn of the century came, a slew of young acts came out of the gate aping classic rock formulas, to which the media claimed "retro is in!"

Wolfmother revived Led Zeppelin. And Jet ripped off Iggy Pop and '70s rock. And everybody generally did what their idols were doing 20 to 30 years ago. Never did I think there would be an act that would try and mimic Hall & Oates, but after seeing Baby Teeth last year at High Noon Saloon, I stood corrected.

But I think we can all agree: There is no need for a hair metal revival. Power ballads aside, the stadium-sized, over-the-top, coke-induced, Behind-the-Music, faux-masculine androgynous rock that reached its most respectable musical accolades with Van Halen - and it's most absurd with tribute bands to Whitesnake - died with Nirvana. Ashes to ashes.

However, Klosterman's nostalgia and cultural cache - combined with the fact that "Chinese Democracy" actually does rock - could not only spark interest in that anomaly of artistic expression but also encourage others to recreate the genre in their vision. After all, if Axl Rose spent 15 years on album and actually made something that could be described as "literary" by one of the top cultural critics of our time, maybe there can be depth to the excesses of rock.

For those under this delusion: Listen to "Cherry Pie." If this is the most elaborate extended metaphor a musical genre can come up with, there aren't exactly leagues of meaning to explore.

So please, to all you nostalgic culture mavens out there, celebrate "Chinese Democracy" if you must, but don't take it as a call to arms.
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Post by Blackstar Sun May 30, 2021 5:15 am

Review in Daily Californian (University of California-Berkeley), Nov. 24, 2008:
CD Review: 'Chinese Democracy' worth the wait

By Sara Hayden

(CSTV U-WIRE) BERKELEY, Calif. -- After 10 years of an existence completely devoid of new Guns N' Roses material and still another six years since the release of their last album, upon hearing the news of the debut of "Chinese Democracy," you may say to yourself, "What?! Guns N' Roses has a new album?" Why yes, as a matter of fact. And it is a work of brilliance, defying difficulties with shifting band participants and a whopping pool of $13 million being poured into the project. It may just be one of the greatest gifts to music this year.

Listening to "Chinese Democracy" is a little like reacquainting with an old lover: It maintains the true essence of what made you love them in the first place but brings new, exotic sensibilities that come with time and experience. All of their work is moderated with a hard rock edge, but each song introduces the influence of wildly different genres.

"Madagascar" uses grandiose strings that sound as though they belong to the orchestral soundtrack of Golden Age cinema. "Shackler's Revenge" reaches into the grungier depths of the human vocal range with a distinctive acidic vibe, while "This I Love" transports the listener to a dreamlike landscape with a wholesome ultra-modern choral intro. Of course, all of this is achieved alongside phenomenal guitar manipulations that are so clean they seem effortless, as well as the profound lyrics written by founding band member Axl Rose.

The overall aesthetic of the album constantly introduces elements of surprise, indulging the listener in diverse sounds that are satisfying and enlightening. During the extended wait since the release of "The Spaghetti Incident?" fans may have become impatient, but have no fear. "Chinese Democracy" is well worth the wait, proving that good things take time.
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Post by Blackstar Tue Jun 22, 2021 8:07 am

Review in Billboard, November 19, 2008:
GUNS N' ROSES, "Chinese Democracy"

Jonathan Cohen

Grunge. Techno. Boy bands. Both President Bushes. These are just a few of the things Guns N' Roses has improbably outlasted in the 17 (!) years since its last album of original music. Almost ever since, lone original member Axl Rose has been working on "Chinese Democracy," which reached mythic status as the album many thought would never materialize. Lo and behold, here it is (as a Best Buy exclusive, no less).

Apparently to make up for lost time, the set is frontloaded with huge-sounding, heavily produced rockers coated in an ultra-modern sheen that contrasts starkly with the stripped-down, freewheeling material of GNR's glory days. Tracks like "Riad N' the Bedouins" have "Appetite for Destruction" bones but exoskeletons dipped in chrome. Rose eventually backs off and lets the songs breathe, with promising results. "Scraped" is a riffy monster in the vein of "Mr. Brownstone"; "Catcher in the Rye" is pure, major-key classic rock; and "This I Love" is a grandiose ballad you can picture Rose playing with a candelabra on the piano lid.

The artist is in fine, ever-changing voice throughout, and there's certainly a ton of musical food for thought here, requiring several listens before the nuances are revealed. Worth the wait? Maybe. Worth a few hours of your time? Definitely.
https://web.archive.org/web/20090210124215/http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/reviews/album_review_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003892755
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Post by Blackstar Tue Jun 22, 2021 8:16 am

Sebastian Bach on Chinese Democracy:

Let's talk audio here. Just like you and the rest of the planet, since Sunday I have spent every waking moment I can listening to 'Chinese Democracy'. Recently I purchased a brand new turntable, partly because it has a USB cord on the back so you can make MP3s of your albums. Funny thing, I have not made one MP3 yet since I bought it. Fact is, any ear can hear that albums sound far richer, clearer and more natural by far than mp3's and even standard CDs. Once I started listening to my albums again, the only use I now have for MP3s is their portability. It's definitely cool to carry your whole collection around in your pocket, but as far as sound goes, analog whups digital's ass, hands down, no contest.

Which leads me to 'Chinese Democracy'. Picked up the 180-gram vinyl double album and the CD as well for the car. This is the first brand new album I have bought in over 15 years, for sure, possibly 20 years. All I can say is, we as music fans have lost a lot with the so-called (premature? one can only hope) 'demise' of the LP. As soon as I ran my fingernail down the side, splitting the cellophane and opened the gatefold sleeve, I knew I was in for a full-on rock'n'roll 'experience' getting into this LP. I pulled out disc 1 and was immediately struck by how 'heavy' this vinyl was. It's like my dad's old original copy of 'Led Zeppelin 2'. Not flimsy, lightweight vinyl like records became in the late '80s. 'Chinese Democracy' is a heavy, thick 'platter' of a record. I couldn't wait to crank it.

For your information, the Bach stereo system consists of : the 'Ion' turntable through a Pioneer VSX-52 Amplifier. I run this through an AudioControl C-101 equalizier, with Adcom poweramps. My speakers are JBL Control 10s with a Velodyne sub-woofer on a hardwood floor. Yes, I can make my whole house literally shake if I want, and yes, the lights actually dim for a second in my living room when I fire all the gear up. I dig it. In short, it kicks ass.

As soon as I dropped the needle on 'Chinese Democracy', I was captivated by the sound of this record and the thought, talent, and care put into this piece of art from all involved. The power, clarity, separation and production of this music is nothing short of incredible. As loud as I want, I can still hear the vocals, guitars and everything else perfectly clear, with the bass rumbling my guts (and below) just like it should. When Axl rips into the line 'even with an iron fist' in the first song, the blood in my veins starts to boil and the intensity does not let up until the end of side four. What I hear on this record is unbelievable pathos, 100% of Axl's heart and soul on record for all of us to hear. When he sings a song such as 'Street Of Dreams', it's like Janis Joplin at her best, with Quincy Jones' quote of 'melody is king' operating in full effect. The melodies on this record rip my heart out. To hear them sung by the beautiful/deadly instrument that is Axl Rose's voice is something that is to me, truly special, not to mention really cool to own and be able to blast 'on stun' whenever I choose. Four times today so far, but who's counting.

I cannot stop listening to this record. 'Scraped', 'Riad N' The Bedouins', 'Street Of Dreams', 'IRS', everytime I listen I have a new favorite. Brain, Bumblefoot, Robin Finck, everyone on the record played their asses off; the production is stellar; I haven't even got to the lyrics, still too blown away by the sheer sound to tackle the words.... yet! The album is, above all: Original. Heartfelt. Without compromise. How many records can you honestly describe in that way today? This is like nothing I have ever heard. And I can't wait to hear it again. Which is, to me, the definition of great rock'n'roll.
Blabbermouth, November 26, 2008

https://archive.blabbermouth.net/news/sebastian-bach-says-chinese-democracy-is-the-definition-of-great-rock-n-roll/
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Post by Blackstar Tue Jun 22, 2021 9:00 am

Dave Navarro on his website, responding to a fan's question about his thoughts on Chinese Democracy:

Yes. I have to say that I pretty much love it. The way I have been describing it has been 70% awesome and 30% really weird, but after a few listens... The weird becomes awesome again. I don't know if it's the songs or the fact that I just enjoy hearing that guy's voice or both, but I am a fan. It's not GnR as we know it... It feels more like an Axl solo record... Probably because as music lovers, we were able to get a feel for the old GnR dynamics and the personalities of each member in the band. I know very little about this band so it's hard to connect with each member sonically like I did before. People have been commenting on how long it took to make but I kind of don't believe he was working on all THESE songs the whole time. I'm sure there have been versions, stuff that got scrapped, breaks, line up changes, personal time... I'm speculating of course, but having worked on so many projects I know that there are a million things that go down before you even decide on the track listing.
6767.com, December 27, 2008

https://web.archive.org/web/20090105155531/http://www.6767.com/
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