Sound — 10
Presumably written somewhere between 1998 to 2006 this album has to be one of the most underrated albums ever. There once was this band called Guns N' Roses (still is, the line-up is changed) and in the middle of the glam metal era they released an album of such bluesy hard rock songs everyone was shocked in someway. The main force of the band was in the charismathic duo made of singer William Axl Rose and guitar player (mostly "the one to blame" for the bluesy sound) Slash. They rocked the world and put dirt, sleaze, sex, drugs etc in rock music. The singer and the main lyricist of the band was hifing a lot beneath the cover of a restless punk - he played piano and had this amazing skill of creating beautiful melodies. As the band continued to evolve, that side of Axl started to come out. As you already know that gave birth to some greatest epic ballads in last 30 years, but some tremor in the band too. Eventually Axl got the name and the rights for the songs, pissed some fans of, some band members too, so they went away. In the above mentioned period, the band called Guns N' Roses went through so much changes that it had 3 drummers and 5 guitar players. To be a good band means to keep something that works through the whole career or to evolve in a smart way. The band that made this album was: Axl Rose - vocals, piano, some guitars, all melodies, arrangements etc Tommy Stinson - bass guitar, backing vocals Chris Pittman - keyboards, backing vocals Dizzy Reed - piano, keyboards, backing vocals Buckethead (left the band in the 2004) - guitars Robin Finck - guitar Paul Tobias - guitar/piano at some point Richard Fortus - guitar Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal - guitar Brian Mantia - drums Josh Freese - drums Frank Ferrer - drums You probably know the stories about the delays and money spent on this modern hard rock master-piece, so I'll skip it. Axl Rose is maybe the most versatile composer around. You'll find jazzy progressions on this album, classic piano epic ballads, industrial licks, hard rock riffs & so on. Some might say the production killed the rawness of the music, but it was never supposed to be the rawest rock in the block. It's sophisticated, that's what it is. Let us move to the sound of it: 01. Chinese Democracy: The eponymous song starts with the buzz of China street life combined with layered keyboards and with what seems to be palm mute guitar builds up to a screaming riff. The riff evolves into Axl's wail. The first you hear the solo of this song, you won't doubt the soul and power of the guitar work on this album. Great way to open an album like this. Outro is kick ass too. 10/10 02. Shackler's Revenge: Industrial riff with high notes, and verses with riffin' lower ones. Screamin' catchy chorus and strange but very neat guitar solo on a fretless guitar by Bumblefoot make this rocker on of the most tense songs of the decade. 9/10 03. Industrial sounds again, drum loops, but don't fear, it didn't riun the rock side of it. At all. This song is full of rage and "lesson givng". 10/10 04. Street Of Dreams: The Roses side of Guns N' Roses. Piano ballad previously called "The Blues", and in fact that's what describes it the most. Outro section breaks the sky in two. 10/10 05. If The World: Axl Rose explained this song in concert as "their kinda shitty Bond song". Well he's wrong, it ain't shitty. Spanish guitar licks, drum loops, epicness and cocky lyrics. Yeah there's a helluva melodic solo by Buvckethead too. 10/10 06. There Was A Time: As far arranging is concerned, this is the first song on this album you'll ask yourself "How the hell they did this?". Axl, being an arranger genius, did this (Estranged Part II some might say) swift as a movie score. The outro which starts somewhere in the half of the song consists of a solo so melodic and technically perfect it makes a sound wall by itself. The marvelous work by Buckethead/Bumblefoot. 10/10 07. Catcher in The Rye: This is as close to the classic rock sound this album gets. Piano mid-tempo ballad about pressures by surrounding people, and no care from the ones that ought to care. This is that famous song Brian May had a solo on, but Ron Thal did more of a suiting one for the final version. 10/10 08. Scraped: The weakest one. It has a nice hook and a kinda Bon Jovi "Believe in yourself" lyrics. True gem in this one are the dubbed screaming vocals in the last chorus. 7/10 09. Riad N' The Bedouins: Great Axl Rose somehow stole the intro for this one from some underground German electronic musician. When the intro is over we're exposed to a scream mixed with the bouncy riff. Despite the lyrics are not so bright here, this hard rocker sure gets in the ears. The energy of the guitars here simply blows the listener away. 9/10 10. Sorry: Slow, dark almost ambient song. Axl's voice reaches the lower keys like in the verses of Civil War for example. Very melodic, simple solo by Buckethead completes this wahy song. Outro is also very powerful. 10/10 11. I.R.S.: Kind of Zeppelinish hard rock song, with wailing vocals and simple riff with a groove. Lyrics are kinda tongue-in-cheek. Vocals are again filled with rage and madness. 10/10 12. Madagascar: Epic strings and drum loops, slow rythmic singing and movie/MLK quotes are probably the best way to explain this cry for freedom, and peace. Epic, yet simple guitar work by Buckethead, and high/low register vocals make this song probably the most anthemic one on the record. 10/10 13. This I Love: Heartbreaking, cliche, sleazy piano&strings ballad. But sang with such rawness and emotion you have to feel it. It is a love ballad, but the emotion in the voice makes you shiver. Finck delivers the solo on this one. His style "sloppy yet beautiful". 10/10 14. Prostitute: The closer of the album. It starts off slowly, but it bursts into a eruption of emotions and delivers this new image of beauty. Piano in this song maybe the best music piece Axl had ever written. The song itself ends with the strings fading and piano struggling to be heard. The ending of this song is the most perfect & sophisticated ending of an album in history. Period. 10/10
Lyrics — 10
Axl Rose has always been famous for his dramatic sets of lyrics, with no limits in the vocabulary. It seems that ol' Axl grew up a little bit. He became a psychologist singing about people relations and disillusionments, but from his own perspective, through his own experiences. Chinese Democracy sings about lack of freedom in China. (But doesn't necessarily sticks only to China) You see, the cover of this album is a photo of a graffiti made in China, and the one who wrote it was arrested. Shackler's Revenge & Scraped are plain revengeful messages. Better, There Was A Time & Sorry are songs of emotional disappointment and losing friends/lovers. Catcher In The Rye as I mentioned before speaks of being under pressure, exploding, failing to rise against the trouble without the loved ones. Street of Dreams and This I Love are classic love songs, with an exception of Street of Dreams which touches the similar topics as Catcher In The Rye. The cockiness and slick mood of If The World's lyrics does cover up for the "James Bond" topic (If the world would end today, and all the dreams we had, would all just slip away). Riad N' the bedouins delivers these raging lyrics about Middle East terrorism. I.R.S. is the tongue-in-cheek song about presumably failed love affair having to do something with the IRS. Madagascar stands somewhere between Scraped and Catcher in the Rye. The wail of a helpless man for freedom. Prostitute, the last one, is best described as all of the above mixed to its best. With this song Axl gives a message to his old bandmates, to his friends and enemies, to everybody around him that he won't what he's told to. He listens only to himself and that's how it is whether we liked it or not.
Overall Impression — 10
This album contains most melodic pieces of music in this decade. There is more in Axl's chest, when we get it, it will be a blast. Most impressive song on this album can't be determined once and for all. At this moment it most certainly is Prostitute. I love all the melodies, all the lyrics, and basically everything on this album. The only thing that lacks here is promotion, which is done only by very successful touring. The most irritating thing about that is the lack of some words in the booklet. If somehow this gets stolen, I would buy it again. Excellent album. Listen to the music not the media. And do not worry about having no Slash & co. here every solo/riff form this album makes its way to the hall of fame of the guitar playing.