Sound — 9
Ah, Guns N' Roses. A band first notorious for being drunken party animals, then for their amazing production on Use Your Illusion I and II, and finally for the overall nuttiness of Axl Rose. Missing gigs, leaving shows a few songs in, stopping songs to lecture hostile crowds and becoming a paranoia-soaked tyrant. But what this album is about is production. Axl created this album in the late '90s, after all other classic members had left. All of the songs were recorded from 1987 to 1993. Given the size of their Use Your Illusion tour (over 120 gigs) alone, there was a lot of material to work through. Rather than use a single concert as the basis for the album, Axl went with a different approach. He took the best versions of the songs that he chose for the set and pieced them into a single show. The album matches several of their "rules" regarding the setlist: "Nightrain" is played first (as it often was) immediately followed by "Mr. Brownstone" and finishing with "Paradise City" This is a cool effect, but studio intervention seems to have been used a fair bit on the album. For instance, since all of the songs are from different concerts, they have different levels of crowd noise, leading the transition from one track to the next rough. This seems to be fixed by overlaid crowd noise on the ends of songs, so no matter what song you go to from another (while playing the album on shuffle, for example) it is always a smooth transition. The quality of the instruments is top notch and mixed very well. Everything is loud and clear. The vocals, however, are a different story. Axl Rose's job was very demanding on stage. 3 hours singing songs requiring both powerful vocals and raspy screams. Hard on the voice, and it shows on some bootlegs. However, there are few quivers on the album. What is noticeable is all of the songs from Appetite for Destruction (Nightrain, Mr. Brownstone, it's So Easy, Welcome to the Jungle, My Michelle, Out Ta Get Me, Rocket Queen, Sweet Child O' Mine and Paradise City) and November Rain have a much different vocal style from other songs. Instead of the crunchy, raspy shrieks we are accustomed to, we have a warmer, less crunchy and smoother voice. Though it works for some songs, for real hard songs (Nightrain and Welcome to the Jungle) I stick with my bootlegs. Rumors that Axl rerecorded Appetite for Destruction for a test lead me to believe that he overdubbed his voice on those tracks. In fact, unlike the other tracks, Welcome to the Jungle doesn't even have a known concert date from which the performance was culled! Also, the song Patience is from two dates. Aside from the possible overdubbing, the audio really is fantastic quality. I just wish they lowered the crowd noise just a tad. On Patience you can barely hear Axl sing at first.
Lyrics — 9
Even with what I said above, Axl truly is amazing. His voice suits the music extremely well. Only a few quibbles that I can think of: His voice is pretty weak on Welcome to the Jungle, in my opinion. Also, a line in the first verse of Sweet Child O' Mine goes astray and drops in volume. I don't know why they didn't fix that. And on November Rain, the line "We've been through this such a long long time" seems rushed near the end, resulting in a jarring sound. And on Nightrain, during the climax of the song, Axl's voice is really weak. That's it. Across the whole album there are four issues with vocals. Moving on.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, this is a pretty awesome album. The most impressive songs are Dust N' Bones and Estranged. Both of them really rock hard. Not saying the rest of the album is bad, but on those tunes they really pull together. I don't really think there is a bad song on the album, a rarity in any case. Good job Axl. Love the mix. The band sounds awesome, as does Axl (for the most part). The song selection. The only song I wish was here is Civil War, replaciing one of the lesser known Appetite songs. The concert feel. Though not replacing front row center at the Ritz in 1988, it still does a decent job at what it would be like to be present at these shows, minus the awesome stage show. Don't like so much song selection. Not the songs themselves, but the tracks. I would have taken Nightrain, Patience and November Rain from Tokyo 1992. Overdubbing with Axl's fairly weak voice. The time that the overdubs were likely recorded is when Axl's voice started down the line to fail. It shows at some points. that's it. I must emphasize that even though some aspects fall short, the majority of the album is pure greatness. If it were stolen or lost I would buy it again. Definitely.