The Roots Of GUNS N’ ROSES
Released: 2005, Deadline/Cleopatra
Reviewer: Gabriel C. Zolman
Remember when Guns N’ Roses released G N’ R Lies, filling the first side with older live tracks from their pre-Appetite days? This could be called G N’ R Lied Again. I am told that Axl tried to sue this out of print. After listening to the first three tracks, I can sort of see why.
With their Geffen debut, Appetite For Destruction, Guns N’ Roses became the Aerosmith of their generation. And as Aerosmith had, through sheer rock longevity, become the Rolling Stones of their respective generation, it was only safe to assume—or so we thought—that G N’ R would follow in their steps. But alas, it was not to be. Regardless, Appetite remains one of the most important Hard Rock records of all time, and Axl’s confident, defiant screech and sneer are a trademarked icon of the genre.
Here, Rose warbles out of key like an angry muppet, frequently coming across like a youthful King Diamond with a throat infection, after one too many Danish cigarettes. (His bizarre cackle at the end of “Rocker” really seals the comparison…). It is clear the band is working out their sound. This is a “demo” in the true sense of the term. Don’t get me wrong—the sound quality is excellent. There were entire records made in the 80’s by established bands that sounded worse than this. This could have been released, if sound quality/production were the only considerations. But they are not.
The most definitive problem is the caliber of the songs. Clearly, Slash was a key ingredient in the formation of this band’s sound—and he is notably missing here. Instead we have Chris Weber—the band’s original guitarist—leading the group through a series of punk-inspired tempos and blues-rock clichés. After Weber left for New York, the band briefly replaced him with LA Guns honcho Tracii Guns, whose tenure in the band was actually quite short, all things considered.
For some bizarre reason, the producers of this compilation felt inclined to include him, retroactively, on remixes of “Shadow Of Your Love” and “Reckless Life.” This was unnecessary. He was not a part of the band at that time, and did not contribute significantly to the band’s overall sound. It would be the equivalent of having Mercyful Fate guitarists Hank Shermann and Michael Denner called into to do overdubs on King Diamond’s Black Rose CD. They were not a part of that unit, they did not write those songs. Their relation to the group is purely six degrees of Kevin Bacon. Here, we have six degrees of Glam Dork. Additionally, the participation of Cinderella mainman Fred Coury on yet another series of remixes is even more puzzling. Why not go all out, and just invite the whole Britny Fox, King Kobra, and Warrant gangs in for some quasi has-been scene-whore/glam-dork orgy? The entire exercise is pointless, and an obvious plea to the consumer to find something of merit on the CD—a plea best ignored, in this reviewer’s opinion.
What we have here are five songs, of varying quality, presented in their original form, then each remixed twice to pad out the LP. Gilby Clarke, who was also not involved in the original sessions, remixes them first, adding Tracii Guns on the last two songs. Then Fred takes a turn. That’s it. That’s what you get. But hey, at least they don't play "Mama Kin." It is said that the Archeopteryx is a creature, neither bird nor reptile, caught in stone, in the act of evolution. Indeed, these are the fossilized recordings of a creature neither fish nor fowl, caught on tape and stoned, spreading their wings for the first time, soon to fly.
This is a glorified bootleg. It is an interesting portrait of a band that would, one day, be great…but it is clear they’re not there yet. This is for diehards, only—for those who can’t accept the new line-up or direction, and who hate Vulva Revolting even more. Sure, it’s the “real deal”—but it’s also a really bad deal, in the end.