Greatest Hits

Guns N' Roses

Geffen, 2004

http://www.gunsnroses.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/21/2014

Okay, this one is funny, if you haven’t already heard it. So in 2004, Geffen Records was tired of waiting for Axl Rose and whatever was left of Guns N’ Roses to release Chinese Democracy. It had been 11 years since the band’s last album, the miserable covers disc The Spaghetti Incident?, and Geffen wanted to milk the cow some more. So, they slapped together the band’s biggest radio hits and one soundtrack-only song and prepared it for release.

Here’s the punch line: Rose got wind of this and threatened to sue, saying, with no trace of irony whatsoever, that this release would delay his being able to work on Chinese Democracy. It had been 11 freaking years! The other band members separately supported Rose’s countersuit, but it lost in court and this collection was released. Rose apparently wasn’t kidding, as it took another four years for Chinese Democracy to hit the market.

The thing is, this collection went five times platinum in the U.S. alone and sold far better than Chinese Democracy ever did, or will. Truth is that any classic or hard rock station in America plays at least three to six songs by these guys every day, and normally the same ones, all of which are here. Surely the band would have chosen different songs, but since there are only four albums, it’s best to just buy my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Appetite and then pick and choose from the rest whatever strikes your fancy. This works as a decent sampler, though.

Appetite For Destruction remains one of the top 40 rock albums of all time and is still recommended for anybody wanting to really understand this band, or at least what they were intended to be. “Paradise City” and “Welcome To The Jungle” are loud, crude, a little violent and kick like donkeys on speed, while “Sweet Child O’ Mine” marries both rock and a more sensitive side into a true display of what a “power ballad” should be. “Patience,” an acoustic live song from this era, is also a highlight.

From there, everything became outsized and huge, from the songwriting to the song lengths to the videos to the instruments to the on-stage antics and off-stage substance abuse. Rose’s songwriting became more cinematic and the band became less dangerous with the overlong “November Rain,” the dramatic “Civil War,” the dull “Yesterdays” and “Don’t Cry,” although the spirit of the old shines through on the stellar “You Could Be Mine.”

Where the collection falters is the same place the band’s career faltered, which was its reliance on covers. Sure, the versions of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” and “Live And Let Die” are popular on Your Local Rock Radio Q107 The Boulder! (weather on the 3’s), but they are truly unnecessary takes on songs that weren’t crying out for covers to begin with. “Since I Don’t Have You” is annoying but “Ain’t It Fun” almost recaptures the Guns spirit, a good and sleazy cover with some great Slash guitar work (which is redundant). The closing Stones cover of “Sympathy For The Devil,” never available on a Guns disc until now, is worth seeking out for collectors, especially for the closing section, but isn’t really necessary to hear more than once.

A large swath of people out there listen to Guns N’ Roses in their garages, in their workplaces, on the jukebox with a beer and a pool cue, in their trucks, in their backyards while grilling out, in their memories. They know and love many of these songs and will find this to be an essential part of their hard rock collection if all they want is the hits, and as such it works as a companion volume to Appetite For Destruction. But the overabundance of covers, the subpar Use Your Illusion songs and the lack of key album tracks add up to a picture of a band that lost its way early on, which was inevitable but still disappointing given the talent.

Rating: B-

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