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CD Reviews:
Guns N' Roses Delivers The Goods After 15-Year Wait

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Friday, November 21, 2008

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Guns N' Roses

"Chinese Democracy"

Black Frog/Geffen


Given the time that's passed -- 17 years since Guns N' Roses last set of original material, 15 since the covers set "The Spaghetti Incident" -- expectations for this album have run a gamut from the Second Coming to it never being released. The reportedly $13 million project has outlasted quite a few other bands' entire careers and, of course, has left what we knew as GNR in the dust, with only frontman Axl Rose remaining from the group's original lineup. But as "Chinese Democracy" finally rolls out (as a Best Buy exclusive), Rose is unrepentant for the wait: as he begins the album-closing "Prostitute," "It seems like forever and a day/If my intentions were misunderstood, please Be Kind/I've done all I should...It's not a question of whether my heart is true." Rose's heart, in fact, radiates from his sleeve throughout these 14 tracks, an artful and sincere melange of epic rock featuring pristinely produced walls of guitars, orchestras and vocal assaults that find the singer in prime, chameleonlike form in these rants and reflections about lost loves, societal ills and, not surprisingly, the search for the perfect sound. The punk rock edge of GNR left with the likes of Slash and Duff McKagen, but Rose and his legion of musicians (up to four guitarists on some songs) still kick up a storm on the title track and "Scraped" while also experimenting with industrial grooves on "Shackler's Revenge," old school funk on "If the World," the roots rock of "Catcher in the Rye" and quieting down for the gently ambient piano balladry on "This I Love." But Rose is clearly most fascinated in epic, ebb-and-flow constructions such as "Street of Dreams," "There Was a Time," "Riad N' the Bedouins" and "Madagascar," the latter of which has a mid-section that weaves together samples of famous lines from Dr. Martin Luther King, "Cool Hand Luke" and "Braveheart." Was it worth the wait? That's the $1 million -- or perhaps $13 million -- question, but if, even after all this time, all Rose and company owe us is a good album and a rich listening experience, "Chinese Democracy" is certainly that. (To celebrate "Chinese Democracy's" release, Dr. Pepper is giving away free bottles at www.drpepper.com, today only.)

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