Review: Guns N Roses, Appetite for Destruction, 30th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition

Posted: July 3, 2018 in Album Reviews
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When Guns N Roses burst upon the scene, I was 12 years old and pretty much immersed in classic rock. The Beatles were my template, and from there I branched out to the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Who, Pink Floyd, etc.

And although there were individual newer artists I enjoyed at the time (Michael Jackson, Prince and Bruce Springsteen being a few examples), no band had really captured my imagination like those legendary bands had.

Until I heard the song Sweet Child O’Mine, that is. That iconic riff was unlike anything I had heard before, so sharp, so melodic. And the voice of Axl Rose was a one-of-kind juggernaut, a true original. Able to hit screeching highs and gut-wrenching lows (just listen to his voice on songs like It’s So Easy and Locomotive, for example), Rose has a one-of-a-kind set of pipes, or at least had them in the late 80s and early 90s.

The entire band evoked streetwise swagger – a don’t f**k with us mentality that carried over into interviews, pictures and videos. If you listen to interviews of the band before Appetite for Destruction broke in the mainstream, these guys knew they were going to be stars. They bristled at weak interview questions, dissed contemporary bands, swore like drunken sailors, just basically couldn’t care less about kissing anyone’s ass or what anyone thought about them. And that’s one of the many things I LOVED about them.

All that is well and good, but you have to deliver the goods – and boy did they ever.

Guns N Roses was the first band I can remember that generally felt dangerous. I mean, I had to hide their albums (well cassettes back then) from my mom in fear the parental advisory sticker would be discovered. One of my friends had a similar experience with a different band, and all his metal albums were confiscated. He came home with Madonna’s Immaculate Collection and Elton John’s Greatest Hits Volume III and tried to pass them off as cool. Nice try, my friend (you know who you are lol).

The songs depicted the slimy side of LA life – the Sunset Strip. Booze, clubs, hookers, general bad hombres, and for a 12-year-old sheltered boy from Pennsylvania, it was a completely foreign world to me. Yet as raunchy and misogynistic as they could be, they (and Rose – always a complex individual – in particular) had a softer, melodic side. It’s hard to believe a guy that’s singing such a heartfelt, beautiful ballad he wrote for his soon-to-be (short-lived) wife, also sang “See me hit you, you fall down” and “Why don’t you just, f**k off” earlier in the album on “It’s So Easy,” which despite its message has a killer bass line to open up and some of Rose’s most snarling singing. He sounds pissed, which is a common theme. Pissed at law enforcement (Out Ta Get Me), angry at the city they called home (Welcome to the Jungle), the drugs that surrounded them (Mr. Brownstone), the women that hounded them (It’s So Easy, My Michelle, Rocket Queen).

The band conveyed a primal, raw emotion, which was a welcome change from contemporary bands, groups like Bon Jovi and Poison that GNR absolutely loathed (with good reason, they sucked!!!).

If you really want to hear what Guns N Roses is all about in one fell swoop, Rocket Queen is the track you must check out. It’s the quintessential GNR song and one of my top ten favorite songs ever – by anyone. The first half chugs along with the steam of a deranged locomotive careening off the tracks, and Rose is in super misogynistic “I can do whatever I like” mode. Hell, he’s even heard having sex with drummer Steven Adler’s girlfriend throughout the song (sorry Steve!!!), until we get to an unexpected 180-degree turn. Just over halfway through, the song breaks down and a new Slash riff emerges, one more powerful than the opening one and from it an almost entirely new song is born. This one shows off the band’s sensitive side, with Axl away from his “I hate women” stance and transforming back into the sweet, tender “Sweet Child” Axl. Singing lines like “If you need a shoulder, or if you need a friend, I’ll be here standing until the bitter end” and the incredibly emotional closing line of “All I ever wanted was for you to know that I care” and this is GNR’s many faces wrapped up in a six-minute bow. I’ve always viewed it as their best song, and they have many candidates for that title.

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With Rose and guitarist Slash they had two bonafide megastars, but the other guys in the band were just as important, namely rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin and bassist Duff McKagan, since they were the other guys writing the songs. Stradlin in particular was of tremendous import – he knew Axl Rose the longest from their days as Indiana buddies. They both moved to LA and were in a band called Hollywood Rose together. Stradlin was also Axl’s songwriting equal, and along with Slash gave the Gunners a two-pronged guitar attack, much like the Rolling Stones have boasted since the 60s. McKagan exuded a California surfer cool (although he originally hailed from Seattle). He and Adler formed such a tight, powerful rhythm section.

Released last week, the 30th anniversary super deluxe box set of Appetite for Destruction is a treasure to behold. Taking the music part out of the equation (we’ll get to that in a bit), the box is extremely well done. It’s got all the bells and whistles you’d want from a box of this nature (and price, coming in at around a not cheap $150) – posters, replicas of old flyers and concert tickets, stickers, and a thick hard-cover book which has never-before-seen photos of the band, along with articles and press kits sent out to promote the album. Very fascinating stuff.

There are five discs housed in the box – four audio CDs and a Blue-Ray audio DVD. Haven’t watched or listened to the Blue Ray disc yet but have scoured the four cds front to back several times already.

The first disc is just a straight-up remaster of the album, which is an improvement on the sound quality. Some remasters crank up the loudness to the point you lose a lot of the bottom end (bass and drums) but they seem to have the balance just right here. In fact, much of the guitar interplay between Slash and Stradlin is much more upfront than it was before. Take the song “Anything Goes,” which I always viewed as one of the few filler tracks on the album, this new remaster brings the guitars to the forefront and makes it a better listen.

The second disc rounds up B-sides and live tracks from the era, and also includes three of the four studio songs from the 1988 EP Lies, omitting the incredibly controversial “One in A Million” and replacing it with a cool, acoustic version of “Move to the City,” something that they should have done when the album was released and saved themselves an overload of bad publicity.

Discs 3 and 4 are where the treasure trove of unreleased material lies, including their first recording experience in the Sound City studios back in 1986. They laid down most of the Appetite tracks there for the first time, and you can see how powerful they were in the early form. Some were more finished than others at the time, with Paradise City completely lacking its intro and Welcome to the Jungle and Rocket Queen missing complete sections, but the emotion and power are all there to behold. You also get a glimpse of songs that weren’t released until Use Your Illusion five years later, including two beautiful early versions of November Rain – one a ten-minute piano dirge with some passionate singing by Rose and another shorter, five-minute acoustic version. You can tell that Rose knew he had a monster song on his hands here, but he wasn’t going to put it out until he had it exactly right. There are also a few interesting covers – Elvis’ Heartbreak Hotel becomes a bar-band boogie, while the Stones’ Jumpin Jack Flash is more a traditional cover. And there are also a few songs that they never came back to again, one such track has the working title “New Work Tune” and while it has no vocals, the acoustic track has enough twists and turns musically that it’s worth the listen.

To sum things up, this is one hell of a box set. The sound quality is superb and the extras make it worth your while. Plus, with some other box sets, you may listen to the outtakes discs once or twice, but I know I’ll be coming back to every disc on this set. Well done, GNR. “You know where you are?????????”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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