Essential Tracks #2 – GUNS N ROSES (Feature)

 

 

With the reformation of three-fifths of the classic Appetite for Destruction line up done and dusted in the live arena and talk of a new album on the way featuring Slash, Duff and Axl, we take a look back at the band’s back catalogue and pull out the lesser-known tracks that I personally think are essential and often overlooked.

One thing we won’t be doing is pulling the obvious tracks from Appetite for Destruction. In fact, in this instance, we will be overlooking that album completely, as I think just about everyone in the world knows at least half of the tracks on that album. So scroll down to the bottom of the page before we start, hit the play button on the player and read on.

Band departures and solo records

Guitarist Slash departed the band between 1996 – 2016 and went on to form Slash’s Snake Pit and released the excellent It’s 5 o’clock Somewhere. I saw the band on this tour and was lucky to meet Slash, James Lomenzo formerly of White Lion, who was the bassist at the time and former gunner Gilby Clarke. People’s actions in this world shape your view of them and as Slash and the guys went out of their way to spend some time with myself and a few friends I have stayed dedicated to anything that guys have put onto tape. It’s not a hard thing to do considering it’s all quality anyway.

Next came the second Snake Pit album Ain’t Life Grand which featured a change in vocalist but was equally as good as the debut album. From there in 2004, Slash reunited with former Guns n Roses bandmates Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum. They recorded two fantastic albums under the moniker Velvet Revolver drafting in former Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland. From there, Duff McKagan went on to form the equally excellent Duff McKagan’s Loaded and Slash released a solo album with a whole host of celebrity vocalists like Lemmy from Motorhead and his future musical partner Myles Kennedy. Eventually, he teamed up with rock’s finest vocalist Kennedy for a string of Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators albums with the most recent being 2018’s Living the Dream.

So there we are all caught up with some of the solo projects which are yet another fantastic part of this story and now we head back down the Guns n Roses path and after listening to every track this band has committed to tape here are the ten essential lesser known tracks you need to seek out.

Essential Playlist

To be honest, the first time I listened to Chinese Democracy I thought it was crap and shelved it for the next decade. Then I saw the band play a few tracks from the album and thought OK there’s a few decent tracks on there and thought no more until I pulled the album from its very dusty jacket for this feature. I sat through the whole album once again and came to the conclusion it’s actually not that bad. In fact, there are a few tunes that would’ve easily fit on Appetite for Destruction here. With a few slight changes of course, namely removing some of the electronic sounds to them.

So the first track is the album’s title track “Chinese Democracy”. The first thing that grabbed me was the opening riff. Even though it has that electronic tinge it rocks! When the whole band comes in over the vocals I said to myself this is one of those tracks that could have been on that debut album. It has that dirty rock sound that so many tracks on Appetite had, I can only imagine what it would sound like with the original band thrashing it out.

Again “Better” starts off a bit weird and electronic but it turns into such a good rock song that sounds nothing like Guns n Roses. Axl Rose‘s vocals sound so good on this one which is a rarity and the riff that plays along in the background is just so different it’s just ringing out and that chorus is pretty commercial with a punky side. There’s some crazy soloing on this track too that sounds a little like that sound on PacMan when he chases the ghosts after eating the pill. Around the 3 minute mark, Axl‘s testicles explode and he goes into full falsetto, just a great track all around.

“Riad n the Bedouins” must be the strangest Guns n Roses title ever and the track is strange to begin with, again very electronic until that riff cuts in with Axl wailing all over it. This is another track that starts off sounding like it would fit on Appetite but when it really kicks in it’s totally schizophrenic. One minute it sounds like Guns and then there’s hints of Rush and so many other bands of that genre. This has to be one of the finest Axl Rose vocals I have ever heard, he reaches the stratosphere on this one.

Next, this is not the Use Your Illusion version of “Back Off Bitch” this is the version on the super deluxe Appetite for Destruction CD. Taken from the 1986 Sound City sessions, this version of the song is much better than the finished version in my opinion. The thing I like about this version is how raw it is. It’s basically played live and has that 80’s Sunset Strip sound written all over it. It’s times like these you forget how good Axl Roses vocals were once upon a time. As it was written around the same time as the tracks on Appetite you can see it’s similarities but you can also see why it didn’t quite fit the bill. Such a good punchy rock song though.

Again from the super deluxe box set comes “Shadow of Your Love“. A fast-paced punky sounding track which has all the piss and vinegar of the appetite tracks. It sounds a little bit like “Nice Boys” but they were heavily influenced by Rose Tattoo at the time. I know this track was released around the time the box set came out but if you missed it you should definitely check it out.

OK, it’s a cover version and appeared on The Spaghetti Incident album but it’s still a fantastic version of the old Scottish band Nazareth track “Hair of the Dog”. The one thing you can always give Guns credit for is showing off their influences and they do this by covering those bands tracks with style and balls. As the track begins you can just hear those 70’s chords ringing out with a tune that almost sounds like Roy Orbison‘s “Pretty Woman”. The band put their own spin on this though and there’s plenty of fire to go around.

I personally think “Dead Horse” is one of the band’s finest tracks, call me crazy but that’s my opinion. I love how it lures you into a false sense of security when those sweet acoustic chords are played out and Axl croons over the top. Then it all goes ballistic and we’re off. This is a track that would fit so well into Appetite for Destruction in my opinion. It has everything that album had on offer and more. It has that same production sound and the band just sound so raw and energetic.

Breakdown” from Use Your Illusion II is another track that starts off soft and sweet with Axl whistling away in the background. This track reminds me so much of “November Rain”. Not that it sounds so similar but because it’s just an epic arrangement. It changes pace a multitude of times throughout the track and is piano driven showing off Axl‘s love of Elton JohnSlash‘s solos are stamped all over this and his guitar work throughout is as amazing as we all know he can be. 

Pretty Tied Up” is up next, as the sitar rings out over the opening chords the band picks up the pace and Duff McKagan‘s bass plugs away then we’re off. This is just so punky in the chorus but then does a complete 180 into piano-driven rock. There’s just so many elements of this track that I love from the way the chorus sounds, the vocals, Slash‘s wailing soloing and just the whole construction of the song itself.

Just like the last two tracks “Locomotive” comes from Use Your Illusion II. So many tracks from both these albums are overlooked because they were overblown and pompous. Especially after following on the heels of an absolute classic like Appetite for Destruction. To be honest, until I listened to both those albums for this feature I hadn’t heard them in years and basically skimmed over them for the tracks I knew best. Looking back now that was a mistake because this track is a blinder. It has such a dirty rock riff that runs along with Axl’s vocals which sound very nasally at times but fit the track. As the track runs along it just lifts and lifts with no signs of stopping before hitting the ozone.

So there you go, guys, and before I forget, check out some of those solo records I mentioned earlier. After omitting Appetite for Destruction, I personally think most of their solo output is better than anything that came after Appetite.

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