Guns N’ Roses: New Song (To Me, At Least) From The Vaults – “Shadow Of Your Love”

Appetite For Destruction (Super Deluxe)

The messages started popping up on GNR related social media a week or so ago….”Destruction Is Coming.” I was assuming they were going to announce a plan to play Appetite For Destruction in it’s entirety on the seemingly endless (partial) reunion tour, reviewed previously on B&V (Concert Review: Guns n Roses, Kansas City, 29Jun16: The Power & The Glory). Secretly I was hoping it was an announcement that the original lineup of the band, who recorded Appetite, was reuniting – they were bringing back Izzy Stradlin on rhythm guitar and Steven Adler on drums. It turns out neither of my guesses was right. Instead, GNR are releasing a “Super Deluxe” edition of the album (as well as a skinny-ed down “Deluxe” version). So much for my prognostication skills.

It’s easy to forget, with the dissolution of the original band, the long lapses between albums, and the whole Chinese Democracy thing, that GNR were one of the greatest, most powerful bands of all time. When we speak of Appetite For Destruction we’re talking about the “Crown Jewels” of rock and roll. It’s the best selling debut album of any band, ever. It’s one of the greatest albums ever recorded in the medium of rock and roll, hard rock, or heavy metal. In plain words, it’s a fucking tour de force masterpiece. The chemistry of that original line up was lightning in a bottle. Steven Adler’s drumming had so much swing and elasticity it gave the music a dirty groove. Slash and Izzy Stradlin on lead and rhythm guitar rivals that of the Mick Taylor/Keith Richards era of the Stones. Duff McKagan brought the punk attitude and bottom end with his bass playing. And then there’s Axl Rose… how does one describe the power of those amazing vocals. Axl’s unique vocal style brought an unhinged vibe to this music that made it nothing short of breath taking.

The sound of GNR on that first album was dark, menacing and yes, dangerous. In the 80’s, there were a ton of hard rock/heavy metal hair bands who sang about chicks and partying and having a good time. While the themes of Guns N’ Roses’ music were similar, it never seemed like anybody was having that good of a time. It was the music of what happens when the party jumps the rails. It was harrowing shit, but yet enjoyable none the less. It was the most visceral music I’d heard up to that time. They combined the bombast of heavy metal, the attitude (and short song structure) of punk, the bloozey vibe of early Aerosmith and the swagger of a much more seasoned band. That’s a helluva lot to put into a debut album. The songs were about urban menace, “Welcome To the Jungle”; drinking or perhaps better said, alcoholism, “Nightrain”; and heroin, “Mr. Brownstone.” Holy shit was this stuff ground breaking in the late 80s. Tellingly, Guns N’ Roses were one of the few 80s hard rock bands to survive the Grunge takeover… They were just that great. Grunge couldn’t kill GNR, only Axl Rose could do that…

When Guns N’ Roses debut album came out in the summer of 1987, I was living in Boston working at the world famous Food Center Liquor Store. I didn’t hear a lot of music sitting in the back of the liquor store where my job was to refill the beer cooler and take the 5-cent per can deposit returns and sort them by brewer. Filthy work with dirty beer cans. After Boston, I went immediately into exile in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, the town that rock and roll forgot. In the Fall of 87 and the spring of 88, I was completely cut off from most new music. My only source of new music, other than reading Rolling Stone magazine, was MTV… who actually still played videos in those days. I don’t know if I miss sitting and vegging-out in front of hours of endless videos or I’m better off because that doesn’t happen any more… I’ll let history be the judge.

Getting my music knowledge from MTV was a bit of a curse. I literally saw the band before I heard the music. I watched the video of “Welcome to the Jungle” and Axl had his hair blown up in that 80s-rock star way and it made me think they were just another cut/paste 80s metal band. I didn’t pay any attention to that landmark tune, which tells you how much background noise was going on in my life. Then I saw the video for “Sweet Child of Mine” and thought, nice riff, it’s an ok ballad, cool guitar player in the top hat… Back then ballads rarely pierced my consciousness. Finally, laying on the couch one day, probably nursing a hangover, I had my arm across my eyes, and the video for “Paradise City” came on. Instead of looking, I just listened… and I liked what I heard. I peaked out from under my arm to see that it was GNR. Axl didn’t have his hair all teased up… and these guys rawked! It was in that moment, Guns N’ Roses finally clicked for me. I went out and bought Appetite on cassette… I was dating a virtuous woman in Shreveport and I needed something dangerous to listen to on the five hour drive. I can’t hear “Think About You” and not think of Shreveport… I’ve been a life-long Guns N’ Roses fan ever since.

Now, all these years later, GNR are revisiting Appetite For Destruction with these “Super Deluxe”/”Deluxe” versions. It looks like the “Super Deluxe” version breaks out like this: Disc 1, the original album, remastered; Disc 2 is described as “B-sides and EPs” but its basically the EP GNR Lies, which had a faux live side, (originally released as Live Like a Suicide) coupled with an acoustic side. Luckily they omit the offensive “One In A Million,” and hopefully that tune is confined to the history of bad decisions; Disc 3 looks like an early version of Appetite recorded in 86 at Sound City; and finally, Disc 4 looks like a grab bag of Demo’s and leftovers.

As part of all of this, GNR released a single, entitled “Shadow Of Your Love.” Apparently a few versions of this song have been released as B-sides. I had never heard it before and so immediately snatched it up. I’m not sure I’m down for the whole box set, but I love this track. It’s just so great to hear something from this era of the band, it hits you immediately. It’s a fast and hard tune. Axl sounds awesome. At different points he’s singing and others it feels like he’s screaming at you… ah, that good old school Axl.  The guitar work is fast and stellar. Slash’s soloing is as melodic as ever. You’re not going to find an unearthed “Paradise City” in a box set like this, nobody is going to leave a stone-cold-classic in the can for thirty years, but this is a great compliment to the Appetite LP. And let’s face it, it doesn’t look like any new music is going to come out of GNR. I heard rumors that Axl is working Angus Young on an AC/DC album, but that’s a different post.

I don’t know if there’ll be enough interesting music to get me to buy the entire box set, but this nice little blast from the past was enough to make me curious enough to at least check it out.

Rawk on!

 

 

Concert Review: Guns n Roses, Kansas City, 29Jun16: The Power & The Glory

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*Picture from last night’s show courtesy of The Rock Chick

In the late 80s and early 90s Guns n Roses ruled the hard rock world, and Axl Rose was their king. On a tour they’ve named “Not In This Lifetime” (after what one of them said when asked about a reunion), Guns n Roses rolled into Kansas City like a rock and roll blitzkrieg and sonically pummeled an ecstatic crowd. This was rock and roll spectacle that I haven’t seen since… well, the late 80s. These guys played for 2 and half hours… It was a concert of Springsteen-esque length with more power than I’ve seen in years.

I still remember the first time I heard “Welcome To the Jungle.” I actually saw the video, back when MTV played videos, before I heard the song on the radio. These days I’m more likely to see a music video on the Weather Channel than on MTV but I digress. At first I thought they were just another hair band but after hearing the tune a few times, the sheer menace in their music turned my head. This was dark juju. By the time “Paradise City” came out, with another iconic concert video, Axl in white leather, I was on the bandwagon and their masterpiece first LP “Appetite For Destruction” went into high rotation on my turntable and stayed in high rotation to this day.

But then Axl got the worst case of LSD (Lead Singer Disease) in the history of rock and everybody else in the band left. Axl shouldered on and spent a decade making the deeply flawed, disappointing “Chinese Democracy.” Slash went on to various solo projects and even joined Duff McKagan in the short-lived supergroup Velvet Revolver with the late Scott Weiland on lead vocals. Izzy Stradlin became the Howard Hughes of rock and roll and disappeared. I certainly never thought any of these guys would play together again. Slash and Axl’s feud seemed so deeply rooted that they would never speak to each other again let alone make music together. I was utterly skeptical when I heard rumors that Slash, Duff and Axl were (literally) getting the band back together. I figured it wouldn’t live up to the hype even if they did get back together. I was wrong. The chemistry these guys have is fierce.

I will start off with the meme inspired subject – Axl’s appearance. Yes, he looks awful. He’s overweight but not grossly so. He was energetically all over the stage last night. He had his serpentine dance move on full display. I will admit, he kept ducking into a tent on the side of the stage whenever there was a musical interlude… I have no idea what was going on in there but I assume he was sucking on an oxygen tank. Appearance aside, his vocals were fantastic. His vocal range has not diminished whatsoever. He remains one of the most charismatic performers I’ve ever seen. He even looked, dare I say, happy. He changed t-shirts almost every song and I have to admit, when he came out with a shirt that simply said, “The Bitch Is Back” on it, I had to smile and nod in agreement…

Slash is the most melodic lead guitar player on the planet right now. His muscular, beautiful solos dominated the evening. He holds the guitar almost vertically and tortures the  strings. I’ve always loved Slash but to see him live is to really understand how talented he is. I might wear a top hat all day in his honor.

The unheralded guy in the equation is Duff McKagan… We should all look as good as Duff McKagan at his age. My God man, the guy is a Greek God… His bass playing is stellar. I had forgotten how many of their tunes start with his rolling bass fills. Flea is the best bass player I’ve ever heard but Duff McKagan has got to be on the short list of greatest bass players ever.

The show started with two great “Appetite” tracks, “It’s So Easy” and the heroin song, “Mr. Brownstone,” a personal favorite (the song, not the heroin). I was surprised when the old line-up then launched into the title track of “Chinese Democracy.” It was clear GnR was hellbent on doing a song from each of their LPs… Duff even sang “Raw Power” off of “The Spaghetti Incident?” “Chinese Democracy” despite some great riff-age from Slash was the low point in the evening’s performance. Luckily they followed it up with a maniacal performance of “Welcome To the Jungle.” That’s the point in the show where the afterburners kicked in. GnR were in high gear after that. They played all of their biggest songs but what impressed me most was how great the deep cuts were. Whether it was the hard rock blast of “Double Talkin’ Jive” or the epic grandeur of “Estranged” these guys just nailed it.

Slash had a couple of guitar solo moments – one was the theme from the Godfather movie and the other with the rhythm guitarist when they did “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd that left my jaw on the floor. A piano came up from under the stage and after jamming on the outro of “Layla” which was pretty amazing, Axl and the band launched into “November Rain.” Slash’s soloing on that one made my night. Slash’s soloing on “This I Love” transformed that song from a forgotten “Chinese Democracy” track to a highlight. The only song I would have cut from the set list was “Coma.” It was overly long and drug on a bit. On the other hand, the “Chinese Democracy” cut “Better” was simply awesome.

After “November Rain” they played two more songs, a great “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” followed by another personal favorite, “Nighttrain.” I certainly felt like I was on a “Nighttrain” by that point in the evening. The encore was three songs. They sub’d in “Don’t Cry” for “Patience” which they’ve been performing prior to this show and it was a welcome substitution. The cover of the Who’s “The Seeker” was great, despite the Rock Chick leaning over and whispering, “I love this song, uh, when the Who do it…” Finally, the last tune was the epic, “Paradise City.” That was the song that first got me really into this band and it seemed fitting that it would be the song they ended on. The stage lit up in different colors, the fire works went off and my friends, wife and I disappeared into the night. We ended up sitting on my roof, drinking beers and asking ourselves, “did that just happen?”

I have no idea where this reunion will go. I’m hopeful it leads to these guys collaborating on new music. I hope that Izzy comes out of hiding and plays with these guys, it looks like he’s missing out on some real fun. It’s more likely that won’t happen… “Not In This Lifetime.” But you never know…

As a side note, Alice In Chains opened up with a 45 minute rocking set. Jerry Cantrell is a magician on guitar and he and the new front man, whose name escapes me, harmonize just as Jerry and Layne Stayley in the old days…. ah, what might have been. I especially liked the portrait of the naked woman on one of Cantrell’s guitars but that’s another story…

If you get a chance and these guys are in a stadium near you, do yourself a favor and catch an epic, history-making performance. GnR proved to me last night that they still have that magic.

Cheers!