Only Axl Rose or Freddy Mercury could make the line “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no uh-oh-uh, no uh-oh, uh no” work. From the opening track you’ll be thrown into a vision of fishnet t-shirts, bandanas and fingerless gloves; modern day fashion suicide.
When looking at a ‘Greatest Hits’ album you should expect a better than average group of tracks. It offers a valuable insight into identifying the components which made a band great, and understanding what exactly they were doing right. And on that note…
There’s a recurring structure that finds its way into many of the tracks, and it could just be the formula which Guns N’ Roses found their success. The main proponent is a distinct separation between Axl and Slash. They seemingly both have their own ‘stage time’, a time where one is featuring while the other takes a back seat. We obviously have two commanding musicians, strong with their chosen talent. Therefore it was clear that Axl had his vocal sections, and Slash was given a period of uninterrupted guitar mayhem.
It worked very well, and most songs had two distinct sounds to them. Songs within songs.
Ooh, Aah, Hmph
Axl has a numerous ways of making sound. I say ‘making sound’ because some of his work with the microphone cannot be traditionally called singing, but it does have a huge reverbrative appeal that adds to the flavour of any given song. You can find the perfect example of this in a “hyuck” to end ‘Welcome To The Jungle’, or the “oh wow-ow” in the chorus of ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’. They’re sometimes abrasive and unpleasant, but they do add a sense of rawness and grit which enlivens and connects some passages. Like it.
One thing was reiterated throughout this album, exactly how good Slash is with a guitar. It truly is a wonder. Some parts just seem so natural and in the hands of anyone else I can only imagine it feeling obtuse, an example being ‘Live and Let Die’ where he plays the lead while the vocals play a lesser role, quite different from Paul McCartney’s original. He also makes very loud and grand entries, a huge wale of his guitar to signify his appearance, much like trumpets announcing the arrival of a king.
The albums latter tracks are dotted with Guns N’ Roses’ renditions of both well-known and the more obscure tracks. They weren’t afraid to jump head first into some very different genres they would not commonly be linked to. The best example of this being ‘Since I don’t Have You’, a painfully corny track that wouldn’t be out of its element featured alongside Ron Howard on Happy Days. There’s also ‘Ain’t It Fun’ which isn’t so much of a stretch for them, but is a much more aggressive punk sound and suits them quite well. Both of these were masterfully done, they retained the cores of the genre, but at the same time stamped it with their easily identifiable unique sound.
All in All
It’s a very strong group of tracks. Punctuated with Axl’s energetic vocals and the majestic sweet, sweet sounds of Slash caressing his guitar.
Special mention to November Rains guitar solo, all time.
Listen to the album here.