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Slow, Expensive, and Definitely Out of Control

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The New York Times looks at Axl Rose (former frontman of the long defunct heavy metal superstars Guns & Roses) and his long, long, long awaited solo album, Chinese Democracy. Which, based on the Times‘ description, will probably arrive in Beijing before Axl’s album arrives in your local Tower Records:

Mr. Rose began work on the album in 1994, recording in fits and starts with an ever-changing roster of musicians, marching through at least three recording studios, four producers and a decade of music business turmoil. The singer, whose management said he could not be reached for comment for this article, went through turmoil of his own during that period, battling lawsuits and personal demons, retreating from the limelight only to be followed by gossip about his rumored interest in plastic surgery and “past-life regression” therapy.

Along the way, he has racked up more than $13 million in production costs, according to Geffen documents, ranking his unfinished masterpiece as probably the most expensive recording never released. As the production has dragged on, it has revealed one of the music industry’s basic weaknesses: the more record companies rely on proven stars like Mr. Rose, the less it can control them.

In a music industry that’s evaporating before our very eyes, it’s amazing to see that this sort of 1970s-style excess still goes on.

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About Ed Driscoll

  • I remember hearing some number of years ago that either Axl was playing new songs live, or some of the old Guns music with a new lineup, or something. And the word was that whatever it was sounded really, really good.

    Anybody recall any of this better than I?

  • sydney

    He was playing live and some new and old stuff. But you heard wrong when you heard it was good.

    He was wearing a sort of kareoke device that pumped his own recorded vocals over his live singing. It was pathetic. The reason he hasn’t continued singing, recording, and HAS continued doing drugs is because he has no vocal chords. he will never make good music again because he is incapable of it (unless he pulls a bob dylan and finds a way to make crap vocals sound good).

    oh and the new band’s guitarist’s name was Buckethead and he wore an empty Kentucky fried chicken barrel upside down on his head. Buckethead was funny, even funnier than axl.

  • Dude where the fuck do you get your sources from?

    Number one, the guy who wrote this article in the NY times just got his asshole ripped out by the management at Sanctuary Records because he bullshitted them totally. Go here if you wanna read about it.

    2. No he didn’t have a karaoke machine on himself. Dipshit.

    3. Buckethead is gone.

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks for the very different perspective RazZ, not that the Sanctuary guy really disputed anything other than the writer’s technique

  • sydney

    1. buckethead is gone
    2. Axl was wearing a device that looped his own recorded vocals underneath his live singing. And his voice is totally shot (in terms of how he used to sound (rolling stone magazine and the former members of guns and roses)

  • Eric Olsen

    I actually wouldn’t mind at all if the nasal whine displayed on much of Appetite was now gone – the vocals are by far the weakest element of an otherwise great hard rock album

  • Um, when did Acl Rose actually have GOOD vocals. I don’t recall that fabled golden age.

    As for long and expensive albums, how about Smile by Brian Wilson – what is that 30 years in production?


  • at least Brian Wilson didn’t come running out on stage in dreadlocks, get winded and more or less make a fool of himself.

  • gus

    I think all this time of recording he just waited to clean his voice and receive medical treatment for his vocal chords. Remember Use Your Illusion Tour was two non stop years of daily 2 hrs+show. You may not like his voice but you´ll never see anybody doing what he is able to do. Freddy Mercury ? I don´t like Opera, I like dirty wild voices and playing that, AXL WAS FUCKING NUMBER ONE ASSHOLES !!!

  • joe

    And still is don´t you think

  • I think the upshot is that Guns put out one great/classic album and a few other decent ones. Not a huge body of work, really, but it’s very likely that’s all we’re going to get.

    I remember someone telling me in high school circa 1989 or so: ‘Guns ‘N Roses are better than Led Zeppelin. They’ll be remembered 100 years from now…’

  • sydney

    I agree with ERic.

    I mean, sure guns were good for a while. But thier albums just arn’t enough to warrent the crtical praise that some people seemed determined to give them.

    Personally, I think Slash is what made them better than average. he had some killer riffs and a cool sound.

  • Don’t forget Izzy Stradlin. He’s widely credited for writing (or at least being an integral part in crafting) many of the early songs. His departure put a serious hurting on the band.

    Another memory from high school days:

    A not-so-great friend on Slash walking out of the church in the “November Rain” video: “I would give 10 years of my life in a heartbeat to be as cool as Slash is right there for 10 minutes.”

    You can’t make this stuff up.

  • “The New York Times looks at Axl Rose (former frontman of the long defunct heavy metal superstars Guns & Roses) and his long, long, long awaited solo album, Chinese Democracy”

    I thought that Chinese Democracy was to be the next actual Guns’n’Roses album…

  • SFC Ski

    Yes, even “Use Your Illusion” is a bit of a trainwreck, and only by combing thru 1 and 2 do you get a single great listenable album.

  • I was quite disappointed by the “Use Your Illusion” albums. They were a cash grad and should have been pared down to a single album. Ever since then, and due to the long wait, I’ve lost interest in GNR. And, I have no interest in what I’ve heard from Velvet Revolver, either.

  • viking

    Just had to comment on this:

    “Um, when did Acl Rose actually have GOOD vocals. I don’t recall that fabled golden age.”

    What planet are you on? Say what you like about him but he was/is an extremely good singer.

    And Use Your Illusion II is awesome!

  • samira

    dude even in India axl rose is worshipped for his vocals…he kicks ass..he rocks…he…is god. and all of you who think otherwise…get off this blog. go back michael jackson or something…

  • Not anymore, Samira – unless Bangalore bands are still playing the same cover tunes in every concert

  • Sid

    Guns n Roses were the coolest band…for me atleast. I love all their albums except for maybe Spaghetti Incident..but that was not them anyway oncly covers…each and every GnR song has been my favorite for sometime till I finished all their songs. Its sad how they fell apart. Hope one day they come back and start over with great music like they used to. Bon Jovi did it, why can’t the Guns?

    P.S. Illusions albums weren’t good? wow! I know every song of both albums by rote! those songs saw me through the worst years of my life! Till today all gnr albums are my fav albums.

  • Sid

    In fact I’m listening to Paradise City as I type ! hehehee… LOL.
    you see, everybody’s doin’ their time! Samira you rule…pay u at another time for your support to gnr!

  • Guns n Roses were a very American band, don’t think they really translated too well outside their own circles…