“Chinese Democracy” opens things up on a theatrical note. Right away you realize that frontman and GN’R mastermind Axl Rose has never sounded better. Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal’s guitar solo is another highlight of the title track. “Better” couldn’t be better, with a five-pronged guitar attack setting off explosions while a hard beat crunches away. Tommy Stinson’s bass line provides the backbone of the rhythm. “Street Of Dreams” comes next, the beautiful song that you might recognize during GN’R’s 2006 tour, introduced as “The Blues.”
The fifth track, “If The World,” is a classic funk-rock song with Middle Eastern elements and liquid bass playing from synth man and programmer –- and track co-writer –- Chris Pitman. There Was A Time” “Broken glass and cigarettes, writing on the wall/It was a bargain for the summer and I thought I had it all,” Axl sings before this instant classic crescendos into the powerful chorus. Other highlights include Dizzy Reed, Pitman and Axl’s synth orchestra, which gives the song a movie feel.
A gorgeous instrumental intro featuring piano, bass and Axl’s signature wails begins the album’s next track, “Catcher In The Rye”. “Scraped” features Axl all over the register, with layers and layers of vocal tracks piledt on top of each other while a sinister guitar riff shoots through the chorus: “Don’t you try to stop us now/’cause I just won’t let you.” Meanwhile, “Sorry” is a kick-back track with acoustic guitar but with Axl-penned lyrics that bite: “You don’t know why I won’t give in,” he says. “To hell with the pressure, I’m not caving in.”
Track No. 9, “Riad N’ The Bedouins” has Axl giving his all to the vocal over a complex, multi-layered guitar rhythm. The instrumental bridge segues from strings to a Bumblefoot solo assault. An electronic drum loop leads right into the next song, “I.R.S.”, which contains some of Axl’s most inner-reaching lyrical content on the album. Track No. 12, “Madagascar,” features accltaimed orchestral arranger Paul Buckmaster and emotional samples from history, including two speeches by Martin Luther King Jr., the films “Mississippi Burning” and “Cool Hand Luke.”
“This I Love” starts with only Axl’s voice and piano playing, and it’s the only song on the album solely written by Axl. “Prostitute” brings things to a close, with Axl saying, “It’s not a question of whether my heart is true.”
Chinese Democracy is a truly epic project, GNR’s first studio release since 1993’s The Spaghetti Incident?.
Street of Dreams
There Was a Time
Catcher in the Rye
Riad n’ the Bedouins
This I Love