The most expensive album never made is finally born.
After 15 years, 14 studios, and 13 million dollars, it finally happened.
On November 23rd, 2008, Guns N' Roses released the most-rumored,
über-anticipated, and oft-ridiculed album in the history of rock
music: Chinese Democracy.
For anyone not familiar with the back story, suffice it to say that
Chinese Democracy is the biggest boy-who-cried-wolf album of
all time. Originally slated for release circa 1999, the album has
been perpetually promised and delayed by the maligned Axl Rose,
a rock 'n' roll has-been notorious for his maniacal perfectionism.
But after enough empty deliveries, the music world called Axl's bluff,
and Chinese Democracy became a myth, if not a joke; nothing
more than a magnum opus in the mind of its troubled creator.
It's easy to forget that Rose was once respected for spearheading
the unstoppable force that was Guns N' Roses. But by the mid-90s,
his despotic nature and control-freak tendencies had run every member
right out of the band. Yet even without key guitarist Izzy Stradlin
or the irreplaceable Slash, Guns N' Roses never officially
broke up, and Rose soldiered on under the GNR label (not unlike Roger
Waters and his egocentric insistence that he was Pink Floyd).
In the decade since, Rose holed up in the Hollywood Hills to endlessly
hone the sixth Guns N' Roses album, all while the band's lineup remained
in a state of flux. For the incredibly drawn-out recording process
of Chinese Democracy Rose ultimately enlisted an army of personnel
to perfect his masterpiece. According to the exhausting list of album
credits, Rose used 14 additional musicians and a production crew of
41 to handle the engineering, mixing, and mastering.
In his April Fools' review of the album in 2006, writer Chuck
Klosterman said that to avoid complete failure, Chinese Democracy
"needs to be the greatest rock album ever made." Given the
impossible-to-meet expectations, though, Chinese Democracy is certainly
not the greatest rock album ever made. But somehow, against all odds,
Chinese Democracy is surprisingly good. At times it is great.
And it gets better with each listen.
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