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Hollywood Rose Roots of Guns 'N Roses

By Frank Meyer, Contributing Editor
Thursday, November 18, 2004 @ 11:27 PM


(Cleopatra)

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For years, Guns ‘N Roses fans heard about a mythical early incarnation of the band called Hollywood Rose. Pre-hits. Pre-record deal. Pre-Slash. Pre-Duff. Pre-everything. Just Axl, Izzy and some guys. Well, this is it. Hollywood Rose guitarist Chris Weber finally gave up the goods -- and not without much compensation I’m sure -- a five-song cassette demo of the long sought after debut recording of the fabled outfit, transferred and cleaned up for your enjoyment.

So what ya get here is the entire demo in its raw form, plus remixes by later-era GNR guitarist Gilby Clarke, and Cinderella drummer Fred Coury. The Gilby connection makes some sense, after all he was in the band and is known as a pretty capable producer these days. But Fred Coury? A little out of left field, wouldn't you say? I know he filled in for Adler on tour in '88 for a minute, but does that really qualify him to remix their music? He must have a production deal with the label or something.

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Anywhoo. So ya got Axl on vocals, Izzy and Weber on both geetars and bass, and some Johnny Kreis on skins. Axl’s mighty wail is a bit more air raid-siren-metal than serpentine-kiss-glam-rock, but sounds fierce nevertheless. The drummer is fine and the bass is simply there. The riffs are solid, though neither six-stringer is even in the same league as Slash, so the songs lack the guitar firepower the band soon had in spades. Musically, they sound like a capable ’80s heavy metal band with a big Rose Tattoo/Hanoi Rocks fixation. You coulda thrown a stone down Sunset Blvd. and hit 10 bands that sounded exactly the same back when this was made in 1984. I know, because I did many times.... throw stones down Sunset at people, that is.

As for the songs, the generically named “Killing Time” and “Rocker” are completely by-the-numbers headbangers in the Iron Maiden-meets-Motley Crue vein. Not bad at all, but nothing special. “Anything Goes,” however, is an early version of the Appetite For Destruction tune with a completely different verse riff and alternate lyrics. Even in it’s primordial form, it rocks. “Shadow of Your Love,” which appeared later as Guns B-side, sounds terrific here, almost completely the same as the more famous version, yet even more raw and randy. Ditto with Live Like a Suicide’s “Reckless Life,” another Weber tune that scorches here, despite the bootleggy quality of the recording.

The remixes do much justice to the sonics of this from-the-vaults release, though one has to wonder why we needed two sets of ‘em. Gilby’s mixes feature Tracii Guns on additional, added-on-later guitar, which is kind of a cool treat, considering he was an original member of the band. His fiery leads add that missing ingredient Hollywood Rose lacks without Slash’s axe-work. Coury’s mixes are nice ‘n’ beefed up too, but by the time you get to your third mix of “Killing Time”… you really are doing just that.

* * * ½


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