It may surprise some to realize that Guns N' Roses released only four full-length original albums, and two of those debuted simultaneously. But they were enough to forever change rock 'n' roll. Even more shocking is that one of the great bands in rock history, with it's last studio album issued 10 years ago, has never had a "best of" compilation. Now it has. Welcome to the jungle with Greatest Hits (Geffen), released March 23, 2004. With 14 selections housed in a digipak, Greatest Hits features all eight of the band's Top 40 Billboard Hot 100 tracks (five of them RIAA-certified "gold, " i.e., sales of more than 500, 000 units). Along with spanning the group's five album releases, Greatest Hits also marks the debut on a Guns N' Roses album of the band's cover of the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" for the 1995 film Interview with the Vampire.
If time is the true test, then Guns N' Roses' Greatest Hits
confirms that they really were one of the greatest rock & roll bands in the world. While, in retrospect, fellow graduates of the class of 1987 are about as cool as poodle perms and spandex, the L.A. bad boys still rock like gods. Listening to the sun-drenched chords of "Paradise City" and the ensuing stadium-sized swagger is enough to make wearing leather trousers and bandanas seem like a good idea. Of course, it helped that for them sex, drugs, and rock & roll was a way of life, not a fashion statement. As Axl Rose wails "I wanna watch you bleed" on "Welcome to the Jungle" like a chain-smoking lunatic possessed, it's hard not to believe he meant it. Yet equally, it was his surprisingly poetic nature that made genuinely touching love songs of "Patience" and "Sweet Child of Mine."
Though none of their subsequent albums matched the drug-crazed genius of Appetite for Destruction, they did, as the Greatest Hits reminds, have their moments. From the bloated Use Your Illusion I & II came ultimate rock ballads "Don't Cry" and "November Rain," along with the primal rage that was "You Could Be Mine." And while the covers of the The Spaghetti Incident? were largely forgettable, the fact that their final single was a seedy sneer through the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" seems spectacularly fitting. --Dan Gennoe