Guns N' Roses - Greatest Hits
Guns N' Roses albums
Album Comparisons: Guns N' Roses' Greatest Hits
Guns N' Roses exploded onto the scene in 1987 with this ferocious debut album. Reaching #1 on the Billboard charts a year after its release, Appetite for Destruction has since gone on to become the highest selling debut album in U.S. history, moving 18 million copies in the United States alone and a total of some 30 million copies worldwide. Beginning after the follow up EP G N' R Lies, and in particular following the twin albums Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II in 1991, the band has gone through an innumerable number of lineup permutations with a gaggle of different musicians cycling in and out through the band's revolving door, with Axl Rose remaining as the only constant original member. So at this point in the game, a greatest hits or "best of" or some other kind of compilation album was inevitable. Greatest Hits, released in 2004, was the first such collection of material, released despite a failed lawsuit by Rose aimed at preventing its release. How does it stack up to the original CDs?

Welcome to the Jungle

Greatest Hits (2004)

Welcome to the Jungle

Appetite For Destruction (1987)

Welcome to the Jungle

Sweet Child O' Mine

Greatest Hits (2004)

Sweet Child O' Mine

Appetite For Destruction (1987)

Sweet Child O' Mine

Patience

Greatest Hits (2004)

Patience

G N' R Lies (1988)

Patience

Paradise City

Greatest Hits (2004)

Paradise City

Appetite For Destruction (1987)

Paradise City

Knockin' On Heaven's Door

Greatest Hits (2004)

Knockin' On Heaven's Door

Use Your Illusion II (1991)

Knockin' On Heaven's Door

Civil War

Greatest Hits (2004)

Civil War

Use Your Illusion II (1991)

Civil War

You Could Be Mine

Greatest Hits (2004)

You Could Be Mine

Use Your Illusion II (1991)

You Could Be Mine

Don't Cry (original)

Greatest Hits (2004)

Don't Cry (original)

Use Your Illusion I (1991)

Don't Cry (original)

November Rain

Greatest Hits (2004)

November Rain

Use Your Illusion I (1991)

November Rain

Live and Let Die

Greatest Hits (2004)

Live and Let Die

Use Your Illusion I (1991)

Live and Let Die

Yesterdays

Greatest Hits (2004)

Yesterdays

Use Your Illusion II (1991)

Yesterdays

Ain't It Fun

Greatest Hits (2004)

Ain't It Fun

The Spaghetti Incident? (1993)

Ain't It Fun

Since I Don't Have You

Greatest Hits (2004)

Since I Don't Have You

The Spaghetti Incident? (1993)

Since I Don't Have You

Sympathy for the Devil

Greatest Hits (2004)

Sympathy for the Devil

Interview With the Vampire soundtrack album (1994)

Sympathy for the Devil
And the winner is: Depends on the song. To begin with, I'm not sure why the album producers felt the need to include two songs from The Spaghetti Incident? on the Greatest Hits album. I guess the feeling was that that minor piece of fluff needed to be represented in order to try to move more copies, but seriously - how does a track like "Since I Don't Have You" hold up to anything from Appetite For Destruction or even G N' R Lies? The answer is that it doesn't, nor does anything else on that forgettable album of filler. I also don't understand the track selection on the Greatest Hits disc. Is it really worth leaving off an essential like "Mr. Brownstone," a song which still gets respectable radio play here in my area at least, in order to make way for mediocre or unexciting tracks like "Yesterdays" and "Civil War?" I suppose it could be argued that on a "hits" album the focus should be on showcasing actual singles over album tracks, but that still doesn't account for the incomprehensible absence of a track like "Estranged" in favor of including five covers in a total of fourteen selections. Then again, Guns N' Roses were a big piece of a certain part of my adolescence, so I have to admit to being more than a little biased here. And there are essential G N' R songs represented, like "Welcome to the Jungle" and the Terminator 2 highlight "You Could Be Mine."

So, moving on to the actual comparisons. It's clear that the compilation disc has been mastered louder than the original albums, at least in the cases of Appetite for Destruction and the Use Your Illusion discs, but to be honest, the volume increase is only slight. The effects of compression are there, but the application here is far less extreme than what's been employed on a lot of other reissues of classic material. Nevertheless, it is there - even in the case of "You Could Be Mine," a comparatively loud song upon its original release, there has been visible compression applied on the newer disc despite the song only being about 1 dB louder in actual mastering level. On the other hand, in an unexpected reversal, "Patience," "Sympathy For the Devil," and the Spaghetti Incident? material are actually quieter on the Hits disc than on the originals. In fact, it seems almost as if they took the original CD masters for the Spaghetti and Vampire albums and simply reduced the volume slightly to bring them in line with the rest of the Greatest Hits selections.

Overall, this is a tough one to judge. For "Patience," the volume difference between the original and the hits album is so tiny as to be insignificant, and after a listening comparison, I think the Greatest Hits version has a bit of an edge over the original, with a slightly cleaner sound and slightly better stereo separation. For that reason, and the lack of apparent compression on the newer release, I'm going with the Greatest Hits disc in the case of that song. With the Spaghetti Incident? material, my comparison of volume matched samples found no such advantage for either release, so I'm going with the original by default. If you're going to have these songs, you might as well have them at a normalized volume level, though in all honesty the compilation disc is just fine for these two selections. To my ears, "Sympathy For the Devil" sounds better and a little less dynamically constrained on the Interview With the Vampire disc, so in that case, the soundtrack album wins over the compilation disc. As for the Appetite and Illusion material, the original albums get the thumbs up here, due to the compression employed on the Greatest Hits album. So overall, the earlier discs edge out the later one, but this is by no means a blowout. I must say that I'm very pleased with the inclusion of full length album cuts here instead of shorter edits. And while I take some issue with the track selection, the Greatest Hits disc isn't a bad option for the more casual fan to pick up. I do like the photos used on the inside and outside of the back tray, and particularly like the negative effect seen when the outside one is tilted under the light. Both photos feature original drummer Steven Adler, who only appears on four of the fourteen songs on the disc, but then again, who really remembers any of the lineups after the classic one anyway?