This is a historic release, the first official appearance of recordings by Hollywood Rose, the band that would later mutate into Guns N' Roses. These were cut in 1984, when the band was led by Axl Rose and guitarists Izzy Stradlin and Chris Weber, with Johnny Kreis on drums, and these are the recordings that initially got Hollywood Rose playing the L.A. club circuit; Tracii Guns, the guitarist who later split to form L.A. Guns, would come along later, along with bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Steven Adler. Hearing this original five-song demo, it's easy to see why Vicky Hamilton, the group's first manager, took them under her wing -- they were harder, tougher, rawer, and meaner than any of the metal coming out of Los Angeles during 1984. Not that the music was fully formed: apart from "Anything Goes" and "Reckless Life," both of which appeared on GNR releases, the songwriting was embryonic, and the music, particularly the guitar playing, fell prey to a few '80s metallic conventions and lacked the recklessness that Slash brought to the band. Still, these are urgent, fiery, utterly committed performances that have dated very little since their recording; it's metal played with the hunger and vigor of punk, something that later made Guns N' Roses stars, but made them outcasts in 1984, and it's a thrill to hear this original demo at long last. And that's a thrill that can't be diluted even though the CD itself is padded out with two different remixes, one by latter-day Guns N' Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke and one by Cinderella drummer Fred Coury. Although it's hard not to smirk in admiration at Clarke bringing Tracii Guns in for posthumous guitar overdubs on two songs, these remixes are superfluous -- way too bright, punchy, and modern for music that sounded as raw and twitchy as an exposed nerve in its threadbare demo version. Even with this filler, The Roots of Guns N' Roses is essential listening for any fan of hard rock or heavy metal -- not only is it an important piece of history, it's as raw and reckless, as live like a suicide as anything the Gunners cut or will ever cut again.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Tracii Guns