Style: Guttersnipe hard rock and heavy metal (circa 1987-1993).
Cautions: None, to the consternation of fans who savor the notorious political incorrectness of the band's non-greatest hits.
Worldview: "[T]he wars go on with brainwashed pride, / for the love of God and our human rights. / And all these things are swept aside / by bloody hands time can't deny" ("Civil War").
Overall quality: A listenable rehabilitation of a band that needed one.
Style: Southern-accented sentimentality.
Worldview: "Now I'm rolling home / into my lover's arms. / This much I know is true, / that God blessed the broken road / that led me straight to you" ("Bless the Broken Road"); "She moves a little closer, and she puts her lips to mine. / Ain't it funny how the Good Lord outdoes himself sometimes?" ("Oklahoma-Texas Line").
Overall quality: Nice-guy exterior; soft, gooey insides-country meets "chick flick."
Style: Blue-collar rock 'n' roll of little discernible subtlety.
Cautions: "Night Moves" (single-entendres).
Worldview: "My hands were steady. / My eyes were clear and bright. / My walk had purpose. / My steps were quick and light. / And I held firmly / to what I felt was right, / like a rock."
Overall quality: Tough-guy exterior; soft, gooey insides; occasional brains-greeting-card verse in rock 'n' roll clothing.
Style: Stand-up apolitical comedy for the Comedy Central generation.
Cautions: Rampant obscenity and profanity; occasional sexually explicit routines.
Worldview: That a good way to survive mundane frustrations is to relish their inherently comic nature, and (inadvertently, no doubt) that a baby in a womb is a human being after all ("Pregnant Lady").
Overall quality: Raunchy exterior; funny, self-deprecating insides; frequent brains-above-average wit land-mined with undeleted expletives.
Style: Hip-hop meets grunge-rock electronica.
Worldview: "Move out my way. / Give up the mic. / 'X' to me is extremely Christ / livin' up in me, / like it or not. / Put an 'X' on my chest / 'cause X marks the spot" ("Extreme Days").
Overall quality: A catchy return to Toby McKeehan's dc talk roots, replete with Christian faith, a social conscience, and (especially in the samples) a sense of humor.
When the Rolling Stones tapped Guns N' Roses to open shows on their Steel Wheels tour in 1989, some critics thought the move a mistake-not because Guns N' Roses (already infamous for public meltdowns) might be too stoned or drunk to perform but because they might upstage the Stones. The story of why such predictions failed to materialize constitutes one more chapter in the sad history of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll.
It's also a story that Guns N' Roses' Greatest Hits (Geffen) doesn't tell. Released in 2004 over the band's legal objections, the album collects the group's eight top-40 singles (five of which hit the top five and went gold); covers of songs by Bob Dylan, the Skyliners, and the Stones (the all-too-unironically appropriate "Sympathy for the Devil"); and "Civil War," the social-conscience anthem that Axl Rose composed to counter the bad PR he'd generated with comments that anticipated (and were eventually upstaged by) those of John Rocker.