Alright, I'm ready to weigh in (for the first of what might be several times.)
I think this record is remarkably strong. The most important thing I could say for it is that there is nothing that sounds like it. Not past Guns N' Roses, nor any other rock band for that matter. Now that will disappoint some people who loved their old sound (as I did.) But I'm happy to accept this for what it is. (As if I had a choice.)
The best aspects of the album:
1. Axl's voice. I don't know whether individual tracks were recorded in 1994 or 2007, but he's never sounded better.
2. Axl the arranger/producer. There are a million things going on in each song, and he weaves them together remarkably well. Particularly impressive are the guitar solos-- played by different people and perhaps recorded years apart-- which interweave with one another almost seamlessly. You can clearly hear when the soloist switches, but the transfer is remarkably organic. Actually this award should be shared with the co-producer Caram Costanzo, who it appears took the lead with a lot of the guitar arranging.
3. Axl the arranger/producer continued. As Dr. Kittybrains and Tex Plush have noted, the album is full of dynamics. One of the reasons I keep buying CDs is because their dynamic range is superior to that of mp3 files. And I listen to them on my nice stereo system (I finally bought one) instead of computer speakers. This is a record to be heard in high fidelity; not as an mp3, which cuts dynamics and frequency range.
4. The non-industrial sound of the record. People seemed to fear that this was going to be a techno metal album based on the "Oh My God" single, and the fact that ex-NIN guitarist Robin Finck was all over this. But Robin Finck doesn't sound anything like techno metal. He's totally '70s blues rock. Some critics have compared him to Slash. That's blasphemous. But he does compare favorably with Zakk Wylde. Very similar in fact. (And Oh My God is felicitously not on the album.)
4. The two shredder guitarists are surprisingly tasteful. For the most part, they keep the crazy squealing high-pitched-rockets-going-off thing to a minimum. There is some-- particularly in the Bumblefoot solo on Shackler's Revenge-- but most of it is awesome. Buckethead isn't just a great guitarist; he's genuinely musical. He knows when to cascade through arpeggios and also when to milk a single note. Bumblefoot too. And they also thankfully stay away (mostly) from the whole two-handed tapping thing, which should be banned for all guitarists not named Eddie Van Halen.
1. The intros to the songs. Almost every song has one (some have outtros too) and none of them make the songs better. Some are interesting, like the Queen-style vocal collage at the beginning of Scraped. But most are really gratuitous.
2. The trip-hop beat in If the World. It doesn't work, and the song is too blandly mid-tempo. It wouldn't stand out as much if the whole album weren't mid-tempo.
3. The lack of any classic GN'R-sounding songs. There isn't a single riff on here to rival Welcome to the Jungle or Mr. Brownstone, nor is there any fast-paced punky thing to rival Perfect Crime or Right Next Door to Hell. (Then again, there's nothing remotely approaching the idiocy of My World, the shlubbiness of So Fine, or the third-grade lyrics of Back Off Bitch, Get in the Ring, etc. Come to think of it, there might not be a single curse word on this album.)
4. The "string" and "orchestra" parts. Boring and uninspired. Would sound better without them, or with only mellotron in their place. (Exception: Riad N' the Bedouins)
As for the specific songs, I'd group them into three tiers:
Tier One (classic): Street of Dreams, Riad N' the Bedouins, Better, I.R.S., There Was A Time
Tier Two (great but not classic): Shackler's Revenge, Scraped, Catcher in the Rye, Sorry, Chinese Democracy, Prostitute, Madagascar
Tier Three (would be better if omitted): This I Love, If the World
But again, what stands out most about this record is that it sounds like nothing else out there. It's the death knell of the old Slash/Duff/Izzy GN'R, because it sounds like neither Welcome to the Jungle nor Estranged. And that's okay.
This isn't the band I grew up loving, but I'm totally digging it for what it is. (4.5 stars out of 5.)