Things That Are Different About New Version of Guns N’ Roses’ ‘November Rain’
"November Rain" isn't exactly the most celebratory song, but Guns N' Roses have shared a new version of the track to commemorate the start of the month. Included on the 30th anniversary edition of Use Your Illusion I, the updated rendition features a full orchestra, so there are some things about it that sound a bit different.
A lot of people like to blame epic ballads such as "November Rain" and "Estranged" as being one of the main catalysts that drove a wedge between the members of Guns N' Roses in the early '90s, but the beginnings of "November Rain" dates all the way back to the mid-'80s. Axl Rose wrote the skeleton of the track before the band had even formed, and there are piano and acoustic demo versions you can hear when it was in its infancy. It was only a matter of time before Rose was going to release it, and he certainly knew it didn't belong on Appetite for Destruction.
Guns N' Roses, "November Rain" 1986 Piano Demo Version
By the time Guns started working on the Illusion albums, they were already one of the biggest bands on the planet, so Rose was extremely meticulous during the recording process. What many also don't realize is that he composed "November Rain" entirely on his own, and created the orchestral sounds and string arrangements on a synthesizer. The video shows scenes of them playing it with an orchestra, and they have performed it live with one before, but the 1991 studio version was all Rose in the studio.
The updated version of the track features the same performance by the band, but the orchestration has been re-recorded with a 50-piece orchestra, conducted and arranged in 2021 by Grammy award-winning composer Christopher Lennertz, which replaces the original synthesized orchestration done by Rose. It was mixed by Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree.
So, what actually sounds different about it?
Well, this one's kind of obvious, given the whole intro is made up of orchestration. But the very first piano note even sounds different than the original because the mix is so much clearer. That being said, the intro still stays incredibly true to the original, but the string section is a bit more pronounced, and around the 1:01 mark, you'll hear an ascending string melody that matches that of the piano, which didn't exist in the original version. The flute melody is a bit more muted too.
No, they weren't re-recorded, so they're not actually different. But, the mix makes them stand out a bit more, so the spotlight really shines on them. That rasp is chef's kiss.
The Strings During the Final Verse
During the last verse, where Rose sings, "And when your fears subside / And shadows still remain / I know that you can love me / When there's no one left to blame," there's another string melody that didn't appear in the original.
Perhaps the best part of the entire song, the outro of the new rendition is where things get really spicy. The build-up to Slash's explosive guitar melody is somehow even more dramatic than on the original — mainly because the string section sounds like it's gearing up for war. Because of the mix, more of Rose's vocal harmonies can be heard, as some of the upper-register vocals must've been drowned out in the older version. We've confirmed that no new vocals have been added.
So there you have it. Guns N' Roses managed to re-release "November Rain" while still keeping how Stephanie Seymour's character dies in the video a secret. We may never know. Check out the new version of the song below to see if you notice any other differences. The 30th anniversary editions of Use Your Illusion I and II will be out Nov. 11 — pre-order your copy here.