on April 5, 2005
The consensus among most critics and the general public is that both "Use Your Illusion" albums contain a lot of filler. It has often been said that a single album, with the best of both volumes, would have been better than two separate albums. Although this is the general consensus among Joe Public, the hard-core Guns N' Roses fans know better.
In my opinion, the Illusion albums have very little filler. It would also be hard to have a single album with songs from each disc, as each Illusion album is its own entity. The Illusion set is not a single album with two separate discs. Both volumes are albums in their own right, with a different tone, vibe, and feeling. The colors on the album covers represent the atmosphere of the albums. "Use Your Illusion I" is brighter, more up-beat, glossier. "Use Your Illusion II" is more reflective, and overall darker.
Between both volumes, there is over two and a half hours of music. Both volumes need to be nursed and savored. The listener needs time to let it all sink in. Some of these songs are fast paced rockers in the vein of "Appetite For Destruction." Other songs are longer, up to ten minutes in length, with intricate solos and complex arrangements, in short, art-rock.
With an album like "Appetite For Destruction" under their belt, any follow-up would be criticized. But much had changed for GN'R since they hit it big. They were now multi-millionaires and no longer living in poverty in cheap apartments in L.A. Also, the lineup of the band had changed. Drummer Steven Adler was fired, and replaced by Matt Sorum. Sorum's drumming was slicker, more technically proficient. Also added to the lineup was keyboardist Dizzy Reed. The new GN'R was more polished, less rough-around-the-edges than they had been in the days of AFD.
GN'R branched out artistically for their follow-up, and naturally received a lot of criticism. Common complaints are--the band went soft, too much filler, to arty, etc.
To address these criticisms: (1) The band did not go soft. There are ballads, but there are also a lot of rockers. A lot of the singles were the ballads, so someone unfamiliar with these albums might conclude that the band went soft by listening to the radio/MTV and conclude that these songs (Don't Cry, November Rain) represent the album, when in fact, they do not. (2) As for there being too much filler, that is a matter of opinion. I happen to think that each song ranges from very good-to classic. A lot of GN'R's very best songs are buried in the set. Because there is so much music, a lot of the songs remain unknown to the general public and are therefore considered "filler." (3)A lot of these songs are art-rock. They are often long in length and are not instantly assessable-and are therefore dismissed. A lot of these songs are quite intricate and take time to fully appreciate.
"Use Your Illusion I" has a very glossy feel. It is somewhat overproduced, but for me, as someone who has been listening to it for almost 15 years, that's just part of the album's charm. I tend to look at the first volume as "the Izzy album," and the second volume as "the Axl album." I do this because Izzy's signature Stones/Faces influence is more prevalent on volume I, and Axl's artistic muscle is stretched more on the second volume, although there is an overlap and each made great contributions to the other.
Sorum and bassist Duff McKagan provide a killer rhythm section. Slash's playing, of course, goes without saying, is absolutely incredible. Each song has at least one or two screeching, ear-crunching, kick-ass, yet melodic solos. And Axl Rose shows why he is one of the most memorable, charismatic figures in rock. And some of Izzy Stradlin's best songs are found on "Use Your Illusion I."
The first volume starts out rocking hard with the AFD style "Right Next Door to Hell." This song doesn't have quite the furry of AFD, but it's still a good song nonetheless and a good way to start off the album. Izzy Stradlin's mid-tempo "Dust N' Bones" is a very Stones-ey song and is quite underrated. Slash's solo in it absolutely rips. Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die" is a very cool cover and stays pretty true to the original, while giving it a little more of an edge. "Don't Cry," the first song ever written in Guns N' Roses, is a beautiful balled, although the 30 second ending is a bit over-the-top. "Perfect Crime" is another great rocker, in the vein of AFD, and is another highly underrated song. Izzy Stradlin's sleepy, "You Ain't the First" is the only song I would consider to be filler. It's not bad, but it just slows down the momentum a bit. The rock-a-billy "Bad Obsession" is GN'R paying homage to Southern Rock. "Back off Bitch" musically is excellent, although the lyrics are stupid and juvenile, and didn't help GN'R's image as being misogynist. Stradlin's fast paced "Double Talkin' Jive" has a catchy, almost sinister riff and features one of Slash's best solos. Rose's Elton John inspired masterpiece "November Rain" follows next. This remains one of GN'R's most beloved songs to date.
A lot of Guns N' Roses best songs are found on the second half of "Use Your Illusion I." Unfortunately, because of the album's length, they just sort of got buried. "The Garden" is a really trippy, psychedelic duet with Alice Cooper." "Garden of Eden" is an excellent very fast paced hard-rocker. "Don't Damn Me" features some of Rose's best, most soul searching lyrics. "Bad Apples" is another hard rocker and features one of Slash's best solos. "Dead Horse" is one of the album's highlights. Rose best, most personal lyrics are found right here. The closing epic "Coma," along with "November Rain" is the album's highlight. It simply shows Axl Rose and Slash at their best. The song is just a monster, pure and simple. Axl Rose's 30+ second delivery at the end over Slash's playing is one of the most powerful, vital, ingenious moments in rock.
I bought "Use Your Illusion I" when I was 13 years old, and now, at 26, it remains one of my most favorite albums of all time. If you are looking for an AFD part two, you will be disappointed. If you are looking for instant gratification, go buy a Blink 182 album. If you want a masterpiece that has songs that are instantly addictive as well as songs that take time to appreciate, buy "Use Your Illusion I."
on August 15, 2005
It's been 10 years since I pulled out my GNR CDs and seriously listened to them. In high school, I loved Use Your Illusion II and my friend and I would debate which was better: Civil War or Estranged. A stupid kid who tried to be a bully and a friend at the same time came up to me one day and started reciting the last monologue in Coma, possibly to impress me. Surprised was he to find this dork singing right along with him!
10 Years After, and awakened by the real world and how accursed it all is, I've come to find the Use Your Illusion albums more than enjoyable tunes to memorize. These songs have angst, anger, and a sort of jaded "experienced life" maturity to it that I find reminiscent of my current days.
Use Your Illusion I has come to my aid and I've found myself listening to this record more and more. I've also realized that this record is Izzy's show. He pens eight of the sixteen tracks here (excluding most lyrics). From the darkest piano chord that opens Dust N Bones to the bizarre but awesome Double Talkin' Jive, Izzy's contributions on this record are vast.
Rose's piano charms even the hardest rocking of songs, and his wordsmithing is both prolific and profound. Even if I loathed GNR, I'd have to admit Axl can express himself better than most. Besides Dead Horse, his only solo composition is November Rain, a song I used to idly listen to. It, along with UYI II's Estranged, is a work of genius. I can easily imagine Rose sitting at a piano, a drink on the music desk, creating the song; November Rain (as with most of these tracks) is best appreciated with good headphones.
Where I used to skip over many of the tracks, today I listen to this album straight through. Although I don't consider the UYI albums concept in any form, UYI I feels faster, edgier, and more experimental of the two.
To be quite honest, I never even knew people considered songs "filler" until coming here. So the idea really means nothing to me. These people worked hard on each song, and the result is an album unrivaled by anything released today.
on May 30, 2004
There is an energy in this album (along with the other pre Spag. albums) that can not be replicated. The stars lined up just right for a handful of times in the past 50 years, and included in the list of those to benefit is the GUNS N ROSES beast from 87-93. Although contemporary times always make the past look tame, there is still no denying the ferocious, controversial beauty that will probably always be associated with GNR.
I'm not in the generation that's supposed to listen to Guns. I was 11 when the Illusions came out, so that meant that while everybody was telling me that Kurt Cobain was the only thing that was cool, I was just discovering the TRUE POWER of music, which is highly inclusive of the mighty Guns. Also a classically trained pianist, let me say I am very open-minded. But regardless of society's pressure to keep up with the times, I still haven't heard anything since the Illusions that can offer such a profound release of anger, tension, stress, and hurtful emotion. Fans ferociously guard "Appetite..." as the definitive album, and there's obviously a whole host of good arguments for that - but although it was at the expense of the band's unity, I maintain that the Illusions pulled off every epic human goal that music can provide, justifying Axl's egocentric addiction to perfectionism. Here's the review of 1, which although it doesn't pull off the "greatest album of all time" -ness of 2, it is the biggest pack of a punch that good hard rock has ever been able to muster.
The songwriting, performing, attitude, musicianship - EVERYTHING - came together with "Appetite" - but now, with a few more dollars in their pockets, the Gunners could take that same vision and get the recordings polished to perfection. I conceed that that is "for better of worse," in that many people prefer a raw sound, and that appeals to many Appetite heads (and I'm one of them!) But during the Illusions recordings, magic happened; a very spiritual (partially demonic) soul got trapped into the tape, making these recordings transcend all laws of recording techniques, and when you listen to the metallic blues of "Dust N Bones", the more obscure "Bad Apples," or the bone-crunching epic "Coma," you can't help but bleed out all of your internal toxins. Music exists for a release (among other things), and no album has you dealing with your demons more intensely than Use Your Illusion I. Axl's lyrics read like a psychiatric report, which as I mention down below, wouldn't make sense if indeed they were a shallow party band. Indeed, this band was put here with a purpose.
Okay, so they weren't the BEST musicians around, but they weren't bad. And the group dynamic made up for the lack of technique many times over. Afterall, a strong element to the foundation of the band is punk, where attitude is all that matters. The fact that Guns had/have attitude PLUS other things to offer makes me say that that is the best thing you could try to get from any musician.
Which leads me right into the high compliment to this album's effective diversity. I play piano for a living, and Use Your Illusion 1 is like Appetite + piano and a few other things, which is why I hold 1 just a notch higher (not worth arguing about though). I could listen to the bluesy headbanging of "Dust N Bones" (and even more, 2's 14 years) all day long, jamming along on piano, and never want to go do anything else. The hypnotic electricity of this band should come in a bottle. Then there's "You Ain't the First," a really cool acoustic ditty, a royal "Queen-like" cover of Sir Paul's "Live and Let Die", the staple ballad "Don't Cry," the monstrously screaming metal of "Back off B@#$%", and the smash epic that needs no description, "November Rain." I put on a piano recital which, after the Beethoven was over, included a full orchestration of this epic, strings and all. A pretty bold move for a conservative music school. With regards to those saying that if 1 and 2 were combined into one solid (though how much more solid do you want?) album it would be much better... I'll concede only as far as "Double Talkin Jive" and "Perfect Crime," are concerned, which are the closest to filler that is on the first album (Slash's tasteful classical guitar licks notwithstanding). This album, especially when coupled with 2, has it all. Dave Matthews and Phish may open up their jams more, but they still leave you needing your Prozac.
It's funny how documentaries try to establish grunge as a return to seriousness after the partying of the 80's bands - but I never fell for grunge, and I've needed a boatload of musical anti-depressants in my life (who hasn't?). No, kids, Nirvana never really offered that much other than a meeting place for disillusioned teens. The magic of Guns was MUCH angrier, much more MUSICAL, and much more PROFOUND. [Why even mention the N word? Well as you should well know, "N" made it not cool to like GNR, which was a sad sad day for the future of the record industry.] But I digress... The characteristic style of randomly chosen subjects, let's say "The Garden" or "Dead Horse", holds up UNBELIEVABLY well today, and still tastes as fresh as it did a decade ago. And when it's all over, that is the true test.
on December 4, 1998
"November Rain" is a great song, yes, and it appealed nicely to the VH1 crowd, but there are harder-rocking songs on this CD, and better ones to boot. It starts hard and hyper with "Right Next Door to Hell," which while good is actually one of the weaker songs on this album, which includes "Bad Obsession," "Back Off Bitch" (yes, a good song, if offensive), "Garden of Eden," "Don't Damn Me" (though this is mostly Axl whining about the bad press he gets for writing such offensive songs, like "One in a Million"...), and the incredible, mind-blowing 10-minute "Coma." This is the last song, and by far the best. In fact, I've heard very few songs to equal it, especially the lyrics, which Guns N' Roses generally excelled in compared to other bands. It's also perhaps their only song other than "Civil War" which shows awareness of a social issue, in this case suicide, and while not sappy at all, it certainly is powerful.
There's also an interesting classical guitar solo by Slash at the end of "Double Talkin' Jive," which is otherwise not much of a song.
I can understand that people who liked the punkish metal that went all through Appetite might be disappointed with this album, which shows more flexibility in style, but I'd say that's a point in G N' R's favor, especially since they didn't seem to be openly catering to the mainstream, just doing what they really wanted to do.
on August 22, 2011
No need to review the actual album Use Your Illusion I (the record is 20 years old, you know it and you either like it already or not).
This 180 gram reissue/remaster is just incredible. Even if you own an original UYI I vinyl pressing, I can tell you that this is worth the upgrade.
on May 25, 2005
The "Use Your Illusion" albums are one of the most ambitious albums in history, and perhaps the number one most ambitious rock album. No one had ever before released two separate albums at the same time, let alone two sprawling epics at 76 minutes apiece. It was a bold, daring and dangerous move, but ultimately a resounding success.
"Use Your Illusion I" - probably unintentionally - rocks harder than its twin, and it was a good effort to match the brilliant "Appetite for Destruction." A good effort, but not good enough. Some of the songs on this record are as good or better than some on AFD: "November Rain" and "Don't Cry" are as good as "Sweet Child O' Mine," "Paradise City," etc. But AFD was a better record overall, with zero filler, and in fact every song was a giant. UYI1 doesn't manage that, but comes close.
It kicks off with "Right Next Door to Hell," a short, fast-paced rocker with an AFD flavor. Some of Izzy's best are on this album, and "Dust N' Bones," a bluesy Stones-esque track is one of the finest. "Live and Let Die" is a good Stones cover, but overrated.
"Don't Cry" is one of the best power ballads ever done, although at times the lyrics are watery. The solo is an asskicker, strong and hard, forceful even though it's not fast. The finale is great, even the neverending "toniiiiiiiiiight." "Perfect Crime" is short and sweet, hard rock rolling along at a breakneck speed. Izzy's amusing "You Ain't the First" tempers the last song's fury with a little acoustic goodbye. "Bad Obsession" is one of Axl's deep-voiced tracks, another strong one. "Back Off Bitch" boasts a ripper of a solo from slash, although some of the lyrics are less than inspiring. Izzy and Duff are awesome in "Double Talkin' Jive," not to mention Slash's exhibition of guitar perfection at the end.
"November Rain" is probably the best song on the album, with an orchestral background, a good piano part and some of the most awesome riffs ever. The finale is incredible, too, and doesn't seem like an attempt to make the song longer or harder. It isn't. The lyrics are fantastic, not sappy, but a powerful message: that sometimes you have to walk away when it's raining too hard, but nothing lasts forever. If you hold one, everything will be all right.
"The Garden" is a bizarre but brilliant song, with a behind bane solo by Slash, and abrupt changes in tempo and style, from soft guitar strums to hard and heavy rock. "Garden of Eden" is one of the best songs, and really seems to carry on the AFD spirit, though it's actually far faster than any of the debut album's songs. Short and very, very fast, all brought together by some brilliant Slash riffs. "Don't Damn Me" is again, one of the album's highlights, fast, beautiful solo, and the some of Axl's cleverest, truest and downright jawdropping lyrics. A magnificent song.
"Bad Apples" is another great song, with a great solo and very good lyrics. "Dead Horse" is awesome, but the throat-shredding screams that kick in a bit later on are overdone.
"Coma" is a monster. Slash is absolutely at the pinnacle here, and so is Axl, vocally diverse and lyrically superb. The long, long final verse is one of the best endings to an album and a song that you'll ever hear, on par with "Rocket Queen." It's a giant that has all the members of GNR apparently showing off.
All in all, UYI1 is one of the best rock albums ever, and is a worthy follow-up to "Appetite for Destruction," if not quite as good. Some of the material here is Guns N' Roses' best, but some is simply very very good. That's the scale: very good to classic. It doesn't get much better than "Use Your Illusion I."
on January 7, 2001
It seems to me that the two Illusion CD's are split. You listen to one of them depending on your mood. Illusion 1 is harder, faster, and more lewd than the "intellectual" Illusion 2. Fun songs like the cover Live and Let Die, The Garden, and Bad Apples supplement the driving rock felt in Coma, Back Off Bitch, and Don't Damn Me (I don't usually care for alot of swearing, but no one can sneak the F-word into the middle of a song and make it fit like Axl). Axl Rose had a gift for songwriting, putting words to music and making his feeling known, from every angle (Coma, November Rain). The only reason this is four stars and not five is that in my eyes, no body can be perfect. There's not one bad song on this album.
on November 6, 2015
This is by far a progressive step forward in the GNR album world & the music world. As a kid i grew up listening to my moms cassette tapes of Appetite & Lies so as i grew up i always had an appreciation for GNR & the 80s punk & metal scene(Motley Crue,Metallica,Kiss,etc.) So as i got older my taste got heavier and i developed a liking for Pantera,Eyehategod,Skinless,SFU,etc. Back to the album,the band changed the lineup a bit as they added Dizzy Reid on the keys & Matt Sorum on the drumkit. This album is a 2 part piece broken into 2 volumes,vol.1 or Illusion 1 is more on the line of in your face punk,blended with the new direction of 9 minute epic songs that are pretty much like opera(in the sense of tragedy & the rise of their searing guitar solos and piano interludes. The band is tight,they pull off some fast paced hard rocking tracks such as Right Next Door to Hell,Perfect Crime,Bad Obsession,Back off Bitch,Double Talkin' Jive,Garden of Eden,Don't Damn Me,Bad Apples & Dead Horse. Those are your more fast-paced tracks with the punkish attitude and the Appetite tracks,then you have the epic songs that are more constructed like Dust & Bone,Live and Let Die(Paul McCartney cover)Don't Cry,You Ain't the First,November Rain,The Garden,and the epic closer Coma. I divided the songs based on the slower songs and the faster songs because they are 2 completley different sides of the spectrum. The band really pulls it off here with this gem,but to really appreciate the album as a whole you just have to have both volumes & play them back to back to get the full feel of the concept behind it. There is everything here from bluesy driven guitar solos from Slash & Izzy holding down the rhythm,Duffs bass is nice and audible on this album and he holds it down nice with Matt. Axl's voice is screaming and then his calm lows are perfectly in tune with the keys. Some of my favorite tracks on here are Dust & Bones,Don't Cry,You Ain't the First,Bad Obsession,Back off B***h,Double Talkin Jive,November Rain,The Garden,Bad Apples & Coma.
Trust me this album is killer,all in all the band is wicked solid and from start to finish it is a musical genius of an album. I have heard so many great bands and so many great albums that range from every side of the spectrum,and this is an amazing album.
on November 13, 2013
Sounds great on vinyl. Of course its a long album, so you'll have four sides to deal with, which does kind of break up the album. But honestly, there's almost nothing better than "Coma" coming at you in beautiful analog.
on November 29, 2013
Since the two albums came out simultaneously, nearly 30 years ago, everyone and their grandmother has said how much better it would have been if they'd have filtered it down to one album, so I won't waste your time by saying the same thing. Still, some real gems on here - GnR before Axl turned into a giant hemorrhoid - or at least removed any lingering doubts.