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Part one of an epic masterpiece,
This review is from: Use Your Illusion I (Audio CD)
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."
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 1, 2009 1:18:21 AM PDT
Ryan P. Mattson says:
damn dude you nailed it on the head. i bought this when i was 13 too and at 19 still love it. glad to see there are still some REAL guns fans out there, great review.
Posted on May 1, 2009 10:55:18 AM PDT
Michael Monaco says:
Excellent review. I agree with you on this album.
Posted on Oct 30, 2011 5:17:44 AM PDT
David Carroll says:
I agree, although I don't think it's overproduced I think it's wonderfully produced.
Posted on Jan 14, 2012 2:23:44 PM PST
Jason Blodgett says:
I like both Use your Illusion albums. I think they will stand the test of time
Posted on May 18, 2012 3:46:28 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 18, 2012 3:58:43 AM PDT
con kangas says:
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2012 12:46:24 PM PDT
Con Kangas, 1 or 2 songs only? Please. And Blink 182 is intant crap.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 9, 2013 4:10:44 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 9, 2013 4:58:56 AM PDT
Mr. C. De Mello says:
A delve into the history of the making of these albums will tell you that these albums were produced with self-indulgence in mind rather than an audience. Any album with as much outright use of profanity cannot possibly have been made for a mass audience. They did exactly what they wanted to do, that is the big complaint about both albums from most people. 10 minute long songs are not crowd pleasers, an album of 3 minute rock fluff like those produced by Bon Jovi are crowd pleasers.
I can seriously tell you that everything on both of these albums will out last anything by Smashing Pumpkins, it already has. I love Pumpkins but Illusion has more complexity, varying style & sound than they could hope for.
I first bought these albums when I was 13, now 34 I can appreciate Axl's lyrics for their meanness & on other tracks for their heartfelt complexity.
Soulless generic rock does not contain bum notes, it is not allowed too. Bill Price mix is a work of art & I think it's about time people looked passed the press & actually listened to some of these tracks rather than criticising for criticising's sake.
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