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."