Review Summary: This was a potential classic, but the bands greed left it marred with too much filler amongst the killer.
In the late eighties and early nineties, Guns N Roses were faced with a huge dilemma; How do you follow up a classic debut album like Appetite For Destruction?
They initially did so by releasing a rather hastily thrown together album, GN’R Lies
which consisted of a previously released live EP and four new acoustic songs. Because this is not strictly speaking a studio album, many fans see Use Your Illusion I
and its twin Use Your Illusion II
as the true follow up to Appetite
. Even for the most brilliant or self indulgent of bands, releasing a double album is a hugely ambitious project, one that can pay off with wonders, or fall badly flat. Guns N Roses attempt ultimately proved to be more hit than miss.
The music as well as the concept of the albums is very different to that of Appetite For Destruction
. Instead of riff-driven hard rock, many of the songs here have more diverse influences, with appearances from pianos and orchestras. Despite this, the bands distinctive guitar sound, provided by Slash and Izzy Stradlin still remains. Slash particularly shines as the new musical direction suits his bluesy style. Some songs, such as Back Off Bitch
do retain the sound of their debut, but it is often the case that these songs were written around the same time as those from Appetite
Unfortunately, however Use Your Illusion I
does not match Appetite For Destruction
for two main reasons. The first of these is that the album is simply too long, with sixteen tracks clocking in at over seventy-five minutes. This is great if all of the songs are brilliant, but here they are not, which leads to the second weakness; Too many of the tracks are filler, songs that do not match up to the quality of others, and are obvious flaws. Examples are You Ain’t The First
and Double Talkin’ Jive
, as they simply do not fit the mood or tempo of the album. The album does maintain interest because of its stronger songs, but the filler makes it harder to listen to as a whole, particularly towards the end.
That said, many of the album tracks here are also very good. Dust N’ Bones
for instance is an example of the changed songwriting style paying off, maintaining interest despite being slower than most of the bands previous work. Right Next Door To Hell
, a more traditional Guns N Roses song is even better, with its upbeat mood and fast tempo meaning it works very well as the album opener. Another more traditional number is epic closer Coma
, which features one of the hardest guitar riffs the band has ever written. It is a strong ending to the album, though at ten minutes in length may seem rather overblown to casual listeners. There is also a cover of Paul and Linda McCartney’s Live And Let Die
, which never strays far from the original but adds the bands distinctive sound to the mix, making it an excellent take on a classic song.
However, the two greatest songs on Use Your Illusion I
are ballads, both of which were rightly released as singles. The first of these, Don’t Cry
was one of the first songs the band wrote together, and is particularly notable because of excellent vocals from Axl Rose, which reach a tremendous peak at the chorus. Though rather overshadowed by the aforementioned vocals, the instrumental section, which includes an excellent Slash solo is also very solid. Don’t Cry
is a beautiful song, and would be far and away the highlight of most albums. Here however it is topped by the truly astonishing November Rain
, which I personally believe to be the most perfect song the band has ever recorded.
At nine minutes in length, November Rain
is one of the longest songs on the album, but still manages to be the one that keeps your attention for the longest. Its strengths are essentially the same as those of Don’t Cry
; only it builds on them, creating a far superior masterpiece. Axl’s vocals here are wonderful, arguably the greatest and most emotional he has ever produced, but it is the instrumental section, which features a dense arrangement including a full orchestra that stands out. Slash also reaches a peak in this song, delivering three brilliant solos which display him at his melodic best. The epic third solo serves as a fitting climax to a brilliant song which, even after hundreds of listens still has me engaged.
Despite its flaws, Use Your Illusion I
is still a very good album by Guns N Roses. However much I like the album though, I cannot help but feel that the Use Your Illusion
project was a massive musical opportunity missed. Had this album been combined with Use You Illusion II
, it would in my opinion be well worthy of a classic rating, and would far surpass Appetite For Destruction
. The other option, which they ultimately took was to release twice as much material, but more importantly charge twice the amount of money, and therefore double their income. This greedy move meant that quality was sacrificed for quantity, meaning that this potential classic was marred by filler that wouldn’t have been present had they taken the first option.
Live And Let Die
Right Next Door To Hell