Review Summary: More mellow and laid-back than its red brother, Use Your Illusion II is just as excellent, although with a different feel.
The blue-covered Part II of the Use Your Illusion
set is, in basic approach, the same pony trick as its brother. It features the same blending of Guns N’ Roses’ early hard rock with other musical genres, and is equal in length. There is a particular difference, however. Where the fierce red on Part I represented an overall hard-edged tone, the calm blue on Part II represents a mellower sound. Also, where I only had 2 epics (November Rain
), II is featuring twice as many. The average track length is longer, and it seems Guns took the time to elaborate more on things.
Concerning the killer vs. filler contest, there is little difference between the two parts. Just as well, Use Your Illusion II
has some of Guns N’ Roses best material next to some of their worst. The epics, being Civil War
are prime examples of where the band achieves things that were earlier seemingly above their level, and are some of their most complex songs in terms of arrangement. The former and the latter of these stand out most, Civil War
having a very subtle build-up followed by a heavy riff that serves as the mood swing, which kicks in at the exact right moment. Add a crooning, convincing chorus, and the song gets the potential to become an undisputed classic. It is only a pity then, that the boys almost ruined it by putting in the silly line ‘What’s so civil about war, anyway?’
at the end. Estranged
, the last part of an unofficial trilogy (the first two parts being Don’t Cry
and November Rain
, respectively), features stunning melodic and highly emotional guitar lines and solos by Slash (in the same vein as November Rain
), the recurring main riff being the song’s signature. Fans of the band still debate whether the more popular November Rain
or the more overlooked Estranged
is Guns’ very best track.
Laid-back songs are aplenty on Part II. 14 Years
(another Stradlin-sung effort) and Yesterdays
are the best two examples of this, the former more effective than the latter because Stradlin has a better voice for the more relaxed songs. So Fine
remains the only song in the band’s catalogue both penned and sung solely by Duff McKagan, who’s voice unfortunately fails to fully distinguish itself from Rose’s lower wails. The boys even blend in an Eastern flavour on Pretty Tied Up
, which isn’t half bad at all.
The closest the record gets two the hard-edged assault of most of its brother is Shotgun Blues
, which is enjoyable but doesn’t hold a candle against the likes of Right Next Door to Hell
. You Could Be Mine
may be slightly slower, but is more powerful than the other lower-tempo tracks, opening with a truly booming rhythm section. The last of the good moments, and a highlight on the record, is the Bob Dylan
cover Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
. Almost completely unrecognisable when comparing it to the original, the song got a complete Guns N’ Roses reworking, with a Slash and Rose in prima forma. Today, it is even better known today than Dylan’s version, and while some find it a blasphemy of his work, you have to give it to the band: it is excellently performed, and has found its place among Guns’ self-penned classics.
Luckily, there are only 3 real filler tracks to be found. The annoying Get in the Ring
is a meaningless rant by Rose against journalists who gave him bad reviews. The most redundant song is a second version of Don’t Cry
(with alternative lyrics). The lyrical change is minimal, and there is not a single reason why the experience should be different. A useless gesture.
Aaaaaaaannnnddd..... the award for worst closer of all time goes to.... *drum roll*..... MY WORLD! An addition Rose made to the album last-minute, without any consent of his fellow Guns (and Roses), the song is the definition of an abomination. What is it? It some horrible combination of failed rap, techno and general annoying Axl Rose-isms. The ghastly tracks only lasts for 1 and a half minute, and I advice you not to expose yourself to the ghastly experience. Just turn the record off after You Could Be Mine
, and you’ll do just fine.
But hey, apart from those last bits, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this, as it once again filled with some superb Guns N’ Roses moments. Whether you like Part I or II better is very much a matter of personal taste. Do you like the fierce red, or rather the mellow blue? Are you a fan of sonic assaults, or do you prefer a more relaxed feel? It’s all up to you to decide, but I can safely say both the Illusions are worthy of your time.
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
You Could Be Mine
- William Bruce ‘Axl’ Rose, Jr. ~ Lead Vocals (except 2 & 10), Piano, Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals, Drums, Keyboards, Sound Effects
- Saul ‘Slash’ Hudson ~ Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals, Banjo
- Michael Andrew ‘Duff’ McKagan ~ Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals, Lead Vocals (10), Percussion
- Jeffery Dean ‘Izzy Stradlin’ Isbell ~ Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals, Lead Vocals (2), Electric Sitar
- Darren Arthur ‘Dizzy’ Reed ~ Piano, Organ, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
- Matthew William Sorum ~ Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals
- Steven Adler ~ Drums
- Howard Teman ~ Piano
- Richard Shannon Hoon ~ Backing Vocals
- Johann Langlie ~ Keyboards, Drums, Sound Effects
- Josh Richman ~ Speech
- The Waters ~ Backing Vocals