#130 Guns N’ Roses – Use Your Illusion 1 (1991)


 “Appetite For Destruction” was a pivotal album for me. It was released in 1987 when I was 18 years old and just out of high school, it quickly became the soundtrack to whatever debauchery I was involved in during my late teen years. I , like millions of other young punks, was waiting with great anticipation for the release of the Illusions albums.It had been 4 years since Appetite had been out and the only new G-N-R that had been released was G N’ R Lies, an EP with only 3 new songs, some previously released live material and an acoustic reworking of You’re Crazy. These were the days before the internet and information about bands and music was not nearly as open and available as it is today. I have bought many albums on the day they were released, especially for artists that I am very fond of but never had I waited with such anticipation for a release like I did for this one. At the time you did not know that Axl Rose was a crazy egomaniac and would ruin the band or that it would be the last album of the “metal” era that dominated the late 1980’s. The”Use Your Illusions” albums were released on September 17th of 1991, just a little over 4 years since the release of “Appetite For Destruction“, and a mere 7 days before Nirvana’s seminal release of “Nevermind“, the album that many believe killed off the Heavy Metal movement as we knew it. Although the band had put out “GN’R Lies” in between, it was only an attempt to feed the masses while they worked at putting out a legitimate studio effort. I have always maintained that releasing 2 albums at the same time was a huge mistake and has always felt like a greedy money grab. I felt then, and even more so now, that this package could have been a classic album. Instead we are left with 2 mediocre ones.While each of these discs has highlights, they are watered down with filler material that usually feels like Axl feeding his ego. Most of the highlights from Use Your Illusion I are actually songs written by members of the band not named Axl, with November Rain being the exception. During the massive tour that ensued following when “Appetite” blew up into a massive classic mega album, most of the group members developed serious drug habits. The significance of that is that it allowed Axl Rose to take more and more of a leadership role within the dichotomy of the band. This period of time is chronicled wonderfully in Slash’s autobiography “It Seems Excessive…But That Doesn’t Mean It Didn’t Happen”, which I highly recommend that any fan of the band reads. The point being that it was the trials and tribulations Axl put the band thru which ultimately led to control of the record landing squarely with Axl. On this version of Illusions arguably the song that was the most well received was the bands cover of the Paul McCartney and Wings song “Live and Let Die”.  Although this song was received well I’m just not a huge fan. It was never one of my favorite Wings songs to begin with, but GN’R’s version seems a little blown up and overproduced, although it did become one the highpoints of the evening during the ensuing tour. The other song on the record that was commercially successful, despite clocking in at an epic 8:57, was Axl’s opus November Rain. It is hard to deny the greatness of this song which shows Axl at his lyrically most poignant. The song contains too many great lines to mention (I know its hard to keep an open heart, when even friends seem out to harm you & nothing lasts forever and we both know hearts can change and its hard to hold a candle in the cold November rain)..ok so I mentioned a couple anyways. For many Guns fans, November Rain & Don’t Cry were the first ballads the balls out rockers had released, it was a little hard to digest. My favorite songs on the record were the ones that Izzy Stradlin brought in. The slow, bluesy You Ain’t The First was also a departure from earlier Guns work, but in a great way showing that they had more range than many might have thought. Bad Obsession was another Stradlin contribution that included a blues harp and a sound that was straight from Toys In The Attic era Aerosmith. I also love Dust-N-Bones, a straight ahead Stradlin and Slash rocker, which makes you think that if the record were left more to Slash and Izzy it could have sounded more like this grimy guitar based gem. Many may argue but I think the rest of the album, besides the aforementioned tunes, should have been left on the shelf. More Illusions later on in the blog…

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