Saturday, 10 September 2011

CD Review: Use Your Illusion II, by Guns N' Roses (1991)


Significantly better than the co-released Use Your Illusion I, the second volume contain a higher proportion of sharper, memorable material. The bloat factor is still there, however, and a good three to four tracks could have been easily eliminated to elevate the enjoyment quotient of Use Your Illusion II.

The useless tracks include the tepid Yesterdays, the lazy Shotgun Blues, and the endless Breakdown, jammed in neutral. 14 Years, So Fine and Estranged are better but offer little that can be celebrated. All six tracks are devoid of any edge or sense of achievement; they just float atop the band's celebrity name.

Much better are the two centrepiece tracks: Civil War and Knockin' On Heaven's Door. Civil War is likely the best eight minutes on the entire two-volume set. The opening features the classic "what we've got here is...failure to communicate" speech from Cool Hand Luke melding into an Ennio Morricone-style whistled melody, while the rest of the song is a rare example of Axl and Slash hitting their peak on the same composition. Equally memorable is Knockin' On Heaven's Door, Guns N' Roses transforming the Bob Dylan classic into a fine power metal ballad, with a stirring Axl at his emotively nasal best.

Use Your Illusion II gets its additional bite from a solidly enjoyable series of compact high energy tunes. The maniacal Get In The Ring, once it gets going, all of a sudden re-inserts insane danger as the band's middle name; Pretty Tied Up features fine experimentation with an alluring eastern tinge; Locomotive lives up to its name with a chugging riff that is all power and fury thundering down a single track. And You Could Be Mine again unites an inspired Slash with Axl at his sleazy best.

Use Your Illusion I and II contain a grand total of 30 tracks, a mammoth simultaneous output equivalent to two old-fashioned double albums. Unfortunately only about half the material is worth remembering, and Guns N' Roses' inability to distinguish the good from the boring was symptomatic of a band descending into fragmented chaos just as quickly as it shot to unexpected superstardom.

Band:

Matt Sorum - Drums
Duff McKagan - Bass
Izzy Stradlin - Guitar
Axl Rose - Vocals
Slash - Guitar

Keyboards - Dizzy Reed


Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Civil War - 10
2. 14 Years - 7
3. Yesterdays - 6
4. Knockin' On Heaven's Door - 10
5. Get In The Ring - 9
6. Shotgun Blues - 6
7. Breakdown - 6
8. Pretty Tied Up - 8
9. Locomotive - 9
10. So Fine - 7
11. Estranged - 7
12. You Could Be Mine - 9
13. Don't Cry (Alt. Lyrics) - 8
14. My World - n/a (short track)

Average: 7.85

Produced by Mike Clink and Guns N' Roses.
Engineered by Mike Clink. Mixed by Bill Price. Mastered by George Marino.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

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