Sunday, 14 August 2011

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

Notwithstanding the G N' R Lies EP released in 1988, it was a long wait between the ground breaking Appetite For Destruction in 1987 and Guns N' Roses next full-length studio record of new original material. When it arrived in 1991, Use Your Illusion had spilled over onto two over-burdened disks, now labelled Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II. The biggest band on the globe was at its peak, taking the rock world by storm, re-writing the rules and sowing the seeds of their own self-destruction, as chronicled in the book Slash.

Amid the chaos, the blinkered critics of the day were quick to fawn all over Use Your Illusion I and II. The reality is that Use Your Illusion I is filled to the brim with an incredibly high number of forgettable and sometimes outright filler songs, and of the 16 tracks, a grand total of five are worth remembering. It's a poor return on investment, the band shovelling large quantities of mud cakes onto the CD, over-producing the sound into artificiality, and for the most part completely losing the raw sense of danger and anger that made Appetite For Destruction so compelling.

Right Next Door To Hell starts with forceful promise that is rarely fulfilled, while Live And Let Die, a cover of the Wings classic, is the best thing on the album: a rare example of an interpretive version casting a strong shadow on the original, thanks to Axl Rose injecting high-strung energy into the vocals and Slash soaring on the guitar. Don't Cry succeeds at channelling a reasonable level of emotions, but it is only Back Off Bitch that manages to live up to the Guns N' Roses reputation: a raucous, out of control rock of hurtling metal, splintering in all directions as it joyfully fragments at melting temperatures. November Rain is a self-obsessed ballad that secures a state of crushing boredom prior to being saved by Slash letting loose an epic solo.

The pattern of anything good on Use Your Illusion I coming from Slash's guitar on the rare occasions when it is unshackled is established early and confirmed often.

Bad Obsession, The Garden, and particularly You Ain't The First are padding unbecoming of a group dominating metal across the globe, and many other tracks, while not as poor, are functional at best. Use Your Illusion I represents a band unsure of how to deal with mass success, throwing a lot of stuff at the wall, and as usually happens, little of it sticks.


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

Keyboards - Dizzy Reed

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Right Next Door To Hell - 8
2. Dust N' Bones - 7
3. Live And Let Die - 10
4. Don't Cry (Original) - 8
5. Perfect Crime - 7
6. You Ain't The First - 5
7. Bad Obsession - 6
8. Back Off Bitch - 10
9. Double Talkin' Jive - 7
10. November Rain - 8
11. The Garden - 6
12. Garden Of Eden - 7
13. Don't Damn Me - 7
14. Bad Apples - 7
15. Dead Horse - 7
16. Coma - 7

Average: 7.31

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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