Guns N’ Roses released two albums on the same day, both being Use Your Illusion I and II. Although neither were seen to be as good as the landmark debut Appetite For Destruction by the group, this is seen to be the better half of the two releases and is still quite popular amongst Guns N’ Roses fans. It’s not a short listen but all the same, being well over an hour long, but should be interesting to hear, so let’s hear it.
We begin with Civil War which begins with a sample of a lady stating a classic opening line: “What we have got here is a failure to communicate.” She continues to talk over a fingerpicked acoustic backing, some whistling and some clean electric guitar parts by Slash. Axl Rose sings wonderfully over the top here, and sounds very melodramatic here. Piano creeps in, and before long, Slash gets playing very well and the group gets kicking along. Slash plays a wah-wah guitar solo here that is really quite excellent. It goes quiet as Axl Rose sings calmly over a gentle musical backdrop, before going back into crashing guitars and drums. It’s an anti-war song that sounds really brilliant and energetic here, with much guitar soloing by Slash, who sounds excellent. It’s a sad lament about the bloodshed and horror that war can bring, this sounds loud and incredibly furious. Axl howls deeply, before Slash launches into more wah-wah guitar solos that are a lot like Metallica’s Kirk Hammett here. In the second half comes a brief sample of mock news chatter. A moving song from start to finish. Freedom…at what cost? It is a moving piece of melodramatic energy. It has a nice finish with some wah-wah guitar parts, hi-hats, sound of rain and quotes, before concluding with whistling. Not bad.
Next here is 14 Years which has a thunderous drum intro, piano, Axl Rose singing and a Reggae feel to this music. Axl sings nicely here, over a boogie feel with some great piano playing. This is sounding extraordinarily epic and emotional. A great guitar solo by Slash illuminates this piece brilliantly, his chops sure are great. A terrific listen, this sounds very energetic and focused here. Enough for fans of Hard Rock to feel very moved, this is another really good listen. It concludes quickly, after four minutes of great music.
Yesterdays is next, beginning with some clear and clean guitar parts, with some piano and organ here. It is a shorter piece of music here, being three minutes long but very lively and direct. A really great sounding piece of music, with some spot on guitar soloing by Slash, a guitarist that needs little introduction. Powerful, punchy and energetic, this piece of music is certainly underrated. This is quite awesome to hear. Fine music, it ends with quiet instrumentation, which is surprising. Good effort.
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door is the classic song that many Guns N’ Roses fans know from this album. It’s fantastic, beginning with clean arpeggios and some other gorgeous instrumentation. Axl Rose sings really well here, and puts in a career defining effort here. There is a bluesy and excellent guitar solo here that puts Slash into the Rock history books. Axl sings about being in a really dark place, and the whole thing sounds really inspired, for this album. There is an extended guitar solo with a groovy midsection to match. The sound of a weird phone call is here, before some extra backing vocals enter as Axl Rose sings wonderfully here. A very moving piece of music, this ends with a great finale. Great song, brilliant to hear.
Next here is Get In The Ring which begins with a chanting crowd, before Slash begins playing in a strangely melodic way. This quickly launches into a rather uptempo and upbeat piece that is an interesting piece of music that is really quite fast. It’s a decent piece of Hard Rock for fans and although it’s not the best song on the album, it rocks well. The downpitched vocal section here isn’t really good here, and probably needn’t be added. It then has Axl Rose doing some ranting against some people he despises (probably not legally acceptable for him), before more crowd chanting and Slash plays another good guitar solo. Some maniacal laughter then emerges, before returning to the main part of the song. An odd mixture of sounds and intention, this is okay, but not perfect. Some chanting emerges towards the end, before this piece ends. Not very politically correct, but okay anyway.
Following is Shotgun Blues which begins with some energetic drumming, some cheesy lyricism and some decent instrumentation. By this point of the album, it is quite clear that Guns N’ Roses are doing some Rock and Roll posturing here, which is easy to see through. Still, a different and good listen, despite the whiff of pretentiousness about it all. Axl does sound quite good here, with his iconic screaming and Slash playing a not-so-bluesy guitar solo here. A really interesting song, but short enough here not to get boring. Good song, with an extended outro that sounds manic. Decent.
Breakdown is another lengthy piece of song craft at seven minutes long here, with whistling and banjos here. It emerges with some piano, Axl’s iconic singing and acoustic guitar in the background here. It then enters with loud guitars and pounding drums, going into another long ballad here. Some excellent instrumentation is here, and Axl Rose singing whimsically here. Although he is often seen as an image for those who dig Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, he does really excel here at singing. This song is an indication however, that Guns N’ Roses best days were behind them. Slash plays an energetic and crazy sounding guitar solo, and this does sound really amazing here. Aside from that, this is pretty meh listening, as is the album by this point. Although there are flashes of musical glory, this isn’t really good listening, to be fair. The multitracked vocals here aren’t the greatest, and this piece of music sounds more like a disappointing failure. The overdubbed vocals during Slash’s guitar solo aren’t needed here, either. It finishes dramatically here, with a piano based groove. Pretty ordinary, to be honest.
Pretty Tied Up (The Perils Of Rock N’ Roll Decadence) is fortunately, shorter here. It begins with some electric sitar playing, Slash’s loud guitars and the sense that one is on a weird trip musically here. It then launches into another fairly ordinary piece of music, with Axl Rose sounding a bit like Bob Dylan here. It has some fairly unrealistic lyrics here, and it doesn’t sound really that inspired or good. It does sound rather catchy lyrics in the chorus here, and Slash steals the show with another brilliant guitar solo. Still, the Use Your Illusion albums feel like a missed opportunity by Guns N’ Roses here. It doesn’t sound very good here, once again and is enough for one to get a headache from listening to here. Slash plays brilliantly and effortlessly here, perhaps he was the glue keeping the band together. It finishes with a long fade out.
Next along is Locomotive (Complicity) which is an eight minute long piece, beginning with some groovy and funky beats, bass guitar and some quite interesting guitar parts. Axl has a flanger on his vocal here, and this piece is okay, but at times, pretty awful. This is another fairly forgettable piece from the group, sounding like a musical exercise here, and nothing else. Sure, it may be a better effort than some tracks here, but sounds pretty naff and uninspired. Why on earth would Guns N’ Roses sing about comparing a lady to a train? Slash saves the day here with some really good guitar riffs and solos, but aside from that, most Rock fans and music listeners will cringe at this sort of thing today. Anyway, aside from that, it’s okay but not easy to hear as it sounds like an ordinary effort and dated, too. It’s very out there and different, and the guitar solo is impressive but Guns N’ Roses here sound like a relic of the 1980s, not a band with a lot of future ahead of them. So much for Use Your Illusion II being better than the first one in the series. It does have in the second half some interesting piano and a groove builds around that, which makes it a better listen. Slash plays some semi-Jimi Hendrix guitar parts here, but you’ll be glad when its over. It ends with an extended fade out. Very ordinary.
Following is So Fine which is a piano and guitar ballad, fortunately a bit shorter here in length. This one sounds a lot better than some of the pieces before it, and it actually sounds rather focused. A really different and great piece (for this album) of melodic beauty, it does sound quite more focused here. There is an air of melancholy here, before launching into a harder sounding piece of music here. Slash plays a gorgeous guitar solo here, which sounds very good. This piece of music is full of anger and bitterness, but a little lacking in substance. It finishes up nicely, with a retro boogie piano feel to it.
Estranged is nine minutes long, which compared to most songs on Appetite For Destruction, is overkill. It has a really strange musical setting to begin with, before launching into a really awful sounding piece of music. From the start, it is totally awful and probably worth hitting the skip button here. It sounds as though the band were trying to recreate past glories, but failing miserably at it. It’s about the distance between lovers after breakup, but all the same, sounds okay. It is by no means fantastic though, and just feels like a drag. If you haven’t heard this album and you are considering doing so, just don’t. It is an appalling musical exercise for the group, and a regrettable sounding set of songs. It does get a little lighter towards the middle, with more piano and some good guitar parts here. It progresses slowly and gradually, sounding a lot better in the second half here. Axl sings nicely in the second half, with a voice full of emotion and regret here. Really energetic and actually okay in the second half, Slash plays a memorable and beautiful guitar solo here. A good piece as time goes on, although it is clear that Guns N’ Roses had made a disappointing album here. It has some great piano and some violining guitar parts, before entering into the final section of the song. Axl sounds like he is in a painful state of recollection here, before this song finishes with a clanging piano chord and a drum roll.
You Could Be Mine is, fortunately, a lot shorter. It begins with some great drumrolls, some rather awful guitar parts and a feeling that this is going to be another ordinary listen. It seems that Slash was likely better as a solo artist by this point, he should have left the band earlier than he did. Another Rock and Roll tale of dirty deeds and poor music to match, this is surprisingly and frankly, bad. In any case, this is an okay song, but otherwise not very memorable nor listenable here. In any case, a dramatic guitar solo is here and this piece drags on slowly. Very forgettable and ordinary, Slash once again is the real star of these Use Your Illusion albums, playing like his life depends upon it. Axl Rose goes into some super ranting towards the end here, and this piece finishes with a Hard Rock sort of conclusion with a screamed vocal. It’s okay, but nothing special here.
Following is Don’t Cry – Alternate Lyrics which is the classic song from the other half of Use Your Illusion, but not as popular as the original. It’s good to hear it again, but all the same, points to the fact that Guns N’ Roses should have made a single album of the best cuts from both of these albums, rather than dishing out a double set of albums of mediocrity. Still, this is a good listen all the same and is a genuinely soothing song here. The guitars save the day, as per usual, rescuing this piece from mediocrity. A very messed up sounding song all the same, at least lyrically, but is musically glorious. It finishes up with the rather laughable harmonies at the end, once again.
Last here is My World which is a terrible, terrible sounding piece which is a joke sort of Rap piece, done by Guns N’ Roses with some sexual posing. Seriously, why? There is no need for this rubbish, and finishes this album off in a really terrible way. Don’t be surprised if you hate this, it’s awful.
This is just as bad as Use Your Illusion I. It is a clear example of what not to do as a Rock band to follow up a classic debut album, by releasing two insignificant albums that said that time is up for this band. Sadly, this has been the case. Guns N’ Roses had moments on Appetite For Destruction, but by this point, they were unravelling. Forget about hearing this, it is not worth your time.
Mediocre, but then again, what did you expect?
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