Wednesday, March 31, 2010

CD of the Day: ‘Use Your Illusion I,’ Guns N’ Roses (1991)

I guess if you can release two albums on the same day and sell about 1.5 million copies total, then who am I to say no? But had they restrained themselves, Guns N’ Roses maybe could have taken a run at a second all-time classic record. Instead, they put out two that are merely mediocre.

While GN’R varied their sound a bit on this disc, there’s still just too many fast rockers. Unlike “Appetite for Destruction,” where each track had its own identity, by the end of “Illusion I” it becomes difficult to understand why “Perfect Crime,” “Don’t Damn Me,” “Garden of Eden,” “Double Talkin’ Jive,” and “Back Off Bitch” all had to appear on the same record. And that’s not even touching the truly wretched “The Garden” and overblown theatrics of “Coma.”

It’s not all bad, thankfully—these guys were too talented to uncork a total flop. “Right Next Door to Hell” is a great opening track, with an Alice in Chains-style bass riff to lead off; “Dead Horse”—once it finally gets going—reminds of “Out Ta Get Me”; "Bad Apples" is pretty good, if you can make it that far into the disc; and “You Ain’t the First” and “Bad Obsession” are admirable—if middling—steps outside the band’s tried-and-true hard rock.

“Use Your Illusion I’s” true value, though, comes down to three tracks: the mega-hit ballads “Don’t Cry” and “November Rain,” along with an inspired cover of “Live and Let Die.” But only three great songs out of 16? That’s bloated rock-star excess of the worst kind and a lesson in what might have been.

Grade: B-

Favorite Track: “Live and Let Die”

Least Favorite Track: “The Garden”

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