Album review: Guns N’ Roses, Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II (1991)


By Steve Newton

It’s hard to believe that just three years ago Guns N’ Roses couldn’t get a rise out of a Vancouver crowd. The band opened for Iron Maiden at the Coliseum on May 30, 1988, and was so ticked off at the lame reaction it was receiving that it threatened to walk off the stage unless the crowd smartened up. It didn’t, but the band stuck the set out anyway. This was before Axl Rose was in the habit of leaving rock fans in the lurch.

But that was then. Right now Guns N’ Roses could sell the ol’ hockey rink out several nights over. And as testament to the band’s far-reaching popularity it has made recording industry history by being the first rock ’n’ roll band to ever release two separate albums on the same day. According to the band’s label, Geffen Records, more than four million copies of the CDs Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II were ordered in advance.

That’s one mighty shipment of shiny metal.

But is the music any good, you ask? Has the band been able to keep up the standards set by 1987’s blockbuster debut, Appetite for Destruction?

Well, if you’ve been listening to rock radio or watching videos at all this summer, you’ll already know that the answer to that query. The first single, “You Could Be Mine”, is five minutes and 48 seconds of the most exhilarating heavy metal to assail these ears since Montrose’s “Rock the Nation” back in ’73.

“You Could Be Mine”, also featured in the Terminator II soundtrack, is included on the Illusion II release, which contains 14 tracks to Illusion I’s 16. But at about 75 minutes each, there’s enough of Slash’s fierce guitar and Axl’s vein-busting vocals on either disc to keep fans on a limited budget happy for some time.

Or until the next pogey cheque comes in, at least.

There are not a lot of ballads on either disc, but the beautiful “Don’t Cry” is featured on both, with different lyrics on each version. The song is further proof, after “Patience”, that Guns N’ Roses is able to do what all great rock bands must do: cross freely from flat-out rock to tender ballads without sounding phony.

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