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Tuesday, September 17, 1991

Guns N' Roses release the Use Your Illusion albums: September 17, 1991

Originally posted September 17, 2012.

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Following up a monster debut is no easy task. Guns N’ Roses exploded in 1988 with Appetite for Destruction, making them the biggest rock band in the world. After the 1989 GN’R Lies interim package which slapped four new songs together with GNR’s Live Like a Suicide EP from 1986, they released not one, but two albums. They were packaged separately, but with the names Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, they were generally treated as a double album.

The general consensus has been that the pair of albums was a bloated, over-the-top follow-up. This is “a shining example of a suddenly successful band getting it all wrong and letting its ambitions run wild.” E1 A nice argument has been made that a single-disc album not only would have reigned the band in, challenged AC/DC’s Back in Black as the biggest and best hard rock album ever, and, most importantly that it might have kept the group from splitting apart. DF

However, it didn’t happen that way and from a chart and sales standpoint, the general public didn’t appear too disappointed. The two albums have sold a combined 14 million in the United States and 35 million worldwide. Nine of the albums’ songs charted on the album rock charts from 1990 to 1994.

“Tensions between Slash, Izzy Stradlin, and Axl Rose are evident from the start. The two guitarists, particularly Stradlin, are trying to keep the group closer to its hard rock roots, but Rose has pretensions of being Queen and Elton John, which is particularly odd for a notoriously homophobic Midwestern boy.” E1 “Conceivably, the two aspirations could have been divided between the two records, but instead they are just thrown into the blender.” E1

“Stradlin has a stronger presence on IE1 which makes it the “harder-rocking record.” E1Use Your Illusion II is more serious and ambitious than I, but it’s also considerably more pretentious.” E2 “It can be a chore to find the highlights…amid the overblown production and endless amounts of filler,” E1 but “grandiose epics” E2 such as November Rain and Civil War make for “ambitious set pieces” E1 and there are some songs with “a nervy energy.” E2

Awards for Use Your Illusion I and II:

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Saturday, September 7, 1991

Red Hot Chili Peppers release Blood Sugar Sex Magik: September 7, 1991

Originally posted September 7, 2012.

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The Red Hot Chili Peppers formed in 1983 and released four albums before the end of the decade. They found an audience primarily in the alternative rock world. The ‘90s saw them reach a new level with Blood Sugar Sex Magik, which All Music Guide’s Steve Huey calls their “best album.” SH It was a decidedly commercial effort, opening up the band to their widest audience. While the Peppers still maintained their trademark sound on “the infectiously funky singles Give It Away and Suck My Kiss,” SH Magik also marked their “first consistent embrace of lilting acoustic balladry.” SH

Among the latter was Under the Bridge, a #2 pop hit in which lead singer Anthony Kiedis laid bare his problems with drug addiction. While balladry wasn’t Kiedis’ strong suit, “these are some of the album’s finest moments, varying and expanding the group’s musical and emotional range.” SH They “give the album depth and provide contrast to the raw energy of Mellowship Slinky in B Major, Funky Monks, and ‘Give It Away.’” MG

It wasn’t just that the Peppers mixed funk and balladry by allowing Kiedis to temper “his testosterone with a more sensitive side.” SH With Rick Rubin as their producer, the group found “just the right blend of punk, funk, and hip-hop.” MG Magik demonstrated “continuity and cohesion both within and across the 17 cuts.” MG “Rubin masterfully fuses John Frusciante’s raunchy guitar with the irresistible grooves” MG so that the “guitar is less overpoweringly noisy, leaving room for differing textures and clearer lines.” SH “The band overall is more focused and less indulgent, even if some of the grooves drag on too long.” SH


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