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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 I” E1 which makes it the “harder-rocking record.” E1 “Use 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:
Resources and Related Links:
- the DMDB page for Use Your Illusion I
- the DMDB page for Use Your Illusion II
- Guns N’ Roses’ DMDB Encyclopedia entry
- E1 Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide (I)
- E2 Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide (II)
- DF Disenfranchisedfm.com