Tuesday, September 17, 1991

Guns N' Roses release the Use Your Illusion albums

Use Your Illusion (I & II)

Guns N’ Roses

Released: September 17, 1991

Peak: 2 US, 2 UK, 12 CN, 2 AU, 3 DF

Sales (in millions): 7.0 US, 0.3 UK, 17.8 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: hard rock

Released: September 17, 1991

Peak: 12 US, 11 UK, 12 CN, 13 AU, 12 DF

Sales (in millions): 7.0 US, 0.3 UK, 18.6 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: hard rock

Tracks (Use Your Illusion I):

Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to charts.

  1. Right Next Door to Hell
  2. Dust N’ Bones
  3. Live and Let Die (9/28/91, 33 US, 26 CB, 26 GR, 26 RR, 20 AR, 5 UK, 56 CN, 10 AU, 13 DF)
  4. Don’t Cry (original version) (9/17/91, 10 US, 7 CB, 9 GR, 13 RR, 3 AR, 8 UK, 11 CN, 5 AU, 16 DF)
  5. Perfect Crime
  6. You Ain’t the First
  7. Bad Obsession
  8. Back Off Bitch
  9. Double Talkin’ Jive (10/21/22, --)
  10. November Rain (9/28/91, 3 US, 13 CB, 4 GR, 2 RR, 15 AR, 4 UK, 5 CN, 5 AU, 2 DF)
  11. The Garden (with Alice Cooper)
  12. Garden of Eden (1/17/94, --)
  13. Don’t Damn Me
  14. Bad Apples
  15. Dead Horse
  16. Coma

Total Running Time: 76:09

Tracks (Use Your Illusion II):

  1. Civil War (8/4/90, 4 AR, 11 UK, 45 AU, 1 DF)
  2. 14 Years
  3. Yesterdays (10/17/92, 72 US, 58 CB, 13 AR, 8 UK, 52 CN, 14 AU, 33 DF)
  4. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (9/28/87, 18 AR, 2 UK, 56 CN, 12 AU, 4 DF)
  5. Get in the Ring
  6. Shotgun Blues
  7. Breakdown
  8. Pretty Tied Up (3/21/92, 35 AR)
  9. Locomotive
  10. So Fine
  11. Estranged (12/11/93, 16 AR, 40 AU, 16 DF)
  12. You Could Be Mine (6/21/91, 29 US, 3 AR, 3 UK, 30 CN, 3 AU, 16 DF)
  13. Don’t Cry (alternate version)
  14. My World

Total Running Time: 75:55

The Players:

  • W. Axl Rose (vocals, piano, etc.)
  • Slash (guitar, backing vocals)
  • Izzy Stradlin (rhythm guitar, backing vocals)
  • Duff McKagan (bass, backing vocals)
  • Matt Sorum (drums, backing vocals)

Rating (Use Your Illusion I):

4.088 out of 5.00 (average of 25 ratings)

Rating (Use Your Illusion II):

4.038 out of 5.00 (average of 18 ratings)

Awards (Use Your Illusion I):

(Click on award to learn more).

Awards (Use Your Illusion II):


About the Albums:

“The ‘difficult second album’ is one of the perennial rock & roll clichés, but few second albums ever were as difficult as Use Your Illusion.” E1 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 “It can be a chore to find the highlights…amid the overblown production and endless amounts of filler.” 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

Those two sides make themselves apparent in the first two official singles supporting the albums. Three months before their release, the single You Could Be Mine emerged from the movie Terminator II. While not as strong as GNR classics like “Welcome to the Jungle” or “Paradise City,” the song serves as a showcase for the group’s more muscular tendencies.

On the other end of the scale, the power ballad Don’t Cry was released as a single at the same time as the albums dropped. While unnecessarily released in two versions – one on each album – it still did a respectable job of reminding listeners that Guns N’ Roses also had a softer side, such as they’d showcased on “Patience.”

A year before the Use Your Illusion albums dropped, fans also got a taste of the “grandiose epics” E2 to come. The band made an anti-war statement with the nearly-eight minute Civil War, initially released in July 1990 on the various artists’ compilation Nobody’s Child which raised money for Romanian orphans.

There were also “ambitious set pieces” E1 like the “multipart EstrangedE2 and November Rain, which was released as a single in February 1992 after gaining traction as an album cut at mainstream rock radio. The latter proved to be one of the band’s most durable songs and provided one of the most epic videos of all time.

“Stradlin has a stronger presence on I, contributing three of the best songs – Dust n’ Bones, You Ain’t the First, and Double Talkin’ Jive – which help keep the album in Stonesy Aerosmith territory.” E1 and 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 with “no less than four songs that run over six minutes.” E2

There are also songs with “a nervy energy” E2 such as “the ferocious, metallic Perfect CrimeE1 and “the charging funk metal of Locomotive.” E2 14 Years has “a lean, Stonesy rhythm” E2 while “Duff McKagan’s Johnny Thunders homage, So Fine…[is] entertaining.” E2

Speaking of homages, the group also offer up a couple of high-profile covers. A live version of Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door was first featured in 1987 as a B-side for “Welcome to the Jungle.” A studio version of the song was recorded for the Days of Thunder soundtrack in 1990.

The band also offer their take on “Live and Let Die,” originally recorded in 1973 by Paul McCartney & Wings. It ended up reaching the top 40. One could interpret the tackling of not one, but two, legends of rock and roll as pure hubris on the part of the GNR boys or genuine tributes. Quite likely, it’s a bit of both.

Amidst the gems, however, there is also “a dippy psychedelic collaboration with Alice Cooper and a song that takes its title from the Osmonds’ biggest hit.” E1 There’s also “no forgiving the ridiculous Get in the Ring, where Axl Rose threatens rock journalists by name because they gave him bad reviews.” E2 The second album ends with “the bizarre closer, My World, which probably captures Rose’s instability as effectively as the tortured poetry of his epics.” E2

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First posted 9/17/2012; last updated 2/12/2023.

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