Guns n’ Roses
Use Your Illusion (Super Deluxe)
If you can recall the rush of bandanas and top hats that followed the release of Guns n’ Roses’ debut album Appetite for Destruction in 1987, and your attempts at na-na-na-na-ing (“Welcome to the Jungle”) and mieeee-yi-in-ing (“Sweet Child o’ Mine”), then you know the mania that accompanied 1991’s double-troubling Use Your Illusion I and II. Recorded simultaneously and released separately in the same year, rock really had not witnessed such a marketing ploy as two albums from one band dropping at once, as well as having that same neo-metal band try their hand at incorporating bits of blues, country, punk, and classical into their tunes.
That, however, was the raison d’être behind the Use Your Illusions, two albums finally incorporated into one large package with three times the bombast considering the new collection’s seven-CD/12-LP box sizes with their 63 unreleased audio and video tracks, their mega-clean high-res transfers, both options’ bonus Blu-ray, and their packaging: an anamorphic display showcasing each of the covers when turned at different angles. Ooh, illuuusion.
Along with its in-concert recordings such as Live in New York from the Ritz Theatre on May 16, 1991—with “Don’t Cry” and “You Ain’t the First” featuring the late Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon on guest vocals—and a Live in Las Vegas taping from 1992 featuring GnR’s then-new guitarist Gilby Clarke and still-fresh new drummer Matt Sorum (later of The Cult), the box’s live quotient is high-caliber, guitar-tangling rock. In spots, they even sound like 1975-era Aerosmith. Plus, both live albums are available, too, as concert Blu-rays in the grand-scale box. These recordings alone are worth the price of admission.
Hoon—who also sang backing vox on the sheer bombast of “Live and Let Die” and the hillbilly power ballad “November Rain”—is not the only guest on either of the UYIs, as Hanoi Rocks hair-band staple Michael Monroe plays harmonica and saxophone on “Bad Obsession,” Alice Cooper does the co-lead vocals on the spook-house “The Garden,” and that latter track’s songwriter, the late Aaron West Arkeen (who co-wrote many a G’n’R track), appears here playing acoustic guitar. Yet the star of the show—beyond new drummer Sorum’s sense of swing and playfulness—is the mega-propulsion in which the core band plowed through the excesses of both Use Your Illusions.
Along with a version of “November Rain” now given a 50-piece orchestra arrangement by composer-conductor Christopher Lennertz, Bob Dylan’s elegiac “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” sounds slicker than ever. Original co-founder Izzy Stradlin holds his own through lead vocals on “Dust n’ Bones” and “Double Talkin’ Jive”—flamenco-inspired guitar solo and all. And the freshness of hearing Axl Rose and Izzy battling and cackling it out in hip-shaking, vocal-trembling reverie on back-to-back blazers “Pretty Tied Up (The Perils of Rock n’ Roll Decadence)” and “Locomotive (Complicity),” on “Get in the Ring,” and especially on a cut-and-bruising “Civil War”...yeah, get the 12 pack. Totally worth it.