I couldn’t tell you the last time I sat down and actually listened to any of the Guns N’ Roses albums. It had to easily be a good 15 years or so. After recently reading Slash’s autobiography, I found myself wanting to listen to the Guns N’ Roses catalog with a new set of ears. Reading all of the stories behind the making of these albums really gave them a bit more validity in my opinion. When you hear the stories, meanings and sources behind someone’s songs it always makes you more interested to hear them once again. Below are my thoughts on each of the Guns N’ Roses albums after listening with a new set of ears.
Appetite For Destruction
The Good: Welcome To The Jungle, It’s So Easy, Out Ta Get Me, My Michelle, You’re Crazy, Rock Queen
The Bad: Think About You, Sweet Child O’ Mine,
The Indifferent: Nightrain, Anything Goes
My first thought while listening to this album was just how amazing the production of this album is. It’s crystal clear and every instrument pops right out at you. Opening the album with “Welcome To The Jungle” is a great introduction to this band. At one time I believed that this album sounded dated but listening to the lyrical content of this album I found it to still be very relevant. While bands like Poison and Warrant showed the fluffy, fun side of being an LA band, Guns N’ Roses had no reservations as they showed the dark, gritty and at times scary side of being an LA band. Songs like Mr. Brownstone, It’s So Easy and Rocket Queen are still great listens but songs like “Think About You” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” are total throw away songs. These songs just lose the momentum that the other songs worked so hard a building. When I first heard this album as a 14 year old kid, I remember thinking that I was being let in on a big secret about what it was to be band living in LA. What other bands candy coated and covered up Guns N’ Roses spit it onto a plate and forced you to look at it. I still get that vibe listening to this album now.
G N’ R LIES
The Good: Reckless Life, Nice Boys, Mama Kin, You’re Crazy, Used To Love Her, Patience, Move To The City, One In A Million
This album was basically a re-release of the first EP “Live Like A Suicide” so as a fan, we were all stoked to finally be able to hear this rarity. The “live” side of this album was said by Slash to NOT be live at all. Matter of fact, it’s the band playing these songs in a studio and the producer added a pre-recorded audience track to make it sound live. This isn’t a “new” concept at all. Just ask KISS and Peter Frampton. Anyways, in listening to this and knowing it’s not live didn’t really phase me much because they still sound bad ass. “Reckless Life” sounds like an angry, pissed off and determined band that would cut you down if you stepped in their path. This attitude was highly appealing to kids like me. Where bands like Motley Crue and Poison looked like bands that MAYBE could throw a punch or two, Guns N’ Roses made me never want to meet them as I was afraid to take a potshot to the face. The “acoustic” side of the album was really cool as well as it showed a more mellow side. “Patience” manages to stand the test of time for me. When it came out I hated it but it sounds like a really well written mature song. The acoustic version of “You’re Crazy” is so raw you hear a phone ringing in the background. This version is even more dark and gritty than the cocaine, booze fueled electric version. “One In A Million”, even in it’s controversy, is still a great song with a pretty intense and deep lying message in there. All in all this is a great album that I forgot even existed.
Use Your Illusion I
The Good: Right Next Door To Hell, Dust N’ Bones, Don’t Cry, Perfect Crime, You Aint The First, Double Talkin’ Jive, The Garden, Garden of Eden, Dead Horse
The Bad: Live and Let Die, Back Off Bitch, November Rain, Don’t Damn Me, Coma
The Indifferent: Bad Obsession, Bad Apples
In his biography, Slash said that the reason Use Your Illusion ended up being a two album release was because a lot of those songs dated back to pre-Appetite For Destruction and that they didn’t want to sit on them any longer. As opposed to just letting them rot they recorded most of them and put out two albums. In all honesty, these two records prove that most of those songs would have been best left to rot. Use Your Illusion I definitely stands out as the best of the two with a stronger set of songs. Songs like “Right Next Door To Hell”, “Perfect Crime” and “Double Talkin’ Jive” possess that gritty, dark quality that present on “Appetite For Destruction”. “The Garden” is a really killer tune featuring guest vocals by Alice Cooper and “Garden of Eden” has one of the best lines ever: “It’s not a problem you can stop, it’s rock n’ roll. Suck on that!” That is just such a bad ass song but there are some serious “off the wagon” songs. “Live and Let Die”, and “November Rain” show just where Axl was losing total focus and connection to the original vision of this band. These songs are just terrible. Izzy Stradlin contributes “Dust N’ Bones” on this one and it’s a great song. “You Aint The First” is also a killer song that’s a nod to the Rolling Stones as it sounds like it could’ve been on “Exile on Main St.” This is a pretty damn solid collection of songs with only a couple of duds.
Use Your Illusion II
The Good: Civil War, 14 Years, Yesterdays, Locomotive, So Fine, Estranged, You Could Be Mine, Don’t Cry
The Bad: Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Get In The Ring, Shotgun Blues, My World
The Indifferent: Breakdown, Pretty Tied Up,
Use Your Illusion II is where things start to get ugly. It opens with probably the 2nd best song on the album, “Civil War.” This is such a great song and unfortunately the album has a hard time living up to it. “14 Years” is another great Izzy song that showed the direction he was heading in as an artist. This could have been on his JuJu Hounds album easily. “Yesterdays” is another song that I really connect with on a nostalgic “getting old” level. Too bad Axl couldn’t follow his own advice and learn from his own words. “You Could Be Mine” is hands down the best song on this album that possesses an awful lot of fail. Yet another terrible cover on this one (Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door) and some serious crapolla like “Get In The Ring”, “Shotgun Blues” and Axl even trying to be a hardcore rapper on “My World.” If you want to hear an album by a band that has lost absolutely all focus, this is the album. It literally sounds like a band working against each other. You can tell just which songs were “older” songs and the ones that were pointing towards a new direction. It’s really sad because the great songs from both of these albums could be combined to make one really amazing album. Thankfully iTunes allows you to make playlists because that’s just what I did. I made the best Guns N’ Roses album that they never made.
Slash said in his book, “If you want to hear what a band breaking up sounds like, listen to this album.” He’s being nice here. If you want to hear a band attempting to prove that they have any form of punk or street cred left in their bones and terribly failing at it, listen to this album. It is nothing short of absolutely ridiculous. Most of these songs were recorded during the Use Your Illusions sessions with Izzy Stradlin on guitar and re-recorded to have Gilby Clarke on guitar. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about this album. Even if they would have put this album out when they still had any kind of cred it would have been ridiculous. There’s nothing “punk” about being millionaires and playing huge arena shows and being all over MTV so a move like this just put a nail in their coffin. Matter of fact, I wish I could sue Axl for the time that I took to listen to this craptastic album. What a way to go out as a band. Go out with a flutter at the end of a steady decline.
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