Don’t you just love when a band releases a double album? It’s two albums’ worth of stuff, it has to be twice as good as just one, right?
I’m sure good double albums exist that don’t need an editor’s touch. I’m not sure I’d do anything to The White Album. We now have legacy groups like Iron Maiden and Tool offering what are, in any technical sense, double albums.
But often the double album is simply an exercise in indulgence. And I can think of no greater amount of indulgence than that found on the 1991 double set from Guns N Roses, the Use Your Illusion series.
It’s true, these are more two separate albums released at the same time than a double album. But it’s the same difference so we’ll roll with it. It’s also going to be the 30th anniversary of these albums on Friday the 17th so it’s a fun time to go back through these.
My purpose here is to turn these two monster albums, with a total running time between them of 2 hours and 32 minutes, into one album. I have to use a time calculator for the first time in my life for this. Very thrilling.
Now a standard CD can hold up to 80 minutes of music, though in the past many were 75 minutes or something like that. For the purposes of this exercise I’m going to use 70 minutes as a running time cap. No way I can use vinyl as a metric for this, both of these chonkers were each double LP efforts.
What I will do is go through each disc track-by-track. I’ll offer a bit of discussion on each song and decide whether it has to be on the comp, maybe it can be on there, or it definitely isn’t going. After a post for each of the albums I’ll do a third one to reveal my final choices. For fun I’ll also do my own top 5 songs from the records as some bonus content.
Just like these albums, this exercise is gonna run a little long, so let’s hit the cutting room floor.
Guns N Roses – Use Your Illusion I
Right Next Door To Hell (3:02)
A nice opening track, I always like when bands come right in with the heat. It’s funny that the very first song on the biggest band in the world’s monster double effort is Axl bitching about a neighbor but hey, it’s that rage and fire that keeps ya alive sometimes. This is a solid maybe for me and honestly more probable than anything to end up on the final edit.
Dust N Bones (4:58)
Pretty smooth and nice tune. It also goes in the maybe pile because I don’t know how much room I’ll have to work with at the end and I can’t definitely say this song has to be there. But it’s a solid candidate.
Live And Let Die (3:04)
We have a Paul McCartney cover song here and this absolutely works. A fantastic rendition that fits GnR very well. This has to be on the end product. The band always was an exercise in both smooth melody and frantic, balls-out rock and this song showcases both perfectly.
Don’t Cry (4:44)
Here’s an interesting case – the same song is on both albums but the version on II is an alternate take. It’s not the greatest thing the band ever recorded but it is a nice ballad and another one I’ll give the maybe card to. Admittedly I do feel like it probably has to be there though, it’s very representative of the band during this period.
Perfect Crime (2:23)
A very nice, short and to the point hard rocker. A very strong tune and a very easy maybe for me. I could almost auto-include it due to its piss-ant length but it’s not top-tier enough to grant an automatic pass to.
You Ain’t The First (2:36)
Another very short song but this time mercifully so. This is what we call “filler,” folks. There’s a hell of a lot of it on these albums. This is a big fat NO, chaff like this is why I’m here culling it down.
Bad Obession (5:23)
A pretty nice bluesy, groovy number that features guest Michael Monroe of Hanoi Rocks fame playing a few instruments. I’ll maybe it because it’s a decent tune but it sits more on the cut line than the add pile. While it’s nice it’s also like the quintessential dive bar song and that aesthetic, while pleasing, doesn’t fit this bombastic album.
Back Off Bitch (5:03)
It’s a kinda cool song but it’s also whining about your ex years after shit happened. Like, get over it Axl. It’s pretty basic shit that we almost all have to deal with at some point. I’m a big NO on this one. The albums as a whole communicate some pretty lofty stuff at points and this petty shit doesn’t really fit. Axl did a much better job of singing about his exes on other tracks throughout these records.
Double Talkin’ Jive (3:23)
Not the worst thing I’ve ever heard but we gotta exercise some quality control around here. NO
November Rain (8:57)
No point in trying to do some verbal exercise to pretend there’s even an argument – November Rain has to be on the final cut. This song is the very definition of the Use Your Illusion albums – grandiose, bombastic, epic and absurd. It’s perhaps the signature song of both records.
The Garden (5:22)
It’s a decent tune and has a guest shot from Alice Cooper, an absolute god of rock music. I’ll maybe it because it’s a nice song and because Alice, but I am very on the fence about it. This one will require some deliberation when push comes to shove.
Garden Of Eden (2:34)
I’m not some expert on track sequencing but I personally wouldn’t put two songs with the same word in them right next to each other on an album. The song itself is pretty cool, total maybe territory. It might squeak in due to its forgiving run time.
Don’t Damn Me (5:18)
I won’t call it bad but it’s total filler. Easy NO on this one.
Bad Apples (4:28)
I’ll give you three guesses as to what pile I’m gonna put this song in.
If you guessed NO way this whatever song makes my final album cut, give yourself an award. It shouldn’t have made the final cut of the record in the first place.
Dead Horse (4:17)
This isn’t a bad tune by any means but I’m not sure it’s what I’m going for here. I can’t maybe every single song so I’m gonna give this the ol’ heave-ho and say NO.
I’m gonna be real – I totally forgot about this song. I haven’t played these albums in their entirety in many years and I did a double-take when I read the running time of this given that I’m on a time cap with this whole deal.
I could maybe this one very easily. It’s a cool track. But let’s be real – a 10 minute song is going to cause problems when I go to make final cuts, and there are two longer songs on the next album that frankly aren’t going to be left out.
Coma just doesn’t really make the cut here. There are too many shorter songs to consider that would get bumped if this time hog were included. It’s a cool listen but not enough for what’s supposed to be an epic look into a huge band’s most prolific creative period. Coma gets a NO.
I’m finally through to the end of this bloated monster. And this is only the first part. Out of 16 songs I’m showing a tally of 2 songs that have to be on the final version. I have 6 I said NO to right then and there, and 8 that are still in consideration as maybes. I’m barely at a run time of 12 minutes right now but some of the maybes here will be added in the end, and I’m pretty sure Part II will offer up more auto-includes than this did. I’ll get into UYI II tomorrow, then Thursday I’ll post my final edit. Friday brings my 5 favorite songs from the albums. See you then.