Yesterday I began the daunting task of turning the two massive Guns N Roses records from 1991, the Use Your Illusion series, into one awesome album. I’m playing with a run time of 70 minutes so that I get a bit of a challenge out of it.
Before I get busy on the cutting room floor I do want to cover the fact that the record label already did what I’m doing. There is a version of Use Your Illusion that is a single-disc album that clocks in at 63 minutes.
But their reason for doing it and my reason for doing this don’t line up – I am trying to make an all killer, no filler version of these albums. The record label did it because the big box retail stores wouldn’t stock records with the dreaded “Parental Advisory” sticker so they cut a clean version for retail.
I’m here to tell you – here at The Crooked Wanderer, I like to cuss. I use colorful language from time to time. My records will never be in stock at Wal-Mart or …. oh yeah, the rest of the old big box stores are dead now.
Anyway, back to the task at hand. I’m going to evaluate the songs on Use Your Illusion II and decide what automatically gets included on my final version, which songs will carry on to the next round for consideration and which will hit the cutting room floor right here and now. Let’s rock and roll.
Guns N Roses – Use Your Illusion II
Civil War (7:42)
So Doctor Strange can review 14 million scenarios where the Avengers take on Thanos and find exactly one where the good guys win. But the good doctor can’t find even one scenario where I leave Civil War off of the final record.
This is easily one of my favorite Guns N Roses songs. Not just in relation to the album its on but in consideration of their entire catalog. It absolutely has to be on the album.
14 Years (4:21)
I always dug this Izzy Stradlin-led jam. It’s smooth, rollicking and pretty kick ass. I could maybe it but the fact is it would be the first one on the pile I grabbed to put on the record so let’s just do it now – it has to be on the final cut.
One of the double album’s many singles and a very nice song. I am going to maybe this because of time considerations but I have a feeling it’ll work its way on the list in the end.
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (5:36)
Of course the band were gonna cover one of Bob Dylan’s most well-known and oft-covered cuts. (GnR had previously done this song live and in studio). This was a well-executed rendition that updated the song for the 1990’s. I don’t know what the whole speech thing in the interlude is about but it’s whatever. I’ll maybe this because things are gonna get tight in the final battle for space on this record and I don’t know if 2 cover songs are the way to go on a single album.
Get In The Ring (5:41)
This is an interesting one. On one hand, it’s petty as all hell and shows Axl’s less than savory side in full light. On the other hand, the media always were, are now, and always will be a total pain in the ass so I can understand where he’s coming from.
And in the end I gotta roll with it. Gotta go with the good, the bad and the ugly and honestly it’s a pretty killer track. Get In The Ring has to be on the final cut.
Shotgun Blues (3:23)
This is a really cool song that I always liked. I have to maybe it due to time constraints but it’ll certainly be a contender when we get to the finish line.
Ok so this song is all right. Has some slight callbacks to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” through some guitar inflections and it’s overall a decent tune. But it’s also a hard NO because it doesn’t have the same weight as other stuff here and it’s a bloated corpse at 7 minutes.
Pretty Tied Up (4:47)
It’s a pretty cool song and I certainly can appreciate the subject matter. I will have to maybe it and I kinda feel like it gets lost in the shuffle, it’s a bit meandering compared to the heavy hitters there are to deal with.
The song is pretty badass but there really just isn’t room for something nearly 9 minutes long that doesn’t totally rule. This feels like more of a b-side to me, so it’s a NO.
So Fine (4:06)
This Duff-led song is ok but I don’t really need to dwell on it too much – it’s a NO. Don’t really have room for it. I do think the world of Duff though, he seems like such an awesome dude.
The last video in the Del James trilogy, and the most self-indulgent one where Axl swims with dolphins or some shit.
And it’s also one of the best songs on the album. Epic, powerful and builds to a super heavy conclusion. This absolutely has to be on the record.
You Could Be Mine (5:43)
This was the lead single for both albums. A tie-in with the summer movie blockbuster Terminator 2 – Judgment Day brought both the band and movie front and center in the cultural landscape of 1991. The song is a total banger and is probably the most well-executed hard rocker on both discs. It 100% has to be on the final album.
Don’t Cry – Alternate Version (4:44)
As covered in the first part, the original version of Don’t Cry is in the maybe pile. As such, there is no room for the same song with some different stuff going on in it. This one is a NO.
My World (1:24)
The over-wrought albums end with a weird electronic music, quasi-rap thing from Axl. I am overall an album-oriented listener and as such I find little interlude things to be fun and sometimes interesting. But no chance in Hell should an album end on something like that. This is not essential listening by any means so it gets voted off the record. NO
So now I have a pile of have to’s and maybe’s. Adding up the times of my have to’s I get a running time of 44:51. That leaves me with 25 minutes to fill for a 70 minute album. Even with me including several of the longer songs I have plenty of room to work with.
It’s also worth mentioning that yeah, I obviously favor the second album. It does bog down some in its middle section but it picks back up with a few of the best songs on either record. I never really had sat and wondered which of the two I liked more but I think we have that answer right in front of us.
So now I have my lists. Tomorrow the exercise concludes with the work of picking through the maybe pile to see what fills out the record. Then Friday I’ll give some time to discuss my 5 favorite tracks overall. My bloated 4-part exploration of these 2 bloated albums is getting ready to round the bend.