Use Your Illusion (Super Deluxe)

Use Your Illusion (Super Deluxe)

When Guns N’ Roses dropped their two Use Your Illusion albums in September of 1991, they were the biggest rock band in the world. Their 1987 debut, Appetite for Destruction, was multiplatinum, their 1988 G N’ R Lies EP stoked controversy while making them a household name, and they’d already released “You Could Be Mine” as part of the soundtrack to Terminator 2: Judgment Day. (“With your bitch-slap rappin’ and your cocaine tongue,” the song noted, “you get nothin’ done.”) The world may not have been ready for a sprawling two-and-a-half hour journey into the mind of Axl Rose, but they sure didn’t act like it. It’s been estimated that the two albums sold a combined half-million copies in just the first two hours of release. The pop-culture scope of these albums went far beyond their runtimes. Epic power ballads “November Rain” and “Don’t Cry” were bolstered by mini-movie videos in heavy MTV rotation as G N’ R hit the road with Metallica in the summer of 1992. By January of 1994, they were still releasing singles, as evidenced by the famous Axl-swimming-with-dolphins scene in the video for “Estranged.” And while the hits are undeniable, it’s the deep cuts that make the Use Your Illusion albums worth their not insubstantial weight. The riff-roaring “Double Talkin’ Jive” and nasty “Back Off Bitch” from Illusion I pair nicely with the bondage-themed banger “Pretty Tied Up” and profanity-laced critics-callout “Get in the Ring” from Illusion II. “Don’t Damn Me” not only rocks with a propulsive vengeance—it might feature Rose’s finest lyrics. Meanwhile, the acoustic “You Ain’t the First” sounds like the long-lost sister to Lies ballad “Used to Love Her,” and poignant eight-minute protest song “Civil War” opens with a choice sample from the immortal Paul Newman prison flick Cool Hand Luke. Elsewhere, guest shots from Alice Cooper (on “The Garden”), Hanoi Rocks leader Michael Monroe (harmonica and sax on “Bad Obsession”), and soon-to-be-famous Blind Melon singer Shannon Hoon (backing vocals on many songs) bring texture and—as if G N’ R needed it—extra star power. There’s a message in the choice of classic-rock covers, too: By taking on Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” and Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” Rose was more than hinting that he should be considered part of that pantheon. Thirty-some years on, what’s striking is just how timeless many of the songs have proven to be. Sure, lost love, misanthropic worldviews, and war are eternal. But even a song like “Get in the Ring,” which references a very specific set of real-life incidents and spats, harnesses the evergreen theme of artist versus critic. And while “You Could Be Mine” will always be tethered to Terminator 2 in the minds of a certain generation, the song exists in its own orbit of romantic frustration. Even the covers have, at times, supplanted the originals in the pop-culture imagination. This newly remastered version includes two live shows from the era, for more than seven hours of G N’ R glory. All told, it’s an impressive example of what Rose would surely call “the perils of rock ’n’ roll decadence.”

Disc 1

Disc 2

Disc 3

Disc 4

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