Yesterday, as part of #GnRWeek, I wrote about Use Your Illusion I. Naturally I’m now talking about Use Your Illusion II today. Both these albums were released in 1991. The first album is a more rocky affair whereas this second one is slightly more intellectual or experimental in places. Several songs are 6-8mins long. Axl has also been quoted as saying that the first half of Use Your Illusion II is ‘the South will rise again’, which wasn’t planned but just ended up that way.

I think I actually found myself listening to this one as a full album back in the day more than the first Illusion album. When playing the first album I would just keep going back to certain songs like Bad Obsession, Back Off Bitch and November Rain.

Use Your Illusion 2

Here’s my ranking. I found it really hard to rank the 2-4 positions here. Those three songs are all fantastic.

14. My World – What a bizarre track. I’ve not read much about the making of this song but I imagine it’s Axl experimenting on one of his little projects, probably with little input from the rest of the band. I don’t even know if there are any musicians playing on this track. Possibly just synth and sound effects. Interesting. I quite like it but it’s not really Guns. A weird way to end the double album.
13. Locomotive – I never really like the songs when Axl changes his voice with an effect. I just don’t really like the main part of the song that much. I do really like when the ending of the song gets all dramatic and slower at about 6:40 though. That bit’s great. I just don’t know why the song needs to be as long as it is though. they could have easily removed one verse and chorus. Or made a better song around that ending.
12. Pretty Tied Up – Good song but I’d place it in the lower half of this album for sure. Some great guitar work from Slash though. His guitar sounds incredible in the middle of this song.
11. Shotgun Blues – This is one of the songs that was just written by Axl. It’s the punkiest song on the Illusion albums. I would love to hear this one live in a small club.
10. Get In The Ring – I love the intro with the crowd chanting and then the guitar comes in, in rhythm with the crowd. This is obviously Axl getting a lot off his chest in this song. Pretty good song too.
9. So Fine – Another one where Duff sings. I love it when Duff sings. I do like his voice but I also just like that he managed to persuade Axl to let him sing. And another one that starts slow and then gets really upbeat in the middle. This one goes up and down several times within the song. It works well though.
8. Estranged – I used to kind of have mixed emotions about Estranged. It’s one of those ‘epic’ songs where Axl is obviously trying to tell a story and go through every emotion in one song. The video is one of the trilogy of weird story-driven music videos. It’s a very good song but I used to just almost find it hard work to listen to parts of it. This song nearly went in at about no.5 or 6 on my list. I absolutely love how Slash comes in with the guitar at about 7:50. Genius.
7. Yesterdays – This is a very short song and one you can imagine them writing in just a few hours, but saying that it’s very good. Perhaps they could have done more with it though.
6. 14 Years – I’ve said it before. I like Duff songs. This is possibly his best one. Lots of piano on this song too.
5. Don’t Cry (Alt lyrics) – I prefer the original Don’t Cry on Use Your Illusion I, but this one is great too.
4. Civil War – Great song. Very classy. I love the Cool Hand Luke quote at the start. It made me watch that film too, which I’m very grateful for. It’s just a powerful, meaty song to start the album with.
3. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – I’ve kind of feel like I’ve got something against Guns doing cover versions. I’m not sure why, as they started out doing songs like Mama Kin of course. I think I just felt like they were selling out or lacking originality after gaining success or something like that. Two things have helped me love this song though. I learnt that they actually used to play this back in the pre-Appetite days. I think perhaps the first time they played it properly live was during their first London gig in 1987. So that shows it has more GnR history than I thought. But also, I loved when they played it at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert. I bought the CD single of that one. They really do own this song now. It doesn’t feel like a cover any more. Sorry, Bob.
2. Breakdown – This is a builder. Starts nice and slow, then gets quite upbeat in the middle and then gets heavier at the end. Some great lyrics in this one too. I can’t hear the word ‘breakdown’ without going “Ow…breakdown”. Even if someone is really upset that their car has had a breakdown I’ll just have to quietly say under my breath “Ow…. breakdown” just to get it out of my system. Really good song.
1. You Could Be Mine – There’s something special about You Could Be Mine. I find the opening so raw and anarchic. It reminds me of the start to Welcome To The Jungle. It’s cool it’s associated with T2 too, but I like how it’s actually one of the early songs that GnR used to play on sunset strip back in the early days. I can’t remember the reason that it didn’t make the Appetite selection.