When reading Mike Ladano’s review for Guns ‘N Roses’ Appetite for Destruction, one of his “controversial” opinions that stuck out to me is how he felt that the Use Your Illusion albums are better. I disagree since both for me are not completely listenable, while Appetite is solid from start to end. I almost commented how the two albums should have been edited down to one, but then I thought, how do I know this is true if I’ve never actually tried to do it?
So, I imagined myself as the Gunners Track List God of 1991. Axl and Slash delivered to me all of their material for both albums and I would have the final say on how it would appear to the public. So here is my approach:
First, I threw out the covers and the annoying ballads that made Gunners superstars.
Don’t Cry – Start crying ’cause you cut
Live and Let Die – Your laissez-faire attitude got you cut, buddy.
November Rain – Cut
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – You’re so cut
Yesterdays – Cut you yesterday
Civil War – You’re cut too, Civie.
I know, what could I be thinking? I’m thinking, I’m making a Rock ‘N Roll album and not something for pop radio and MTV to be comfortable to promote. No disrespect to those who enjoy these tunes. They’re just not my bag and I’m the Track List God here.
2nd, the track list will be set with the Compact Disc in mind since it was the lead format in 1991. The songs would be the same, but their order of appearance would be drastically different if this was an LP.
3rd, I’m aiming for 45-ish to 55-ish minutes album length. Would I have too many songs or not enough? I’m not sure. Let’s see…
OK, turns out this IS tough to do because I have TOO many songs. I further dropped songs that I didn’t care for and kept what I liked. This is what I was left with:
1 hr and 18 minutes of 13 tunes that, technically I could squeeze onto on a 79 minute CD, but it is too long for a real Rock ‘N Roll album. I need to trim this down. I am pretty much set on the first few songs and how Coma will finish off the album, but the rest in the middle is up in the air. Let’s give this thing one more edit and see what is left.
OK, it took a bit more grey matter and listening to figure it all out, but there is only two tunes that I could cut to make the album better. I dropped Shotgun Blues which is a rockin’ track but it is filler, and Locomotive is a cool tune but is kind of annoying in parts. So here is the final track list:
Mars Your Illusion
- Back Off Bitch – You need a rockin’ track to kick things off and this lets the ears know what they’re in for. The tune’s build up perfectly launches us into the Gunners’ level of the atmosphere. The lyrics are a wee bit crass, but this is 1991 and we’re Gunners. Point Break was the world’s biggest movie this past summer and we’re about making waves too.
- Don’t Damn Me – You need a bridge tune here to keep the momentum going since we are not ready to give away the best song yet. This keeps the rock flowing with high energy all the way through.
- You Could Be Mine – The best Gunners tune that isn’t on Appetite. It’s tie in to the world’s 2nd biggest film of the summer of 1991, Terminator 2 be damned. This is the album’s show piece and deserves the No. 3 spot.
- Estrange – OK, we rocked your socks off for three straight tunes and have now earned the right to slow things down. Estrange is a better ballad than those overplayed ones I dumped. The 2nd most underrated Illusion tune.
- Dead Horse – The way this tune slowly builds up and brings us back to rockin’ level makes it the perfect fit here.
- Double Talkin’ Jive – One of Izzy’s tunes that shows off Slash’s funky guitar style. Almost had this at number 2 to display some of the Gunners’ chops but we lose too much momentum with the way it winds down at the end. I’m only a Track List God and not a song editing one.
- Pretty Tied Up – Axl’s Iggy Pop-ish slow build up ties in nicely with Double Talkin’ Jive’s wind down. I would have used to start this album if I didn’t like Back off Bitch more.
- The Garden – The rockin’ three previous tracks again lets us slow it down, and I ain’t cutting Alice Cooper’s cameo. I may be The Track List God, but there are still those with greater powers than me. Plus, pretty good tune.
- Bad Apple – Get back to rockin’. Can’t stay too far away from it. Another funky/killer Slash riff to keep us flying towards the end.
- Breakdown – Perfect mix of piano and guitar. A fine track to end the album on if it were not for the most underrated Gunners tune of all time:
- Coma – Epic before epic was a thing to say. The build up, the tonal changes, the ending. This is how Illusion should and does end.
So, I finished with a total of 65 minutes which I am OK with this since Coma is the extra 10 minutes. Consider it the hidden bonus track, maybe.
And you know what? This process totally worked for me. I friggin’ love this! I downloaded FLACs of these tunes and made a killer CD that I have been injecting into my ear holes. I’m enjoying Illusion songs for the first time… ever? Maybe? So, for me the answer is yes. Use Your Illusion I & II were bloated with filler and tracks designed for the radio friendly crowd. If you drop both I would have a much better rock album that I would be happy to put on the shelf along with Appetite.
Additional note: I write these blogs ahead of time and delay posting them to keep the content consistent. So, of course while this was sitting in the “Scheduled” pile, Mike reviews Use Your Illusion I & II and does his own edit of the two CDs. So head over there and check out his version of a single Illusion album if you haven’t already!