Use Your Illusion I is the 2nd full-length studio album ( I think of Lies (1988) as a compilation) by American hard rock/ metal act Guns N´Roses. The album was released by Geffen on the 17th of September 1991. Use Your Illusion II ( the band´s 3rd full-length studio album) was released the exact same day. The album features a new drummer in former The Cult drummer Matt Sorum as original drummer Steven Adler was unable to perform and was fired in July 1990 due to his struggles with cocaine and heroin addiction. Keyboardist Dizzy Reed had joined as a permanent member a few months prior to Steven Adler leaving.
The album was released as a double LP and as a single CD. With 16 tracks and a total playing time of 76:04 minutes, Use Your Illusion I is quite a long album. Guns N´Roses spend most of 1990 and some of 1991 in various recording studios, recording 30 tracks that would be distributed on Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II. Quite a daring stragedy to release two double albums on the same day, but it would prove to be a succesful move. Use Your Illusion I would debut at the number 2 spot on the Billboard chart and Use Your Illusion II would debut at the number 1 spot on the chart. Both albums have sold several millions of copies and while neither have yet reached the gigantic sales numbers of Appetite for Destruction (1987), I´m sure the financial department at Geffen were more than happy with the sales figures.
The music on Use Your Illusion I is still rooted in bluesy hard rock with a heavy metal edge, just as the case was on Appetite for Destruction. The tracks are of a much more eclectic nature though and especially the addition of a keyboard/ piano player to the ranks gives the music a new dimension. There are several in your face rockers on the album ( Right Next Door to Hell, Perfect Crime), but also ballads ( Don't Cry), semi-progressive rock tracks ( the 10:13 minute long Coma) and the epic power ballad November Rain. While all tracks are more or less well composed, only few out of the 16 tracks actually stand out as excellent IMO, and sadly Use Your Illusion I does come off as one of those albums where quantity became more important than quality. Maybe the internal trouble within the band, meant that all members had to have "their" tracks featured on the album, even though a 10 track album might have been more artistically succesful. To my ears it´s actually only the three "hits" that stand out and out of those three songs ( November Rain, Live and Let Die and Don't Cry) only two are originals as Live and Let Die is a cover of Paul McCartney & Wings classic James Bond theme song from 1973 ( recorded in late 1972). A very succesful cover version though.
The production is professional and well sounding. It´s a bit more cold and clean compared to the warmer sounding Appetite for Destruction, but that´s pretty typical for album releases from the early nineties.
I´ve had the vinyl version of Use Your Illusion I since the release of the album and recently purchased the CD version, so I´d say I´ve given this album a fair shot to impress me. I can´t say I´m impressed though as far too many of the songs on the album lack memorable hooklines and therefore don´t linger in my mind after the album is finished. Somewhere between a 3 and a 3.5 star rating is fair IMO and I think I´m gonna have to go with a 3 star rating this time.