Which is better - 'Use Your Illusion I' or 'II'? And just where does 'Chinese Democracy' fit?
Few bands have quite as many juggernaut solos packed into their back catalogue as Guns N’ Roses, but then Axl Rose’s troupe aren’t like most bands. After all, not many groups would keep trudging away on an album for 15 years or release a double album that clocks in at two-and-a-half hours. As the classic line-up of the band prepares to return to the UK for the first time since reuniting, we’ve ranked GN’R’s six studio albums from worst to best.
‘Chinese Democracy’ (2008)
Parents of impatient children are forever telling their offspring things will be worth the wait. Sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re ludicrously wrong. If anyone ever uttered those words about GN’R’s sixth and latest studio album ‘Chinese Democracy’, they’d definitely be in the latter camp and not only because the wait ended up being a whopping 15 years. Puts all that griping about Frank Ocean taking his time with his second album into perspective, eh? Let’s face it, if you make your fans wait nearly two decades for a record, it’s probably going to have to be the best record ever made to impress anyone. ‘Chinese Democracy’ wasn’t that, but nor was it the worst thing ever either. Instead, it was what you might have expected – epic, overblown and full of noodling guitar solos – plus some rather more confusing moments, like when ‘Madagascar’ samples both Martin Luther King and Cool Hand Luke.
‘The Spaghetti Incident’ (1993)
In 1993, Axl Rose and his gang showed another side of themselves with this covers album. Could have been a cheesy disaster, but it actually turned out pretty well. On the opening track – a cover of The Skyliners’ ‘Since I Don’t Have You’ – the band go all shuffling, swooning pop, while ‘Buick Makane (Big Dumb Sex)’ reimagines T. Rex as grandiose hard rock.
‘GN’R Lies’ (1988)
‘…Lies’ is less an album and more just two EPs spliced together. The first half is made up of “faux live” songs recorded in a studio with canned applause and cheering dubbed on to the tracks later. The second half completely ignores the energy of what’s gone before and switches things up to acoustic odes instead. As such, it’s a record that doesn’t feel very cohesive and, while it shows off the group’s versatility more than other records, is definitely one of their odder releases.
‘Use Your Illusion I’ (1991)
The first half of the ‘Use Your Illusion’ double act contains of the band’s most classic tracks in ‘November Rain’ and their cover of Wings’ ‘Live And Let Die’. That said, two songs don’t make an album and while there’s plenty of quality blues-indebted rock here, it does take a while to fully find its feet. It’s the closest the band have ever got – and ever will get – to recreating the blistering magic of ‘Appetite For Destruction’, though, and there’s plenty to enjoy within its 75-minute run time.
‘Use Your Illusion II’ (1991)
‘Use Your Illusion II’ was slightly more commercially popular than its sister record and is still widely argued to be just that little bit better. With more political themes and broader horizons, we’re inclined to agree. There are still missteps along the way (‘Breakdown’ is a classic example of when epic goes too far), but it’s largely more finessed and more thoughtful than its other half, and gave new, emotional life to Bob Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’.
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‘Appetite For Destruction’ (1987)
While you always want bands to progress and get better as their careers continue, there’s no way you could deny that GN’R’s debut album is still their crowning glory. Released at a time when rock music was lacking edge, Axl, Slash, Izzy and co came along and kicked everyone else into touch with classics like ‘Welcome To The Jungle’, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ and ‘Paradise City’. It’s regularly cited as one of the greatest albums of all time and with so many unforgiving riffs, licks and wails tat still stand up and pack a hefty punch it’s hard to argue against that.