Guns N Roses used to be the epitome of a rock band that would never sell out. They drank, they partied, they swore, and they released songs with the kind of lyrical content that ensured they’d never receive mainstream radio airtime. Of course, they had big commercial hits, too, but they were by the by. Guns N Roses might have been the biggest rock and metal band in the world in their pomp, but they were a rock and metal band with attitude. When they took the stage, you got a show. When they released new material, it was worth listening to. That seems like a very long time ago now.
We’re not going to accuse Guns N Roses of selling out because that would be unkind, but they’re certainly not afraid of slapping the band’s name on a product or two to bring in additional cash. They were, after all, the first big-name band to partner with casino companies and release a branded slots game. As far as we’re aware, the Guns n Roses slots game is still the biggest metal-themed game at top casinos and their sister sites today. Other big bands like Motley Crue have released casino games and partnered with casino companies because Guns N Roses led the way. Other places we’ve seen the band’s logo included on bottles of whiskey and even jam and cheese.
Our point in saying all this is that you’re never more than a month or two away from the next great Guns N Roses cash-in, and here it is. There’s a new “Use Your Illusion” box set to buy. Is it worth your cash? Let’s take a look.
What’s In The Box?
We should start by saying the box is a year late. It was supposed to mark thirty years since the release of the first “Use Your Illusion” box set, but that anniversary came in 1991. On reflection, we wouldn’t have been able to class it as an authentic Guns n Roses product if it had made it to us on time.
Having covered that point, let’s talk about the sheer depth of the album. There are an incredible ninety-seven tracks in the box set. Sixty-three of them have never been released before. That’s not to say that they’re “new” recordings – they’re versions of songs that you’ll already know very well if you’re a fan of the band – but these particular recordings or interpretations of them have never seen the light of day before. The sheer size of the box set explains why it’s so bulky if you choose to buy it in physical form – you have a choice between twelve vinyl records or seven CDs. In both cases, you’ll also get a Blu-ray Super Deluxe disc full of recordings of live performances that have been remastered. Many of those performances are also released for the first time as part of the box set.
Not everything in a collection of such size is going to be killer, and indeed, there’s more than a little filler. One side of one of the LPs is taken up by an extended Slash solo, an extended drum solo, and a version of “You Could Be Mine.” As talented as Slash is, we can’t imagine that many people will specifically play the solo more than a few times.
Cover to Cover
Many of the people reading this article will be die-hard fans of Guns N Roses. We suspect that many of those die-hard fans are currently racking their brains trying to think of ninety Guns N Roses songs or even getting anywhere near. We’ve already covered the fact that there are several alternative takes of the same songs on here, plus some live recordings, but even taking that into account, it’s likely to be a stretch. We can help with that. Some of the songs in this box set aren’t Guns N Roses songs. You’re going to hear covers of songs by Wings and Bob Dylan, but you should know that already because they appear on the original “Use Your Illusion” listings. What you’ll also find here is Guns N Roses versions of songs like “Hotel California” and “Voodoo Child.” They’re hens teeth, and they’re incomplete, but they’re there.
Elsewhere, there are even more oddities to pick through. “Don’t Cry” appears three times – once as the regular version, another time as an extended version, and a third time as an even-more-extended version. Alice Cooper pops up to read a poem on “The Garden.” Not everything is a triumph. Where there are triumphs, though, they’re extraordinary ones. The box set comes with a new version of “November Rain” in which the keyboard has been stripped out and replaced by a whole fifty-piece orchestra. The result is incredible. The band was so impressed by it that they decided to release it as a single. “November Rain 2022” is now available for streaming and is worth your time to track down and listen to, even if you have no intention of listening to anything else on the album.
Worth a Purchase?
We can’t answer this question for you. We can tell you that it isn’t cheap, though. The basic version of the Use Your Illusion Box Set is a massive £249.99. We’ve seen the “Super Deluxe” version of it going for £449.99 with some retailers. That’s an astonishing amount of money to ask fans for, and it goes back to what we said at the start of this article about Guns N Roses having sold out a very long time ago. There’s no doubt that there’s some value to be had from the new material in the box set, but it also feels like a cash grab, and a sizeable one at that.
Ultimately, it comes down to how much money you have in your pocket and what your Guns N Roses fandom means to you. We’ve been promised for more than a year that there’s a new album from the band on the way, but we’ve been here before with Guns N Roses, and the last time it happened, we were waiting for more than a decade. We may get another album, but there’s just as much chance that this is the last time we’ll hear “new” material from the band. If you’ve got the budget and you want to spend it on your all-time-favourites one more time, perhaps this is the last chance to do so.