Estranged - Guns N' Roses (1991)
It's odd, but I think Axl led me to my love of progressive rock more than anyone else. Sure, I had been a Genesis fan for years, but in 1993 I didn't even know that Peter Gabriel had been in the group, let alone that they used to wrote songs about Giant Hogweeds. Yes and The Moody Blues had drifted across my periphery, but mainly through singles which compromised their true leanings. G N' R however, no matter how subliminally, showed me that longer songs with time signature and key changes were badass. Use Your Illusion I and II are never mentioned in the same "classic" breath as Appetite For Destruction. They are seen as overblown extensions of a bloated drug and ego-fueled band that jumped the proverbial shark on their sophomore studio releases. I mean..... there's truth to that. Who in their right mine today would release a double album as separate discs on the same day? Granted, Bruce Springsteen would copy the format a few months later with Human Touch and Lucky Town, but that was The Boss. What were these metal punks from LA thinking?
Umm, they were obviously using the old noodles quite well through the haze of substance abuse and power struggles. Never has a major label release been more ambitious in scope and depth. The most growth seen by this band previously was the rootsy sound of "Patience" on G N' R Lies. Here, almost every genre was touched on. Use Your Illusion I is a powerhouse which gave us "Don't Cry", "November Rain", "Coma" and "The Garden". But II? Good God, two is the greatest thing they ever put to wax, Appetite be damned. Never has a seventy minute disc flowed so smoothly from as many different genres as they explore here. "Yesterday", "14 Years", "Pretty Tied Up".... Hell, "Don't Cry" 's alternate lyrics are great. Then, nestled near the end of the album, is G N' R's own "Love Lies Bleeding". I never wanted to be a guitar god more then after hearing Slash's second solo on this 9 minute epic. "Estranged" is their greatest work on their greatest album. No one, not Axl, Slash, Duff, Larry, Curly...... will ever top this gem. For almost twenty years I have listened to this song, and never once winced at its length. Those nine minutes go by in an instant of poetry, musicality and grace.
I think I've rambled enough today. Let's hear this beast, and thank G N' R for letting us Gen X/Y cusp riders know that rock and roll could be so much more.