POISON


"Seven Days Live" (Armoury; 2008)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"Seven Days Live" is a recording of Poison performing live at London's Hammersmith Apollo in 1993. It's a rare recording in that Richie Kotzen is the guitarist here, having just replaced C.C. DeVille at the time, and the Kotzen era didn't last very long. 

Because the band was touring in support of their "Native Tongue" album, "Seven Days Live" is heavy with tracks from that album and, unfortunately, they aren't exactly some of the band's best work. In fact, like "Native Tongue," "Seven Days Live" is just a little boring. Not only is some of the material not up to snuff, the band seems a little tired here, as though they were at the end of the tour and ready to go home and take a rest. This live album doesn't have the fire of the band's double CD, "Swallow This Live." In fact, even the hits here ("Something to Believe In," "Look What the Cat Dragged In") sound sluggish and limp.

The CD isn't without its highlights. When Kotzen opens up with a solo, it's usually worth a listen. And radio hits "Stand" and "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" are still pretty hard to resist. But when I wanna hear some live Poison, I'm going to reach for "Swallow This Live" instead of "Seven Days Live." 

Poison: Bret Michaels, Bobby Dall, Rikki Rockett and Richie Kotzen.

For more information, please visit http://www.poisonweb.com


"Poison'd" (Capitol; 2007)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Poison jumps on the cover song bandwagon with "Poison'd," a collection of thirteen songs originally recorded by the likes of Sweet, Alice Cooper, The Rolling Stones, The Cars, Kiss, Grand Funk Railroad and more.

Of the thirteen tracks on this CD, eight are new recordings while the others were either recorded for previous releases or are demos. Perhaps surprisingly, the newer recordings have the most punch, while older tracks like "Rock and Roll All Nite," the KISS cover from the 1987 film "Less Than Zero," are kind of limp in comparison. Of the newer songs, only "Just What I Needed," (originally by the Cars) and "Dead Flowers," originally by the Rolling Stones, miss the mark. The rest of the songs are peppy covers, respectful to the original material, with the shine of that Poison glam giving them new life.

Poison fans will enjoy "Poison'd," although they probably would have rather had a complete disc of new material instead.

Poison: Bret Michaels - lead vocals, harmonica; Bobby Dall - bass, backing vocals; C.C. Deville - guitars, backing vocals; Rikki Rockett - drums, percussion, backing vocals.   

For more information, please visit http://www.poisonweb.com


"Crack a Smile ... And More" (Capitol; 2000)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

I know what you're hoping. You're hoping that - as you read this review - that I'm gonna tear Poison a new one. That I'm gonna say how much they sucked in the 80s and how much this finally-released CD from 1994 sucks.

But I can't do it. Because it's not half-bad. In fact, some of it's pretty good.

Let me set the record straight right from the top: I was not a Poison fan in the 80s or 90s. I didn't hate the band, but I didn't run out and buy their records, either. The same applied to Winger, Warrant and Slaughter. But you couldn't be a hard rock/ heavy metal fan and not be aware of these bands either.

"Crack a Smile" was mostly recorded in 1994, near the end of the last big metal boom (isn't it great how metal is so circuitous - it fades after awhile but it always, always comes back) and - because the fans were skewing away from the fun, poppish sounds of Poison and their ilk and moving toward the gritty grunge sound of Pearl Jam and Nirvana - it was completed but never released. Until now.

The timing probably couldn't be better.

With hard rock (we really can't call it metal in this day and age of Rob Zombie and Slipknot, now can we?) on the rise again, "Crack A Smile" fits in pretty well. The songs therein are guitar driven but the radio friendly stuff we listened to way back when. And they're not half-bad. Nothing on this CD is as cloyingly annoying as "Cherry Pie" by Warrant although a couple of the "ballad-type" songs do grate a bit on the nerves. But mostly, it's just hard rock (or 80s metal) from the days when metal was fun. Remember those days? I do. And I miss them. A couple of years ago, I interviewed Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson and asked him what he thought about today's metal. His answer was simple: "Why is everyone so angry?" Poison isn't angry throughout "Crack A Smile." They're just having fun. And it's addictive.

Of course, a lot of this may have to do with the fretwork of Blues Sarceno, who replaced C.C. De Ville on guitar for the recording of the CD. But maybe not.

For the hardcore Poison fans, "Crack A Smile" offers a few extra gifts. "One More for the Bone" and "Set You Free" are outtakes from the original "Crack A Smile" album and track #15 is an unfinished demo from the CD. Also included is "Face the Hangman," an outtake from "Open Up and Say ... Ahh!" and four cuts from MTV's Unplugged (okay, so there's an element from the 90s we could all have lived without). Those four cuts are "Your Mama Don't Dance," "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," "Unskinny Bop" and "Talk Dirty to Me."

Okay, I agree. It's fun and easy to poke fun at the spandex and the hair of these 80s bands. But sometimes there was some pretty good music as well. "Crack a Smile...And More" proves that.

Poison (in its various inceptions): Bret Michaels, vocals, rhythm/acoustic guitar; Bobby Dall, bass, backing vocals; Rikki Rockett, drums, percussion, backing vocals; Blues Sarceno, lead/rhythm/acoustic guitar; piano; backing vocals; C.C. DeVille, lead guitar.

For more information, please visit http://www.poisonweb.com


"Native Tongue" (Capitol; 1993)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"Native Tongue" is perhaps Poison's least successful CD and there's probably a very good reason for that: With the exception of one track, It's the CD that sounds least like Poison.

With C.C. DeVille out of the mix and Richie Kotzen stepping up to the plate, "Native Tongue" is a fair to middlin' rock'n'roll CD that tries to deliver that perfect blend of hard rock and Top 40 ballad that Poison was best known for but doesn't quite get there.

"Native Tongue" isn't without its hits. "Stand," the third track, achieves what the rest of the CD doesn't. It's a ballad-y rocker that earned plenty of airplay (and, in fact, continues to do so to this day) and a near perfect Poison song. Unfortunately, most of the remaining tracks are merely adequate that don't have that required spark and/or attitude.

"Native Tongue" may not be intolerable but it certainly doesn't stand among Poison's best work. Fans of the band may reject the CD simply because DeVille doesn't play on it. Those new to the band would be better served by starting with a greatest hits package instead. Then again, you can buy this CD used for as little as a penny at Amazon.com - so why not?

Poison: Bret Michaels - vocals, rhythm and acoustic guitars, harmonica; Bobby Dall - bass guitars, backing vocals; Rikki Rocket - drums, backing vocals, percussion, tribal drums; Richie Kotzen - lead, rhythm and acoustic guitar, backing vocals, mandolin, Dobro, piano).

For more information, please visit http://www.poisonweb.com


"Native Tongue" (Capitol; 1993)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

If I did a review of any other Poison CD you would read the words, "A good party song CD." But since guitarist Richie Kotzen was handling all guitar responsibilities for this disc, I can't say that. "Native Tongue" is bluesier, stripped down and straight to the point. Some people didn't like it because they were probably used to the old Poison sound; it's still here but at a different level. Yes, Richie can play the blues, but he can also weave a style of music that made this album one of the band's most artistic. A very soulful and spiritual CD, this disc is a favorite to try and play guitar along with.

Although "Native Tongue" didn't do as well commercially as the other Poison CDs it still has a good place in their discography. Richie has a few solo efforts out there and, if you like this CD, you should check out his other stuff. Richie can shred his notes and slap a blues feel all over it. He also has emotion dripping from his fingers when he writes the solos for these tracks. Brett gets into each track with great vocals and background vocals as well. Richie lends some vocals on this effort too, and he has a great voice for blues. Rikki still pounds those skins into submission.

“Strike Up The Band” is about as close as Poison will get to their "party song" for this CD. It's quick and chockfull of wit. The guitar is borderline hard rock and blues.

“Blind Faith” has a good driving rhythm; this is one song you can sing along with and it has more of an upbeat tempo. The solo here marks new territory for Richie. He almost sounds heavy metal here and it sounds great for this song.

“Bastard Son Of A Thousand Blues” is a chance for Richie to shine in his blues revelry. Piano, harmonica and sad lyrics make this track about as bluesy as you can get without dancing with Robert Johnson's ghost. The solo has to be heard to be believed.

The best cuts on "Native Tongue" are “The Scream,” “Stand,” “Stay Alive,” and “Blind Faith.”

Poison: Brett, Rikki, Richie and Bobby.


"Flesh & Blood" (Capitol; 1990)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Relatively speaking, Poison became a little more serious with "Flesh & Blood," as well as showed more maturation in their musicianship and songwriting skills. The guitars are a little less "poppish" throughout the CD, the vocals are stronger and even the fun, frivolous songs seem a little less silly (yes, even "Unskinny Bop.")

The band's big hit from this CD, of course, was "Something to Believe In," another Poison radio ballad that was at least a little more introspective than the earlier hit, "Every Rose Has Its Thorn."

The bonus tracks on this 20th Anniversary Edition are both hot and cold. The acoustic version of "Something to Believe In" is an incredible, sensitive version and features alternate lyrics from the big hit. The instrumental cover of the Sex Pistols "God Save the Queen" is interesting, but feels more like an unfinished track than a real bonus. And, once again, the re-mastering throughout is perfect.

Slightly than the band's previous CD, but not enough to generate another half-guitarsaw rating, "Flesh & Blood" was the band's best CD to date. Fans of the band will want to replace their old CD with this one if for no other reason than the fine remastering and the acoustic version of "Something to Believe In."

Poison: Bret Michaels - lead vocals, guitar; Bobby Dall - bass; C.C. Deville - lead guitar, vocals; Rikki Rockett - drums.  

For more information, please visit http://www.poisonweb.com


"Open Up and Say ... Ahh!" (Capitol; 1988)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

I can't say that "Open Up and Say ... Ahh!" is a more mature album than its predecessor. With song titles like "Nothin' But a Good Time" and "Bad to be Good," it's hard to classify the CD as mature.

But I will say that it has a more confident sound than "Look What the Cat Dragged In." The songs seem better written, the musicianship is tighter and the CD feels altogether more solid. 

"Open Up and Say ... Ahh!" also spawned its share of hits: "Nothin' But a Good Time," "Fallen Angel" and the megahit "Every Rose Has Its Thorn." Again, the remastering on this 20th Anniversary edition is sharp and clear and the bonus tracks (including the hard-rocking "Living for the Minute" and an 11-minute interview with the band) are a nice extra. Even if only minutely, "Open Up and Say ... Ahh!" was evidence that Poison had more to offer than big hair, lipstick and androgynous rock heroes and, as such, is a better album than the band's first.

Poison: Bret Michaels - lead vocals, guitar; Bobby Dall - bass; C.C. Deville - lead guitar, vocals; Rikki Rockett - drums.  

For more information, please visit http://www.poisonweb.com


"Look What the Cat Dragged In" (Capitol; 1986)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"Look What the Cat Dragged In" put Poison on the map with a number of big hits ("I Want Action," "I Won't Forget You," "Talk Dirty to Me"). Their blend of pop ballad metal, Big Hair look and awesome live performance caught the music wave at exactly the right time.

But it's twenty years later and, despite a stellar remastering job, "Look What the Cat Dragged In" can't help but feel dated. Of course, that's not entirely a bad thing. This isn't a newly recorded CD but the 20th Anniversary re-release of an album millions of fans have purchased and loved in the past. Most of those who buy this CD will have heard it before and they know what they're looking for. Now, however, they'll find a better version. As mentioned above, the remastering on the CD is crisp and clear, and three bonus tracks only improve the overall package, especially a cover of Jim Croce's "Don't Mess Around With Jim."

Poison fans will definitely want to trade in their old CDs for this new remastered version and its bonus tracks. Passing fans might be better off sticking with the band's greatest hits packages.

Poison: Bret Michaels - lead vocals, guitar; Bobby Dall - bass; C.C. Deville - lead guitar, vocals; Rikki Rockett - drums.  

For more information, please visit http://www.poisonweb.com


Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Copyright © 2008 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 18 Dec 2016 12:46:21 -0500.