On April fourth The Best of Poison: Twenty Years of Rock will hit the shelves. Has it really been 20 years since Poison went from a local LA band to MTV metal hairband? It was 1986. I was 18 and in college embracing Poison for everything their music was about. Aside from Bret Michaels being prettier and having better hair then I did, these guys were singing anthems rebelling against parental authority and partying it up. A soundtrack to the life this college freshman was living.
With the help of just-blossoming MTV their debut CD, Look What the Cat Dragged In, launched them into the spotlight. The album produced four singles. “Talk Dirty To Me” was the most successful, peaking the pop charts at number nine. It’s a catchy hormonal tune speaking of raw lust and had one of those glossy videos. Sure, by today’s standards it looks cheap and cheesy — OK, it was cheap and cheesy, but it was what MTV and music was about and the video certainly sold the song and album.
My favorite from that album, and from this collection, is “Cry Tough.” Like most of their songs the sound is a hybrid blend of pop and metal. The lyrics are full of hooks you find yourself singing long after the song is over. Yes, they are based on some clichés (Life ain’t no easy ride… sometimes a rainbow is better then a pot of gold…) but the message is a positive one about fighting for what you want in life, something that lacks in the doom and gloom or heavy metal music. Maybe that’s why the band has always been so appealing to me. The heavy and dark emotions are noticeably absent.
The other two singles from Look What the Cat Dragged In are “I Want Action” and “I Won’t Forget You.” The fan favorite “Look What the Cat Dragged In” is also on the CD. Though the song was never released as a single, the band often opens their shows with the trademark song. It’s been said the song was meant to poke fun at their glam look and was a reason for giving the album the same name. Whether or not it’s true, the song is fun and a typical power Poison song. It deserves its place on The Best of Poison.
Their second album, Open Up And Say…Ahh! produced another string of hits, all contained herein. “Every Rose Has its Thorns” is probably the best noted one. How could they miss with the classic theme of love lost, especially when your target audience is of the age when matters of the heart cut deeper? It was their only number one pop hit, and one of two great ballads the band put out (the other being “Something to Believe In”). A third ballad, “The Last Song,” also appears on the CD but was not a released single. Maintaining that balance of rock-out heavy songs and rich meaningful ballads isn’t an easy tightrope to walk, but it’s one Poison has achieved.
The Best of Poison has only one new song, a cover of Grand Funk Railroads’ “We’re an American Band.” Poison took the song and modernized it a bit, gave it a touch of their style but all in all it’s the same song and a bit disappointing. The other cover, Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Night,” doesn’t quite live up to the quality of the rest of the album either. Granted the song has always had little substance and was never more then a fraternity party anthem. This is a pretty straight forward cover offering nothing new, but in comparison to the original the sound is hollow and just seems flat. This could be why it was never released to radio. The strength of Poison is certainly in their material and not what they cover.
As I was listening to these classic songs again their appeal still rang true for me, mostly for the memories associated with them. The Best of Poison: 20 Years of Rock is a walk down memory lane, for me a pleasant one. The band plans to return to the road this summer and upcoming dates will be announced at Poison’s Official Website as soon as they are available. The band also has a Myspace profile containing news and tour information.