REVIEW: Poison – Open Up and Say…Ahh!

POISON – Open Up and Say…Ahh! (1988. 2006 Captiol remaster)

Man, did I feel old when this 20th Anniversary Edition came out. I remember buying the cassette back in ’89 (the year after it was released). I even conned my dad out of the $10 for it by saying it was for a school project! (It was…sort of.)  I purchased this at A&A Records & Tapes on the way home from school.

I’m glad that today, Poison are still around (as a live entity, anyway), and back to the same four guys who rose to fame in the 80’s. Although Flesh & Blood is a good album, and Native Tongue is criminally ignored, Open Up and Say…Ahh! is actually quite strong and best represents the early Poison sound.

Starting off with “Love On The Rocks” (featuring the lyric “swallow this” which was actually the original title of this album), Poison are off to a strong start. The riff is catchy, somewhere between glam rock and old classic rock n’ roll. What C.C. Deville brings to the party is a love of rock n’ roll, and that’s why when he left.  The band went more bluesy, too bluesy for his tastes.  That and the drug addiction did C.C. in. I don’t evem mind his guitar sound on this, I kind of like it. It’s overdriven and shrill, but it rocks and C.C. manipulates his instrument to pull off some cool sub-Frehley solos.

From there it’s the classic “Nothing But A Good Time”. The riff seems ripped off from “Deuce” by Kiss, but then later re-ripped off by Kiss for their song “Never Enough”! Anyway, you know the hits already, so I won’t spend too much time discussing these songs.  Suffice to say that I still hear “Nothin’ But A Good Time” on the radio.

What was actually surprising was that Open Up and Say…Ahh! is more than the sum of its singles. The album tracks are almost entirely as strong. “Back to the Rocking Horse” is another fun, catchy Poison rocker, followed by the harmonica-laden-shoulda-been-a-single “Good Love”. “Tearin’ Down The Walls” ended side one on a fairly strong note, and actually features some interesting changes.

Side two started with “Look But You Can’t Touch”, a juvenile sex song (it sounded juvenile to me even then), which nonetheless has a lot of energy. Then, three singles in a row: “Fallen Angel” (best song on the album), “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” (no comment required), and the Loggins & Messina cover “Your Mama Don’t Dance”. Why was bassist Bobby Dall getting arrested in that video? I still don’t know! The album ended with “Bad To Be Good”, a bit too slow and ploddy, and the weakest song on the record.

This special edition has just a scant two bonus tracks, and one is a useless interview. Most people will stop the CD before the interview. The other is the very raw B-side “Livin’ For The Minute” which, if memory serves, was originally the B-side on the “Every Rose” 7″ single. It’s a fast rocker, demo-quality, and is more akin to the sound of the first Poison album. I don’t know where the interview comes from. In all my years of collecting singles, I’ve never run across it before, so if you care about it, it does seem to be a genuine rarity. “Livin’ For The Minute” has been released multiple times elsewhere. (Missing is the B-side “Gotta Face the Hangman”, available on the Crack A Smile CD.)

Also of note, if you had the censored version of this cover, the original has been restored on this edition.  Yes, this cover was censored.  Columbia House sold a version with the tongue and everything below blacked out.  Packaging-wise, don’t expect much else.

As an album, this is fun and has a great 80’s sound, thanks to the production talents of Tom Werman.  Younger kids will dig it for the pop punk-like energy. Older fans will want it for nostalgia purposes. That, and it still rocks really well.

As much as I usually maligned C.C. DeVille (Swallow This Live is almost unlistenable), I really like his work here. He may be no guitar wizard, but at some point you have to recognize the fun guitar playing here. It’s like toffee — sticky, sweet, and good. Too much might make you sick, but in moderation, it hits the spot. And really, he weaves some really fun melodic fills over his riffs, like icing on a cake.

4/5 stars

35 comments

      1. I vaguely remember…A & A was not the most popular record store in Sudbury (Records on Wheels was – and still open, I might add!), and when first opened it was in a far away location. They opened a second locale that we went to quite a bit. Bought my cassette of INXS’s “The Swing” there, when no one else carried it!

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        1. ROW had a store in Guelph, where I bought my vinyl copy of Mama Weer All Crazee Now by Quiet Riot, and Dancer by MSG, on clear vinyl, 1990.

          I’m not sure how ROW the store related to ROW the distributor. Our main CD distributor for the entire time I was at the record store was a company called Records On Wheels. I have to assume they were the same company?

          They were sometimes pretty awful and shorted us major quantities of product, shipped incorrect product, etc. But they were also sometimes pretty good.

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        2. Barrie had a ROW outlet downtown too a long time ago..exact logo I was familiar with, and an old painted bus. I was surprised to see it. So, there must be a connection there. The store owner in Sudbury, Tony has owned that store for over 40 years. Still kickin too. They just moved locations and seeing a resurgeance in record sales as there is a renewed interest in them.

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        3. The “O” is a big record in the logo?

          Great to hear a 40 year old record store is still doing well. My old store is still there today, and like you said, seeing a resurgence due to record sales. I’m glad vinyl is making a comeback. There’s nothing wrong with the format really, for people who appreciate it.

          My old A&A…long gone…they went backrupt around 1990 or so right? Before that there was Zellers and Hi-Way Market to get music. Both gone now, Zellers replaced by Target. There was a Sam the Record Man downtown. Gone. TWO Dr. Discs. Gone.

          There are a few stores that weathered the storm, Encore Records downtown being the go-to store all these years. Our store survived, and a weird specialty place uptown called Orange Monkey survived. They survived by being so different. They JUST got debit. Last month. JUST GOT IT.

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        4. One of these days, I wanna come down to see you and you can take me to Encore and Orange Monkey. I haven’t been in Encore since I lived in town, and I don’t think I have ever been to Orange Monkey. Could be a fun afternoon!

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  1. This album at the time served its purpose. It was a good followup to LWTCDI. Simple,catchy songs and they kept the album at 10 songs 40 minutes…..I always dug the Bad To Be Good tune…..
    I just always thought Wermans production was always like they were playing in a aluminium shed.
    Those Crue albums/Stay Hungry album were just brutal sounding sonically…
    Was supposed to catch this tour in Duluth with Tesla opening but the plugged was pulled due to illness back in 1989 and than three weeks later again in Duluth we had tickets to see Ratt/Great White/Kix and that show was pulled as well( lack of tickets)….

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        1. Junkyard were all refugees from early 80’s hardcore punk bands, scary looking dudes. Without double-checking I’m pretty sure Steve Earle played on a track on their 2nd LP.

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        2. I have to ask you a question — are you clairvoyant, or do you have ESP? Which is it? Because right now I am polishing up tomorrow’s Record Store Tale, and it’s Steve Earle. You don’t want to miss this if you like Steve.

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  2. Nuge,Cheap Trick those were alright but man I dunno ….for Jon it’s Ron Nevision for me it’s Werman….I mean that job he did on Theatre of Pain is aweful.

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  3. Now this was a record I heard many, many times. All my friends had it, and even I had a cassette of it (now long gone). I had this one, Flesh & Blood and Native Tongue. I wasn’t quite in high school when was released, so it hit me as it should have. I still harbour a sort of nostalgic, silly sense of these guys. I still have F&B on CD, but hardly play it. It’s nice when they come on the radio, but I don’t seek it out too often, these days.

    Don’t fully trust my memory on this, as it was all in passing… I seem to recall that I once read, in some guitar magazine listing the Top 50 Worst Guitar Solos or something to that effect, that there was a song on the Live record where CC’s solo was so bad (all one note, or something), and it made their #1 worst solo of all time. Ouch.

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    1. Truth is, you could probably just close your eyes and point at a song title which CC plays on and that would be the # 1 worst solo ever. He really is that bad. They played (actually headlined for some very strange reason) Sweden Rock in 2008 and CC hadn’t improved one bit – just as lousy as back when.

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  4. Oh man, did we party to this album like crazee when it came out. While drunk, this album is perfect. Still, I believe as songwriters, Poison were always sort of underrated. They just had big problems performing the songs. I mean, just listen to the guys. Bret Michaels might not sing off key, well, not much anyway, but he’s hardly Myles Kennedy. Bobby Dall couldn’t even play his bass, Rikki Rockett was one of the most untight drummers ever (I can put some really, really big money on that neither Dall or Rockett plays one note on Native Tongue) and CC (does that stand for Crack Cocaine?) DeVille must be one of the, if not the most useless guitarplayers ever. Eddie Ojeda is a guitar hero compared to him. Still I can’t help but liking almost every song on this record.
    The production then. Tom Werman is so overrated its ridicolous. Sure, those Cheap Trick records were alright, but Twisted, Crüe… those albums sounds awful. He also did Lita Ford’s Dangerous Curves. That album doesn’t exactly hold a Bob Rock production either. Still, compared to Nevison, the guy is Phil Spector.

    Junkyard were ok, I guess. That dude Muscat of Faster Pussycat, I think his brother played in Junkyard.

    I look forward to the Steve Earle reviews. I love that guy. He’s hardcore and the real deal.

    Any Y&T reviews coming up, Mike? I love Y&T. Right after Kiss, Sweet and Thin Lizzy, they are my all time favourite band. And while I’m on the subject, I have a live review of Y&T’s gig in Stockholm that will be up sometime tomorrow.

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    1. Good question Jon. The answer is, I haven’t bought my first Y&T album yet! True. I know enough of their songs but for whatever reason I haven’t bought any albums yet — something I intend to fix.

      The Steve Earle tomorrow isn’t a review, but it’s really cool and I hope you enjoy. I’m a big fan.

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      1. Y&T have some classics…ie Black Tiger/Meanstreak even In Rock We Trust than for me the wheels fell off. Down For The Count is a pretty bad stab at what was going on at the time.
        They followed trends and they failed. I skipped that one but the one after (Contagious )was better but not by much…..
        I think they got sucked in by record company politics….having said that they are good players..

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        1. Contagious, I loved that song. And I didn’t mind the music video for Summertime Girls either :)

          Y&T could have been bigger, don’t know what some of that stuff didn’t just take off in the 80’s.

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        2. Thing is, Down For The Count isn’t really that different to what they usually did. Sure there was a chorus or two that aimed for air play but as a whole the album is as much a classic Y&T record as In Rock We Trust, at least song wise. What fails is the lame production. But the songs, the foundation and style is more or less the same.
          I really love Contagious, but I believe that album differs more in sound and brand than DFTC. They were on Geffen by then and it was them who forced the band to fire the bum looking but killer drummer Leonard Haze and hire the less groovy, but cuter Jimmy DeGrasso. Also, the sound on that album is more L.A. rock, a style they had never played before. And that’s not just the production (same moron producer, Kevin Beamish, as on DFTC), but the songs themselves were written in a more mainstream and not so original way. It was the first time Y&T didn’t sound like Y&T. It was the same on the follow up, Ten. But still, they did that kind of music better than most so I’m not really complaining. :-D

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  5. Yeah! a wonderful record, one of my favorites from the 80s. still puts me in a good mood. at least seven songs out of ten are masterpieces of glam & rockandroll genre. in those days bobby was my idol. the cover is pretty awful, the sound of CC as well. but I love this album, reminds me of my teenage years, fantastic years, an unforgettable period!. I agree with you mike, “swallow this live” was bad. “native tongue” for god’s sake was a good step, maybe it came out at the wrong time!

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    1. I think Native Tongue definitely came out at the wrong time Gene. If it was 1990 it would have been a #1 album with 3 hit singles.

      Thanks for the comment! Good to know there is some Poison love out there!

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