In 1991, hard rock was breathing its last gasp (for the moment, anyway) and Swallow This Live is a perfect example of how this happened. Many rock fans were fed up with substandard releases, and this is one of the biggest turds of that era.
Swallow This Live was a double — yes, you heard that right — a double-live CD from a band who only had three studio albums! And Poison are not Kiss. On the cassette version, two tracks were missing: “Life Goes On”, and “No More Looking Back”. I think Poison instead should have excluded Rikki Rockett’s painful, overly long drum solo. They definitely should have cut C.C. (billed here as “Cecil”) DeVille’s horrendous guitar flatulance.
Poison imploded before this was even released. The fact that C.C. DeVille was only seen in the video for “So Tell Me Why” for a matter of seconds spoke volumes. (Opening lyric of the song: “I’d like to put to bed the rumours”.) This was after the train wreck that was the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards. There’s C.C. with bright pink hair, not able to play an entire song…it was no surprise when he was fired, although the band waited until after the release of Swallow This Live to tell anybody.
C.C. also hated the bluesy, more serious direction that Poison’s music was taking, which was fully realized on their next studio album, Native Tongue. With guitar maestro Richie Kotzen as the catalyst, Poison finally delivered a mature piece of work which of course did not sell. But that’s another story.
Here, we have a very rough sounding live disc, overly long, and embarassingly bad. Every song is superior in its studio version, making this album completely redundant. Ironically, coming from the band who once said, “Fans comes to see us play, not PRESS play,” you can hear lots of backing vocal tapes, especially on “I Want Action”. You do get basically every hit that Poison ever had, which was an impressive amount. However, even that couldn’t pad out a full 2 CD release, so they also played some really terrible songs live. “Look What the Cat Dragged In” is awful, but even worse is the blues massacre, “Poor Boy Blues”. Bret’s ad-lib is a cheesy mess.
The only reason to buy this CD is the new studio material Two of the new songs are among the best that Poison had recorded up to this time. “So Tell Me Why” is a firecracker of a song, a brilliant rocker held aloft by fantastic guitar melodies. “Only Time Will Tell” is one of their best ballads, along the lines of “Life Goes On” or “I Won’t Forget You” crossed with some Native Tongue maturity.
If you can get Swallow This Live at a decent price (I used to sell it around $8.99), pick it up for the new studio stuff, but don’t blame me if C.C.’s live guitar solo makes your ears bleed! (Note: I know this has been reissued as a single disc with various track omissions, so buy according to your needs.)
Don’t forget that Poison’s second album was originally to be called Swallow This!