REVIEW: Poison – Flesh & Blood (remastered)

FLESH AND BLOOD_0001POISON – Flesh & Blood (1990, 2006 Capitol remaster)

Ah, Poison!  The band everybody loved to hate!  In spite of that, Poison made a couple pretty good albums.  Flesh & Blood is the best of the original C.C. DeVille era, and probably their most successful.  It spawned a huge headlining tour that also produced a double live album.  Flesh & Blood was also their “get serious” album, although in that regard it was only a partial success.  The idea was to write and record more mature music and lyrics, something that C.C. was opposed to.  He saw nothing wrong with the glam-slam-king-of-noize direction that they started on, and maintained that Look What the Cat Dragged In was their high point.  He saw the introduction of blues influences as diluting the Poison sound he liked.

That’s all bullshingles.  Flesh & Blood is the best thing C.C. has done, and is second only to Poison’s Native Tongue album with Richie Kotzen.  C.C. was still far from a great guitar player, but on most tracks it’s his most accessible and least annoying playing.  (On others…well, we’ll get there.)  Take the opening track “Valley of Lost Souls” for example (preceded by a jokey answering machine tape called “Strange Days of Uncle Jack”). “Valley” rocks heavy with integrity and an edge that Poison hadn’t displayed before, and C.C. throws in a lot of tasty, toffee-like strings.  His soloing will never be considered virtuoso, and his tone has always been thin and annoying, but never has C.C. generated such guitar thrills as he does on this album.  (Most of it.)

FLESH AND BLOOD_0002

I’m sure that producer Bruce Fairbairn steered this ship with a firm hand.  His stamp is all over Flesh & Blood:  from weird segues to rich backing vocals, this is a Fairbairn production through and through.  Fairbairn was known to be a taskmaster, and I’m sure he worked C.C. (and the whole band) to the bone.  The title track, “(Flesh & Blood) Sacrifice” has his patented, perfectly arranged vocal stamp.  The vocals are layered and almost Leppard-lush.  When we’re talking about a singer like Bret Michaels, you know it’s not going to be Pavarotti.  The credits don’t list additional singers, but there are some names in the tail end of the thank-yous:  Paul Laine, for example.  Laine was a Vancouver local, where Poison recorded the album.  Why is he being thanked?  I think it’s safe to assume that Laine and others helped out in the backing vocals department.  Anyway, “Sacrifice” is the second excellent song in a row.  Say what you like about Poison as performers, they wrote some fucking good songs too.

“Swampjuice (Soul-O)” is some surprisingly good C.C. acoustic blues.  Actually not bad at all — but just instrumental filler.  As is the next song, a massive huge hit single: “Unskinny Bop”.  The song is awful, the lyrics worse, and C.C.’s solo is like razor blades.  I mean that in a bad way.  Total shit.  Garbage.  “Let It Play” verges on filler, but it’s good enough.  It’s simple but memorably melodic.  Better is the timeless sounding single “Life Goes On”.  I liked this bombastic electric ballad then, and I still do now.  Michaels is a limited singer, but this is a damn good ballad.  I give Fairbairn credit for the backing vocal hooks.  The first side of the album closes on the forgettable but adequate hard rocker “Come Hell or High Water”.

Kicking off side two with the single “Ride the Wind” is a no-brainer.  This song sounds like its title.  It sounds like a car song, a rock and roll ode to the thrills of the road.   I’d rank this easily among Poison’s best hits — top five.  “Don’t Give Up an Inch” is filler, but “Something to Believe In” was another huge single.  Hearing it again today, I find it hard to dislike.  I wanted to, but I can’t.  I think Bret wrote some pretty good lyrics here.  The part about his best friend who died “in some Palm Springs hotel room” is about his bodyguard, a guy he was really close to.  It’s pretty heartfelt, and the piano ballad still stands up as well as any by Aerosmith from the same era.

Some boring C.C. pedal steel guitar leads into “Ball and Chain”.  It’s a pretty good rock boogie, but the second-to-last song “Life Loves a Tragedy” is the best track on the album.  Even better than “Ride the Wind” but similar in vibe, this song shoulda woulda coulda been a hit.  The soft intro fools you into thinking it’s a ballad.  It’s not.  It’s a ballsy rocker with another Bret Michaels lyric that you’d call more mature.  “My vices have turned to habits, and my habits have turned to stone,” sings Bret.  “I gotta stop living at a pace that kills, ‘fore I wake up dead.”  Not poetry really, but a hell of a lot better than “Unskinny bop bop, blow me away.”  The chorus kills, as does the whole song.  Another top five Poison track in my book.

The album ends on a pile of shit called “Poor Boy Blues”.  This may well be the worst Poison song of all time.   Of all time!  C.C.’s playing is so pointless, so brutal, so annoying, that I don’t know why somebody didn’t pull the guitar out of his hands.  Wah-wah alone does not a solo make!   This song stinks so bad.  Dammit, Poison, you’re not a blues band fer fuck’s sakes!  This song should have been axed, there is no reason for it to still exist.


POISONThe 2006 remastered edition has two bonus tracks.  The first is a disappointing acoustic version of “Something to Believe In” from the “Life Goes On” single B-side.  It has new lyrics (erasing one of the things I liked about the song) and absolutely pointless guitar playing by C.C.  His solos and melodies go nowhere.  It’s just a guy playing all kinds of notes on an acoustic guitar that don’t have any direction:  There’s no tension, no release, no hooks.  This version sucks.  Lastly there’s “God Save the Queen”, an instrumental demo version.  This too sucks.  More directionless soloing from C.C. over the Pistols riff.  That’s all it is.

Interestingly the remastered edition has two changes that I’ve noticed.  The cover is the “censored” version without the extra blood on the arm.  This is a US import, and I think in Canada we had the other cover originally.  Second, the reprise of “Strange Days of Uncle Jack” that closes the album is missing.  Normally this would fade in from the end of “Poor Boy Blues”.  Now, “Poor Boy Blues” ends with a few seconds of silence where that reprise used to be.  I don’t know why they did that.  I’m assuming somebody mistakenly used a version of the song from a compilation album.

I know I’ve been hard on Poison in this review, but this is actually a great album.  Take away “Unskinny Bop” and “Poor Boy Blues” and I would call it pretty damn solid.  As for the remaster?  Disappointing.

4/5 stars (for the album)

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40 comments

      1. I reckon ‘Cat Dragged In.
        The title-track is my favourite Poison song. I like ’em both though. I definitely prefer them when there’s a bit of chugging and a bit of heaviness though. I think that’s what I’m missing on the 3rd one… they swapped chugging and distortion for key washes and studio tricks. Its more me wanting something else than it not being good.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I respect that dude. Respect!

          You’re pretty much on the same boat as C.C. then. Cat Dragged was his favourite Poison album too. Pretty much for the same reason. He wrote their big hit on his own — Talk Dirty to Me.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. I absolutely had to post this comment here, from Facebook, from Gordon:

    “Lol…Mike…you missed your calling by a mile…You should have been a BUTCHER!! Lol…you sure like to cut up those Poison releases. I like everything Poison has ever done (of course you knew I would say that…lol) Poison and David Lee Roth was my first big concert…Unskinny Bop…it’s definitely not going to cure cancer…lol…but take it for what it is…a pure sex, fun song…( very popular to write about in the 80 s lol). The video was cool with Bret dancing with those hologram laser girls and that strut thing he does…and I do happen to own Bret’s solo release…Songs of Life…very good release…”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. So Deke do you agree or disagree with my buddy Gordon that I butchered this album? Hahah! No, C.C. almost butchered it though! Fairbairn made Poison sound like world class rock on this. The classic Aerosmith tricks, and it really did work. The only better album is the one with Kotzen, and that’s because KOTZEN!

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      1. Actually u do kind of butcher em a bit! Fair enough though u still give it a strong rating but u call out some stuff as fillers,boring Cc pedal steel,and the bonus tracks suck!
        Haha..
        Having said that I think Flesh And Blood after reading your review is a album you Love To Hate,Hate To Love ….
        Great read and comments though….

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah I do butcher them :) It’s love/hate you know? Like you know what they’re capable of and they’re frustratingly close to it on this album. I don’t blame Poison for the quality of the bonus tracks though. They were obviously not up to album quality in the first place so they weren’t on it. The album itself was fairly chock full for the era so I felt Poison gave us good value for the dollar on Flesh & Blood.

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        2. Yeah fair enough. It’s like when I went and seen em and they just sucked. I mean open with Valley Of Lost Souls for fucks sake not Look What The Cat Dragged in for the third tour in a row! And trying to play that Poor Boys Blue tune live ..piss break…… Course my review butchered them live…hahaha

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I really liked Poison, I wouldnt always admit it in certain company, but I did. I liked Unskinny Bop, but otherwise I agree with every word you’ve written here – fond memories of dancing to it. Never understood why they didn’t release ‘Valley ..’ That was a great track.

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  3. On my “Bought but still haven’t listened to pile”. I remember thinking it sounded good when it came out and I heard stuff on the radio or whatever. Poison never really did it for me all that much though. Not sure how a 4/5 could be considered a butchering?!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I actually do like Poison, although they are more like a joke band to me. Possibly a few steps above Steel Panther. I think you give C.C. a bit too much credit. He is an awful guitar player. On almost any night, in most cities around the world, you could watch a better guitar player on stage at the local bar. I saw them live a few years ago. My family and I went on a trip to Hershey Park. My wife and daughter went on the rides, and I stayed and watched the free concert by Poison. I went to the concert with an open mind. I knew it would be enjoyable but the musicianship and singing would be sub-par. Brett was on the stage post plastic face, and I was surprised it did not crack. He did as good as job as he could. He said he was close to his hometown, so I bet he brought it up a notch. The drumming and bass were decent. C.C. was awful though. I wished the lyrics would have been changed to “C.C. put down that guitar, and don’t talk to me.”

    I read somewhere that Slash was in the final 3 to be chosen as the Poison guitarist, but lost the job to C.C. Deville. What the hell? There must have been some powerful drugs going around L.A. in the 80’s. I suspect it had something with Slash not being comfortable with the make up and frilly clothing. What a waste of talent Slash would have been in Poison.

    I would love to be a fly on the wall if someone asked C.C. to perform this awesome, but lesser known song at a Poison concert…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxqQ3bQCHes

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is true Brian. I believe it was between C.C. and Slash at the very end and they went with C.C….or Slash dropped out…I’m not sure exactly. But it’s true that Slash was almost in Poison.

      I remember when C.C. was fired. Bret said in an interview, “I wish we hired Slash when we had the chance!”

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        1. I was watching that night and my jaw dropped to the ground. They didn’t play the song they were supposed to play because of C.C. And later in the show, Jon Bon Jovi says from the stage, “Hey, Cece…nice hair.”

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  5. I had this tape in high school and thought it was pretty solid. I bought a CD of it a while back but it had a skip in it so I didn’t keep it. But it was fun going back through some of it again! Sorry the remaster isn’t cool, that sucks.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I always liked Poison. In the right mood, they are the ultimate party band. They always had really good songs, but too mediocre musicians to do those songs justice. Bret Michaels was never a great singer, but the guy is a killer frontman and a really good songwriter.
    What strikes me most about this band is that is doesn’t matter which producer the use, they still couldn’t get their records to sound good. I mean, they did hire Bruce Fairbairn and Tom Werman, so how come they always sounded like a second rate garage band? Ok, Ric Browde was useless, but then again, no producder in the world could have made Cat a great album.
    I totally agree with Mike about this album on most parts, it’s easily their greatest effort with the original line-up, but the sound is so thin.
    I am the first to use the chainsaw on CC DeVille, the most useless guitar player in rock – ever, but what about Rikki Rockett and Bobby Dall? They’re just as bad. I saw Poison on their 1990 Monsters Of Rock tour in Europe with Whitensake (Vai-tesnake?) and The Quireboys and it was the closest thing to a playback performance I have ever seen. They did a great gig, but both Dall and DeVille were so out of it… it was one of those moments when you can accept the use of backingtracks. Lots and lots of backingtracks…
    Still, I can put all that aside and I still enjoy this album and Open up And Say Aah on occasions, but none of those albums could hold a candle to Native Tongue. Which actually was more or less a Richie Kotzen solo record with Bret Michaels on vocals.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What about Richie Zito? I thought they made a pretty sharp sounding album with him. And I don’t think the production here is bad, just dated to 1990.

      Poison with Whitesnake & Vai. What a mismatch…what a joke!

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      1. If you compare the other Fairbairn productions (Foreigner, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Black N Blue), they sound really big and fat and most of them holds up today. This doesn’t, for some reason and my guess is with that band, it’s just impossible to get a great sound, no matter how hard you try. Just like with Twisted Sister.
        Richie Zito’s production on Native Tongue is awesome, but on that album they had Richie Kotzen. And I can bet next month’s pay check on that Rockett and Dall doesn’t play a note on that record. Just listen to the rhythm section, it’s way way way too good. There’s no chance in hell that Dall and Rockett can play that good. So without the crap musicians, hello good sound.

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        1. Yeah, I love Twisted Sister. Killer songs and Dee Snider is one hell of a frontman and song writer, but the production on all their albums is below all critisism. And they used producers like Tom Werman, Dieter Dirks and Beau Hill…

          Liked by 1 person

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