Talk about defying expectations. As a general rule, covers albums suck. By extension of that, you would certainly predict that a cover album by Poison would absolutely suck. After all, the band Poison haven’t made a decent studio album in well over 20 years. 2002’s Hollyweird was junk. Maybe it’s the presence of legendary producer Don Was, but Poison somehow managed to make a good cover album! I’m almost worried about losing credibility by saying this. I did indeed get Poison’d by it.
I think Poison are at their best when playing upbeat but hard pop rock numbers. “Little Willy” by the Sweet is a great example of that kind of song, and it’s right up Bret’s alley. It’s obvious that he doesn’t have the voice he once had (which wasn’t much to start with) but when Bret’s at home with a particular style it always works better. “Little Willy” is hella fun.
Here’s my Bowie confession — this guy here is not a fan. Maybe it’s over-exposure. I do like the hits, and of those “Suffragette City” is one I enjoy. Once again, Poison are at home, putting their slant on Bowie and somehow making it work. I don’t even mind C.C.’s over the top guitar slop — silly but that’s his style. I’m sure Bowie diehards will absolutely hate this.
The classic Alice Cooper ballad “I Never Cry” is a great song, and Poison throw a little twang on it while keeping it pretty true to the original. Dick Wagner had a knack for writing incredible songs, and “I Never Cry” is one of the best he’s ever written. As for Bret, he’ll never be Alice Cooper but he’s not trying to be. Too bad C.C. can’t seem to hit the notes he’s searching for on the solo! If Poison had done this in 1988, they absolutely would have had a hit with it.
You wouldn’t expect a band like Poison to have too many Tom Petty records in their collection, but they do a great job glamming up “I Need to Know”. They nailed it by doing it in their style, and as long as you’re not too attached to Tom Petty’s original then you’ll dig it. On the other hand, I can picture Bret having a whole bunch of albums by the Marshall Tucker Band. “Can’t You Say” has that laid back, southern gospel rock vibe that Bret has been trying to copy for 25 years. Unsurprisingly, “Can’t You See” is better than most of Bret’s originals in the same style. Guitar solo aside it’s actually pretty great!
One song I really don’t care for anymore is “What I Like About You” by the Romantics. Hearing a decent cover though ain’t so bad. Surprisingly, once again, Poison do a great version. C.C.’s soloing doesn’t fit the track, but hey, that’s C.C. for you. Bret’s enthusiasm carries the track, which is in Poison rock mode. Then they slip by covering the Rolling Stones. “Dead Flowers” isn’t a song I would be brave enough to do, and Poison should have erred on the side of caution and not tried it. This is filler, but I love the Cars, so I had my hopes up for the next track “Just What I Needed”. No need to fear — this one is in that hard pop rock mode that Poison do very well. It reminds me of their own song “So Tell Me Why” in tone. Count this one as an album highlight and personal favourite.
Some previously released tracks fill out the set. A Poison covers album should include their first cover, “Rock ‘N Roll All Nite”. This Kiss cover (produced by Rick fucking Rubin, no shit) was first released on the Less Than Zero soundtrack in 1987. You can also hear it in the background at the start of their music video for “Nothin’ But a Good Time”. I do not like it, but it’s nice to include. The Who’s “Squeeze Box” was originally from the aforementioned Hollyweird CD, and it’s sadly (but not surprisingly) a stinker. Jim Croce’s “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” is a demo from 1987, previously released on the remastered Look What the Cat Dragged On. Not bad when you want a taste of that old-style Poison.
I think it’s kind of odd to put “Your Mama Don’t Dance” on this CD, since pretty much every Poison fan in the world already has that song. But here’s the overrated Loggins and Messina cover for you one more time! “We’re An American Band” was also previously released, on the Poison best of 20 Years of Rock. (“Rock ‘N Roll All Nite” and “Your Mama Don’t Dance” are also on that CD.) It’s a good tune on which to end the CD.
Except it’s not! Walmart’s version of the CD had a bonus track, and it’s a baffling one. I’m very proud to say that I have never heard the song “Sexy Back” by Justin Timberlake. Having said that, I’m sure it’s better than Poison’s industrial-flavoured version. A colonoscopy is better than this. So essentially what Walmart have done is ended the album with a colonoscopy for you. You’re welcome!
Missing: “Cover of the Rolling Stone” from the Crack A Smile album. Too bad, as that would have been better than getting “Your Mama Don’t Dance” yet again. Also missing (but not missed): “God Save the Queen” from the remastered Flesh & Blood.
Overall though? Good CD.