It was bands like Warrant, and albums like Cherry Pie, that made the 1991 grunge onslaught inevitable.
If Motley Crue were the poor man’s Kiss, and Poison were the poorer man’s Motley Crue, then Warrant are the pauper’s Poison. Heck, Poison’s C.C. Deville even shows up on guest lead guitar on Cherry Pie‘s title track. Think about that a moment. How bad do a band have to be to warrant (no pun intended) a C.C. Deville guest guitar solo? Guitarists Joey Allen and Erik Turner even confessed to having guitar tutors in the studio helping them come up with their own lead work.
Cherry Pie was an improvement in some regards over the prior album Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich. The second single, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, remains a high point for this band. Swampy bluesy guitars and a kick ass melody? Who cares if that’s not Warrant playing on the acoustic intro (it’s singer Jani Lane’s brother Eric Oswald), and so what if that’s not Warrant on the banjo (that’s producer Beau Hill)? “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is one of those rare Warrant songs that you just have to get. Instead of singing about girls, Jani chose to write a story about a murder and a coverup. It’s far more entertaining than “She’s my cherry pie, put a smile on your face ten miles wide.”
Speaking of “Cherry Pie”, as embarrassing as it is, did you notice that’s not Jani Lane on the opening scream? It’s an uncredited Dee Snider, sampled from Twisted Sister’s song “I Want This Night (To Last Forever)”. Guess who produced both albums? Beau Hill. Rather, he overproduced the hell out of both albums. Rather misleading.
Warrant’s biggest hit was a ballad, and so Cherry Pie has more. “I Saw Red” was glossy and enhanced with piano, but the acoustic version that was later released as a B-side was better. The second ballad, “Blind Faith” had more heft, though it is little more than a rewrite of “Heaven”. Another acoustic track called “Thin Disguise” was even better than either of these songs, but was relegated to a B-side. Too bad. This album could have used it.
Warrant are better when just rocking out. There are a couple indispensable Warrant rockers on Cherry Pie. “Mr. Rainmaker” is remarkably powerful with dark clouds. It’s in the same mold as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, with a chorus that is still memorable today. “Bed of Roses” and “Song and Dance Man” are strong also-rans. There are other notable songs (“Sure Feels Good to Me” set speed records for this band) but on the whole they are a harsh blend of sound-alikes.
Buyers should be aware there are two versions out there of Cherry Pie, “clean” and “dirty”. The “clean” version is missing the track “Ode to Tipper Gore”, and has a naughty word beeped at the start of the Blackfoot cover “Train Train” (1979). How unexpected it was to hear that beep, and how ripped off did we feel since it was not advertised as a censored version? A beep in a rock song is a rare thing indeed. If you get the uncensored version, you’ll hear the “All a-fuckin’ board!” intro correctly, which is important since “Train Train” absolutely smokes. “All a-BEEPin’ board!” just didn’t cut it. Covering “Train Train” was one of the best decisions Warrant made on this album. Warrant transforms it from a hard southern rocker to a plain old hard rocker, but the transformation works and the groove is the only solid one on Cherry Pie.
As for “Ode to Tipper Gore”, it is just a joke track made up of naughty outtakes from Warrant concerts spliced together into one stream of “fuck”. (Tipper Gore was behind the PMRC, the scourge of 1980s censorship.) It is included on the 2004 Sony remastered edition, along with two bonus tracks. Strangely enough the two bonus tracks have nothing to do with this album. “Game of War” is the long-sought 1988 demo that garnered Warrant attention at the labels. It’s unpolished but you can hear how an A&R person looking for the next Poison would have signed this band. Finally there is a track called “The Power” from a 1992 Cuba Gooding Jr. movie called “Gladiator”. It is the only song on the CD not produced by Beau Hill. Erwin Musper gave the band a less cluttered sound, and the song has a corny stadium-ready stomp like “Rock and Roll, Part 2”.
Although you don’t need the remastered version if you just want to check out Cherry Pie, you do need to at least seek out the uncensored version with “Ode to Tipper Gore”. That way you won’t have to listen to the beep in “Train Train”, which is a song worth having.