Poison’d! Label: Capitol
When we discovered that Poison was releasing an album that consisted of cover versions both old and new, literally half the staff wanted to review it. Those writers were divided into two groups: those who were genuinely excited about the prospects of a Poison covers album, and those who were convinced this would be a glorious train wreck. In the end, we took two from each camp and set them loose to debate the album’s, um, merits. These are their opinions.
David: I'm still going through this album for the first time, but I will concede one point: the opening cover of “Little Willy” wasn't half-bad. Completely unnecessary, but not bad. They were saving the all-bad, it appears, for the version of “What I Like About You.” I mean really, “What I Like About You”? Why on earth did they feel the need to cover the Romantics? And did they really include their (awful) 20-year-old cover of “Rock and Roll All Nite”? Yikes.
Kurt: It's all unnecessary. But, as much as I hate all-cover affairs, I actually found that I didn't mind this one as much as others. And, I think a few of these tunes are great when they pop up in shuffle mode on the iPod. I wouldn't go seeking any of this out per se, but as a surprise, it's, erm, surprisingly not awful.
Will: I give them full credit for the two semi-obscurities that they chose to cover: Alice Cooper’s “I Never Cry” and Tom Petty’s “I Need to Know,” and both of them sound surprisingly good. But, then, the new tracks were all produced by Don Was, so the real surprise isn’t their sonic quality but, rather, that Don Was has resorted to producing Poison. I think it’s laziness, pure and simple, to only bother to record half an album’s worth of new covers and then fill out the rest with stuff that their fans already have.
Red: I am as big a Poison fan as there probably is left in the self-respecting 30-somethings rank, but this album is ill-advised, lazy, cheap, and a very unflattering way to stumble off into the sunset.
Will: It’s obnoxious that the cover I would’ve been most interested in hearing – “SexyBack,” by Justin Timberlake – was relegated to being a Wal-Mart Exclusive track.
Kurt: No, trust me, you really don't want to hear it!
Will: Oh, don't get me wrong, it sounds like the conceptual disaster waiting to happen that I'm 100% certain that it is. But that sort of thing interests me!
Kurt: It's as bad as you would imagine... (Kurt sends a copy of “SexyBack” to David and Will. Red Rocker, having heard enough Poison covers, respectfully declines, though curiosity ultimately gets the better of him.)
Will: And, you know, I'm listening to it, and I don't hate it. And I think it's mostly because, hey, at least they tried something different. For as much as David, Kurt, and the others on our weekly Music Round Table discussion had a (totally warranted) laugh over Trixter's covers album (Note: David, Will and Kurt are regular contributors to Chartburn!, a weekly feature on the Jefito blog), at least it was full of songs that you'd never expect a hair metal band to tackle.
Kurt: I will credit them for that, but not much else.
David: I got about 30 seconds into Justin's version of “SexyBack” before I shut it off. But Poison's version...wow. This amuses me. In a good way.
Red: The problem with covers projects is that when they mix it up and change the songs for variety, we scream, “It doesn't sound like the original!” Yet if they do a dead-ringer version, then we say it's boring and they should've changed it up a bit. The artist must know what they're getting into with such an endeavor...it's a no-win proposition. In the end, they please nobody.
I look for songs in a collection like this that actually sound as if it could be a Poison original. “What I Like About You” and “Just What I Needed” are disgraceful versions here because they will NEVER come off as Poison originals. Hell, I bet these guys used to trash the Cars and the Romantics back in the day! Their cover of Marshall Tucker's “Can't You See,” however, works for me. This is a version (and a song) that they could've written themselves.
David: Two spins into that “SexyBack” cover, and it's easily my favorite track on this disc. Curse them for making that the Wal-Mart exclusive. Like Wal-Mart's done an ounce of good for anyone.
Will: I neglected to second David’s comments about covering “What I Like About You.” I would be hard pressed to come up with another ‘80s song that needs to be covered less.
Kurt: Has it been covered all that much? Overplayed for sure, but over-covered? I only know of the Michael Morales AOR disaster.
Will: There was a cover that was done for the Amanda Bynes sitcom of the same name, at least. I don’t know, maybe it hasn’t been covered that often. But with this version, I think we can all agree that, at the very least, it has now been covered at least one too many times.
Kurt: Right. I remember that, unfortunately, though “Just What I Needed” is becoming quickly over-covered. Already in the past year or so, Sister Hazel and Eric Martin have both covered it. I'm sure there are others.
David: Sister Hazel covered the Cars? They should stick to what they do best: ripping off Blues Traveler.
Kurt: Hey now! I love Sister Hazel. Only that one tune reeks of the fat gun nut and his band. But yeah, that was an ill-advised cover version, to say the least.
David: “Just What I Needed” is playing again. For a second, I thought they were about to launch into “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”
Red: I will say the Bowie cover (“Suffragette City”) is decent. Pretty simple, straight-forward, nothing extra trying to over-do the song. And it sounds like Poison. “Squeeze Box,” on the other hand? God awful.
David: As long as we're talking about songs that never need to be covered again... "Squeeze Box"? Ye gods.
Will: I admit, I like “Can't You See,” too. I think they even do a semi-passable job on “Dead Flowers”...or, at least, it's not so bad that Charlie Watts won't be putting it on his annual “Crap Stones Covers” disc that he sends out every Christmas. (That's a joke. Please do not bombard Mr. Watts with E-mails requesting a copy.)
David: There's one thing that I can't stop thinking about as I listen to this: these guys just aren't very good musicians. Maybe that's why they had all the choreographed jumping and twirling in their live shows.
Red: Let's agree on something here, like it or not, this album is bad. The only reason they did it was to have something “new” to tour on this summer, where they make their real (only) money. These guys have been dying a slow death for nearly 20 years now. They don't have a creative drop of blood left in any of their four booze-soaked bodies, but they can't...give up...the road!
Will: Yep. And in 20 more years, we’ll be seeing the “Talk Dirty to Me (But You’ll Have to Speak Up)” Tour.
Red: C.C. didn't come crawling back into the mix a few years ago because he and Bret rekindled a cherished old friendship. They have been clubbed over the head with financial reality! They're too young and too broke to retire and live in Cabo for the next 20 years (you know 60 is the maximum life expectancy for washed-up ‘80s dope head rockers), so they're doing the only career/profession they've ever known: touring on the first two albums! C'mon, it ain't like you're gonna see Bobby Doll working at Shoe-Bilee in the mall for $8/hour and a 50% employee discount......
Will: I think VH-1 actually has them on their payroll, don’t they? I mean, Bret Michaels has his own reality show (“Rock of Love with Bret Michaels,” a.k.a. the same thing as “Flava of Love,” except with a far more craptastic leading man), C.C. was on “The Surreal Life” and was supposed to be getting HIS own show…it’s crazy, really.
Red: Guys, guys! I just discovered why the need to do a covers album in this final stage of their dying career! Turns out they weren't really any good at writing their own songs in the first place! Please consider Exhibit A:
But you know you got to stick to your guns
When it all comes down
‘Cause sometimes you can't choose
It's like heads they win
Tails you're gonna lose
Will: Red, why must you bash these fine, upstanding gentlemen? They’re only rolling the dice of their lives. Let them fall where they may…even if it’s right into a big pile of shit.
Red: Hey, I don't hate the Poison. In fact, if they played my town on a night I wasn't five states away on a family vacation, who knows? I might've been right there supporting their habit. Of course, I'd take full advantage of these ridiculous covers to potty break/beer line. (In fairness and full disclosure: I've paid to see these guys TWICE in the past seven years! The most recent time, I ended up on stage with 30 other daring fans during their “Rock and Roll All Nite” encore, and even got to sing into Bobby's mic while C.C. nearly knocked me over with one of his drunken guitar swirls)
David: I understand Poison's place in the grand scheme of things. But let's make one thing clear: they were never good. Fun, definitely, but not good. This actually works to their favor on this album, since no one is expecting much from them to begin with. And they still blew it.
So let's talk star rating. I'm sitting somewhere around one and a half and two.
Will: I’d vote for two stars. It’s not full-on awful; it’s just not a must-own.
Red: One and a half stars tops! One star for “Can't You See,” and a half-star for at least dropping a “new” CD before the summer tour.
David: One and a half stars it is. I’d worry about what Bret would say if he saw this, but since he is probably eyeball-deep in ass at the moment, I doubt he cares much.