Review Summary: Poison move their sound from Los Angeles to the Louisiana bayou, with satisfying results.2 of 2 thought this review was well written
As far as music and fashion were concerned, the 80’s were a gaudy time. You could get away with anything, as long as you infused it with flash and an attitude. This explains the era’s prevailing trends of big poodle haircuts, mullets, open shirts, and lots of neon spandex, as well as the garish album covers bands like Cinderella, Poison or Ratt proudly put out.
However, as happens with everything, the 80’s eventually turned into the 90’s, and for the top bands of the previous decade, this represented a whole lot of trouble. The change in decades had been more than a simple upgrading of the numbers; the whole mentality seemed to shift right along with the calendar, and even before the rise and fall of grunge, hard and glam rock bands were finding their space increasingly diminished. Thus, many of them decided to keep with the times and release “maturity” albums, severely cutting back on the makeup and hairspray and replacing the swagger of before for reflexive, even melancholy lyrics and blues-influenced licks. Cinderella did it first, as early as 1987, with their Long Cold Winter
, and bands such as Firehouse and Poison quickly followed suit.
For Bret Michaels and Co., the first step of this maturation was 1990’s Flesh And Blood
, an album which exhibited all the trappings described in the previous paragraph. In simple terms, it’s as though Poison had moved their sound from Los Angeles to the Louisiana bayou, and the result, while far from perfect, is satisfying. The blues influences, while seeming a little forced at times, actually seep well into the band’s hard rock sound, and contribute to the crafting of overall stronger songs, even if the hooks are not as giant as before.
At first, it may seem like the band is overdoing it; two intros within the first four tracks is the kind of thing only post-1988 Axl Rose would attempt. However, the songs in amidst these intros are actually fairly strong, introducing the band’s new sound and preparing us for what amounts to a very pleasant ride. Over the course of the following ten songs, one can get a bit of everything, from apparent leftovers from the previous album to genuinely heartfelt soul ballads. And fortunately, most of it is of a pretty strong caliber.
In fact, whereas on previous albums the standouts tended to cluster together, leaving a whole lot of padding in between, here they are pleasantly spread out over the course of the album, with only the final stretch faltering in terms of interest. However, for the first ten tracks or so, one is seldom left without something to boost their interest. Likewise, the musicianship is not as flashy as before, but never drops below an acceptable level. C. C. DeVille is again given the spotlight, and bassist Bobby Dall finds his role in the band bolstered once again, with many of the more atmospheric, mood-setting parts requiring interesting bass fills. Drummer Rikki Rockett ends up getting the short shrift this time around, with Bruce Fairbairn and Mike Fraser’s production not heightening his sound the way previous albums did. As for Bret Michaels, he has almost entirely abandoned his tales about girls, instead choosing to focus on the kind of lyrics Tom Keifer might approve of. The result is a pleasant feeling of maturity which leaves the listener convinced that these boys have indeed grown.
Which is not to say Poison have entirely left their past behind. Unskinny Bop
reverts back to every previous cliché the band exploited and, despite being perhaps the best composition of the band’s career, feels like a leftover from Open Up And Say…Aah!
hastily tacked onto this one to serve as a hit single. It is also the only successful instance of old-style songwriting on this album – every other time the band tries to apply their old-school sound, they come up with nothing but filler (Hell Or High Water
, the pitifully basic Ball And Chain
). Fortunately, there are the more mature, more labored songs to entertain us, and here highlights include both power ballads and the marvelously clichéd Ride The Wind
, complete with subtle keyboards.
Unfortunately, the group prove unable to pull off their ambitious goal, and the songs eventually begin to falter. After the declaredly complex and layered Something To Believe In
, the album takes a marked dip in interest, and no other song manages to capture the listener’s attention. Here and there there are parts
of good songs, like the snaking guitar on Ball And Chain
or the chorus to Life Loves A Tragedy
; but overall, the ending stretch of the album is nothing but a heap of filler which ends up dragging the whole thing down.
Still, Flesh And Blood
is a relatively good example of a “maturation” album from the 80’s hard rock scene, and certainly better than what would come after. If you like Poison, or that particular mix of hard rock riffs with bluesy harmonica licks and guitar-picking, give this one a try and store it next to your Heartbreak Station
and Use Your Illusion
. Just don’t think this is the best Poison can do, because that, my friend, is now in the past.
Life Goes On
Ride The Wind
Something To Believe In