In 1986, Poison released their debut album, Look What the Cat Dragged In. With their big hooks and even bigger hair, they immediately carved out a place for themselves as the top party band in hair metal. Over the following decades, they cemented their position with albums that may have left serious metal fans shaking their head in bewilderment, but which were never anything less than a blast. Here’s how we rank all the Poison albums from worst to best.
7. Native Tongue
By the early 1990s, Poison were desperate for some respect. Flesh and Blood had got them a little, but nowhere near as much as they wanted. So they did what all other big ’80s hair metal acts had either already done or were on the verge of doing: they went grunge. And not in a small way either. Out went the party bangers, the glam, and the hairdos, and in came poker faces and stripped back, bare-bones rock. it didn’t work. For a start, guitarist Richie Kotzen (who’d been bought in to replace the recently fired C.C Deville) is simply too good for the rest of the band to keep up with. After he got fired for doing the naughty with the fiancee of drummer Rikki Rockett, he claimed that “being in Poison helped me forget I was a musician.” Ultimately, his style and Poison’s simply didn’t mesh, resulting in an album that, save for a couple of half decent songs, lacks the attitude and tongue-in-cheek humor we want from the band. Released in February 1993, it made it to No. 16 on the Billboard 200.
6. Flesh & Blood
Poison’s third studio (and their last with guitarist C.C. Deville until 2002’s Hollyweird) saw the band drop the jokes and put on their serious faces for the day, There’s still a sprinkling of glitter and glam, but the 80’s excess had been trimmed to make way for a tougher, harder image. It was clearly a move to win over the critics – a move that worked in some quarters, but not in others. Commercially, it was a massive success, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and No.3 on the UK Albums Chart. Ultimately, it’s a very good album that deserves to be taken seriously. The problem is, Poison isn’t meant to make albums to be taken seriously – and that, essentially, is Flesh & Blood’s downfall.
Poison’s seventh and most recent album is Poison’d!, a 14 track compilation LP consisting of nine new tracks and five previously released covers of the band’s favorite rock classics. Some of the old songs were pulled from as far back as Look What the Cat Dragged In and Open Up and Say…Ahh!., but as a testament to the band’s consistency, it’s hard to tell them about from the newer material. Not all of the songs work (their cover of David Bowie’s Suffragette City and the Who’s Squeeze Box are best avoided, and as Rolling Stone says, no one needs to hear a hair-metal version of Jim Croce’s You Don’t Mess Around with Jim), but although the album is patchy, it’s still a ton of fun… not quite as much fun as it could have been, but still more than enough to keep the devoted happy.
4. Crack a Smile… and More!
Crack a Smile… and More! was the band’s first full album of new material to feature guitarist Blues Saraceno, who was hired as a replacement to Richie Kotzen and whose only appearance with the band until then had comprised of two new songs for the 1996 compilation album, Poison’s Greatest Hits: 1986–1996. Despite his newbie status, the rest of the band clearly had faith in his ability, with the result that his compositions make up the bulk of the album. The album itself is slightly ridiculous – which would be a criticism were we not talking about a band that’s always traded in the laughable. Poison have never been anything other than tragically unhip, but they relish it, even going so far as to name a song exactly that. And ultimately, that’s what makes people love them. Listen to tracks like the fore mentioned Tragically Unhip, Cover of the Rolling Stone, and Your Mama Don’t Dance with your serious hat on and you’ll have a miserable time. Listen to them in the spirit with which they’re intended, and you’ll come out of the experience none the wiser but possibly a whole lot happier.
3. Open Up and Say… Ahh!
Second albums are notoriously difficult, but Poison made it look a breeze with their sophomore outing, Open Up and Say… Ahh! Released in May 1983, it was a commercial sensation, producing four hit singles (Nothin’ but a Good Time, Fallen Angel, Your Mama Don’t Dance, and the No. 1 hit Every Rose Has Its Thorn) and making it to No. 2 on the Billboard 200. By the end of the year, it had sold over a million copies and been certified platinum by the RIAA. It’s since been certified 5x platinum in the US, 4x platinum in Canada, and 3x platinum in Australia. Critically, it was as divisive as most Poison albums are. It’s certainly not perfect, with just a little too much filler and not enough big hooks. But it’s still a fantastically fun album, solidifying Poison’s reputation as the top party band in metal and delivering hours of listening pleasure to fans.
By 2002, guitarist C.C. Deville had been forgiven his sins and was back on board for Poison’s sixth studio album, Hollyweird. His return added a more punk rock element to the heavy metal sound that the band had favored on their most recent records, returning them to the style of Open Up and Say Ahh. By Poison’s standards, it’s a hugely ambitious album, with a hefty sprinkling of weighty, downright serious songs sprinkled among the usual party anthems. The lean, hard-edged production complements the punkier direction of their sound perfectly. There’s a couple of doozies in the mix (the cover of Pete Townshend’s Squeeze Box is a travesty… although, in fairness, it’s a travesty whoever records it), but overall, it’s a remarkably solid album.
1. Look What the Cat Dragged In
In 1986, Poison dropped their debut album, Look What the Cat Dragged In. It took a while to build momentum, but once the word got out, it climbed steadily up the charts, eventually peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. Along the way, it managed to produce three hit singles – Talk Dirty to Me, I Want Action, and I Won’t Forget You. It’s since been certified 3 x platinum in the US and platinum in Canada. It’s a little bit formulaic, but Poison delivers each song with such conviction and style, it’s impossible not to love. A catchy, anthemic, fearless debut, and still their finest record to this day.