The subtitle 20 Years of Rock is a bit of a
stretch -- thirteen of the eighteen songs on this compilation (and all of
the top 40 singles) stem from three albums (and one soundtrack contribution)
during the band's white hot period of
1986 to 1990. Of the other five songs, only one barely charted (1993's
"Stand" which made it to 50 on the Billboard charts) and one is newly
recorded (a surprisingly-good-if-a-tiny-bit-too-faithful cover of Grand Funk
Railroad's "We're an American Band.")
By 1992, the band was pretty much scuttled by two
totally unrelated things -- one from within the band and one from outside.
The heavy-partying ways of the band, particularly guitarist CC Deville, led
to friction with DeVille eventually getting kicked out of the band.
Meanwhile, the prevailing rock and roll winds stopped blowing from the
Sunset Strip and started to come from Seattle. The slick hair metal
bands were quickly made obsolete by the punky grunge music of Nirvana and
However, for the five years in which they were on top
of the world, Poison were responsible for some sweet party jams. Their
breakthrough smash "Talk Dirty To Me" is nice sleaze metal. "Fallen
Angel" works surprisingly well despite its overdone lyrics about a small
town girl gone bad in the big city. "Ride the Wind" is much catchier
than you'd expect from its lyrics. Of course there are a share of big
dumb pseudo-rebel tracks like "I Want Action" or goofy love declarations
like "I Won't Forget You."
Unlike the average hair band, Poison actually had a
certain amount of experimental urges. The bluesy guitar riff of "Unskinny
Bop" is surprisingly funky -- in fact that instrumental is the
best thing the band ever committed to tape. With "Every Rose Has It's
Thorn" the band created the ultimate expression of that most derided genre
of song -- the sappy acoustic metal ballad -- and actually made one of the
few examples of the style worth hearing.
While their covers tended to
be a little safe, a terrific version of KISS' "Rock and Roll All Nite"
recorded for the Less Than Zero soundtrack and the new Grand Funk
rip, you do have to give them a little credit for their radical toughening
up of Loggins and Messina's "Your Mama Don't Dance."