By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
POISON – OPEN UP AND SAY…AHH! (1988)
I suppose you can say that I’m having kind of a mini-renaissance with the band Poison. After enjoying the Flesh & Blood album when I wrote about it last week, I decided to pull their previous album out of my regular cassette collection and give that a listen.
I’ve had that cassette for quite a while now but it isn’t like I’ve been playing it a lot over the years. And after listening to it, maybe I should’ve been doing that very thing. I say that because once again, I found myself really enjoying the entirety of the album.
Open Up and Say Ahh!, for those that weren’t paying attention back in 1988 was a pretty monstrously successful album for the band. It spawned four singles, three of which hit the Top 10.
The first side of the album opens up with a real corker of a rock and roller type song in “Love On The Rocks”. It grabs the listener from the start and gives you a shot of energy for what is to come.
Things really get going with the album’s second track “Nothin’ But A Good Time”. Back then and even today, it serves as one of those quintessential good time rock and roll party anthems. You just can’t help but feel energized when you hear this song. The song went all the way to #6 on the singles chart, so you know that a tremendous amount of people felt the same way about the song.
I enjoyed the heck out of both “Back To The Rocking Horse” and “Good Love”. Both songs are pretty uptempo tracks and keep that outsized party vibe in the forefront of your mind. But it was the last song on Side One that really fired me up. “Tearin’ Down The Walls” is simply a killer tune. From start to finish it rocks hard but I really liked the way the chorus was constructed. Between the lyrics and the way singer Bret Michaels delivered that chorus, it just enhanced the song for me. Since I’ve listened to the album, the song itself wasn’t a surprise per se, but I found that I seemed to get something more out of it as I listened to it now.
The second side of the album continued the highly amplified rock and roll show with “Look But You Can’t Touch”, a song about some frustration in search of female companionship. Okay, it’s not nearly that subtle in the lyrical content, but that aside, I just really dug the song.
The closing song “Bad To Be Good” was pretty decent but it was the three songs leading up to that one that really helped Poison’s fortunes soar. The band’s cover of the Loggins and Messina song “Your Mama Don’t Dance” went to #10 when it was released as a single. The song is good but I think for me as I listen to it 30 plus years later, it doesn’t quite have the same staying power for me. But that doesn’t take away from just how much the song did for the band.
For three weeks, Poison had the #1 song in the country. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” was their power ballad hit and the only song that ever hit #1 for the band. The song was EVERYWHERE! I’m pretty sure the way the radio and MTV was saturated with the song back then would’ve made me make fun of the song after a while. But the passage of time has given me far more in the way of appreciation for the song. Whenever I hear it on the radio nowadays, I at least hum the song and sometimes, if the mood is right and I’m ALONE, I might even (badly) sing along with it.
But I think my favorite “hit” song from Poison was one that didn’t even make the Top 10 as a single. Sure, “Fallen Angel” hit #12 but saying you had a Top 20 hit doesn’t have quite the same cache as saying a Top 10 hit, now does it?
The song tells a familiar tale of a woman heading to Hollywood seeking fame and fortune but finding things are quite the constant glitz and glamour one imagines. It might not be all that unique of a song, but Poison does do quite a good job at telling their version of that same old song and dance. And the companion video for the song is a conceptual piece that plays along with the lyrics and I still think it is one of the better “story” videos from that time.
I know that it seems a bit crazy to discover that I just might be a bigger fan of Poison than I ever thought I was but getting a new appreciation for a band’s music is never a bad thing in my book. Poison got a huge commercial boost from the Open Up and Say Ahh! album and now that I’ve bothered to really sit down and dig into it with a more open mind, I can see why they became one of the bigger 80’s bands. They just had some fantastically entertaining rock and roll that captured music fans imagination and gave them an exhilarating good time…and nothin’ but!
NOTES OF INTEREST: The Open Up and Say Ahh! album was certified five times platinum and ended up hitting #2 on the album chart. The original cover art featured a demonic woman with a long tongue sticking out of her mouth. This caused some controversy and the edited version of the cover art (which is the version on my cassette) showed just the demon’s eyes.
Reportedly, the album was originally supposed to be produced by Paul Stanley of Kiss but he had to drop out and Tom Werman ended up producing the release.
After the release of the album, Poison put out a home video called Sight For Sore Ears that collected the videos they put out for both the Look What The Cat Dragged In and Open Up and Say Ahh! albums.
The 20th anniversary CD release included the bonus track “Livin’ For The Minute”. It was originally released as a B-side. Another song was written for the album sessions called “Face The Hangman”. It was also used as a B-side but got an official release on the Crack A Smile…and More! release.