Monday, February 26, 2018

The Greatest Album Is...Crack A Smile

Every band that has been around for a while and released great records runs into this debate; what is their greatest album? The greatest album is… is a column dedicated to tackling that age old question. What is the greatest album recorded by Poison? Join with us now as the question is answered and arguments are made that the greatest Poison album is Crack A Smile.  

When Poison went to record their fifth studio album, Crack A Smile, they were at a crossroads. Long gone was original guitarist C.C. DeVille. His replacement, Richie Kotzen had been fired from the band after it was discovered he was having an affair with drummer Rikki Rockett’s fiancĂ©. Blues Saraceno came in and took over lead guitar duties. Glam was a dying musical genre, and while their previous album Native Tongue had decent sales numbers, they paled in comparison to the first three Poison records. The band had also changed their musical style from glam slam party jams, to socio-political blues rock. It was a huge change that fans had a hard time accepting. So, when Poison went into the studio to record Crack A Smile everything was conspiring against them. They had to make a hit record or their career could be over.

There are very few Poison fans that would choose Crack A Smile as the band’s greatest album. It wasn’t recorded with beloved guitarist C.C. DeVille. It was released five years after it was finished and the band had moved on from those songs. There are no concert staples contained on the record because none of the songs have ever been played live. It’s hard for fans to even know this album, let alone embrace it as the best. Yet, once the album has been consumed a few times, the beauty of the record clearly comes into focus.

Crack A Smile showed that Poison was going back to their party style of glam metal, leaving the seriousness of Native Tongue in the past. Returning to their roots paid big dividends musically. Poison was loose and fun on this record, having a party with their music, and they produced songs that are as classic as any material from their first three records. Except for the cover of the Dr. Hook hit “Cover of the Rolling Stone,” the entire band wrote every song for this release together. And it is that band unity that makes these songs so strong, focused, and fun.

Sexually charged fantasy songs are plentiful with “Best Thing You Ever Had,” “Shut Up, Make Love,” “Baby Gets Around A Bit,” and “Sexual Thing.” All these songs focus on the theme of being used just for sex and that is not portrayed as a negative. It’s taken more tongue in cheek and shows the humorous side of a man being used just for his body. Every boy’s fantasy. Poison hit the mark with songs like these and if Crack A Smile was released in 1987 these all would have been top ten hits.  

Power ballads are also accounted for with “Be The One,” and “Lay Your Body Down.” Poison reminds everyone how power ballads are done with both these songs. They are magnificent beauties that show the ability to write majestic slow jams. And while neither song is as grand as “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” both are amazing in their own right.

“Lay Your Body Down” was even released on the band’s greatest hits record, which ironically came out before Crack A Smile. “Lay Your Body Down” is the stronger of the two with some of the best lyrics the band has ever crafted. The opening lines of “I spend my life waiting for that famous final scene…I believe you know the one…where she falls in love with me” are just fantastic! It’s great artistic writing, painting a scene and setting up the rest of what is to come. “Lay Your Body Down” could give “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” a challenge for best Poison ballad. And while it probably wouldn’t win it would be a close race. “Lay Your Body Down” is stunning.

One of Poison’s best songs is also included on Crack A Smile. “No Ring, No Gets” is a tremendous, light hearted, humorous track that has fun with a serious topic. Blues Saraceno shows off his skills with the solo and the beat of this tune make it a great sing along song. “No Ring, No Gets” would have been a huge concert staple if it was recorded at a different time in the bands career. As it is, Poison should consider adding this gem to their set for upcoming tours. Even the fans who don’t know the song would fall in love with it after one listen.

Crack A Smile is the best work Poison ever recorded and that level of talent would carry over for the studio songs that were included on Power To The People. Even with a new guitarist, Poison was at the top of the mountain with Crack A Smile. If this album had been released at an earlier time in the band’s career it would be as beloved as their first three records are. Unfortunately, Crack A Smile suffered from poor timing and genre preference changes. Thus, it is a record that not a lot of fans know about, and the ones that do are die-hards only. The casual fan has never heard Crack A Smile and that’s the real shame.

The greatest album is…Crack A Smile.

Vital Statistics
Release Date: March 14, 2000
Produced By: John Purdell and Duane Baron
RIAA Sales: Did not receive certification
Peak Position on the US Charts: 131
The album was recorded in 1994 and 1995 but put “on hold” by Capitol records. It would finally be released in 2000 with bonus tracks, due to fan demand.
“Sexual Thing” and “Lay Your Body Down” were previously released on Poison’s greatest hits album.
No song from this record has ever been played live by Poison.

Shut Up, Make Love
Be the One

Track Listing
Best Thing You Ever Had
Shut Up, Make Love
Baby Gets Around A Bit
Cover of the Rolling Stone
Be The One
Mr. Smiley
Sexual Thing
Lay Your Body Down
No Ring, No Gets
That’s the Way I Like It
Tragically Unhip
Doin’ As I See on My TV

Band Members
Bret Michaels – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards
Rikki Rockett -drums, percussion
Bobby Dall – bass, backing vocals
Blues Saraceno – lead guitar, piano, backing vocals

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