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POISON: GREATEST VIDEO HITS

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Review by Michael Jacobson

Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Capitol
Features:  None
Length:  85 Minutes
Release Date:  June 5, 2001

Film ***1/2

Ah, Poison…who could ever forget ‘em, even if they tried?

When heavy guitars, loud drums and big hair ruled the airwaves in the late 80s, there they were, storming on to the scene like a parent’s Technicolor nightmare.  To this day, I still remember my first introduction to the band.  It was the spring of 1987, and I was in Boca Raton, Florida on a class trip.  It was late, and my hotel roommate and I were flipping channels on the tube.  We stopped when some local music show came on, introducing a new band called Poison.  They proceeded to play the “Talk Dirty to Me” video.

My friend and I watched from start to finish, then turned to each other and simultaneously said, “What the (bleep) was that?”

Not long after, Bret, C. C., Bobby and Rikki would come to represent everything about the musical movement that was great (to the fans) and everything about it that was wrong (to the critics).  While fans ate up the band’s good time anthems, wild and unpredictable stage shows, and sexual swagger, detractors were complaining that Poison was a plague on the music industry, emphasizing style over substance and showmanship over musicianship.

You can argue for whichever side you choose…all the evidence you’ll need either way is included on the Poison: Greatest Video Hits DVD.  This disc includes all fourteen of Poison’s known videos, plus three that were never commercially released.  Poison’s first two home video releases, Sight for Sore Ears and Flesh, Blood & Video Tapes are included in their entirety, with their respective videos as well as backstage footage, interview clips and more.

These are all videos for the time capsule…they show the band when they were young, lusty and hungry, and with more energy than the screen could contain.  I challenge anyone to watch “I Want Action” and not get pumped up.  All the early videos reflect Poison’s visual flair, from the make-up and wardrobe and big hair, to the flashy lights and colors of their stage sets.

The videos also chronicle the band’s maturation process (yes, they did have one).  Consider their first hit ballad, “Every Rose Has its Thorn” (a number one record) to another one an album later, “Something to Believe In”.  The latter shows a bit of reality creeping in to Poison’s fun zone, and the video depicts how life on the road with its abundance of drugs and drink was beginning to take its toll.

Also included are two videos from the out-of-print Native Tongue album with Ritchie Kotzen on guitar (surprising, considering the band’s outspoken hatred for their temporary ax man, but welcome) which show Poison developing beyond the musical niche they had carved out for themselves, with newfound gospel and blues influences and more thoughtful lyrics. 

By then, either because of the absence of C. C., or because fans were ready for more meaningful metal (i.e., grunge), or maybe because the band could no longer fit the sleek party-boys image they once created, Poison started to go the way of a lot of other glam bands from the late 80s.  However, with a new album reuniting the four original members, the band is testing the waters to see if the world is ready for a new dose of Poison.  Their newest video, “Power to the People”, is a rather extreme change of pace, sounding and looking more like Nine Inch Nails than the Poison of old. 

Their age is showing, but their spirit seems as indomitable as ever.  If their comeback proves successful, it wouldn’t be the first time the boys proved everyone else wrong.

Video **1/2

It’s really hard to judge the overall video quality, because sources range from professionally made music videos on film to rather crappy looking home movies made backstage under poor lighting and less than ideal conditions.  Overall, it comes across pretty well, maintaining the band’s sense of color and style.  In some extremes, there’s a bit of bleeding noticeable, as well as some graininess, but consider those more to be artifacts of age rather than transfer problems.

Audio ***

Yes, these tunes have been remixed for 5.1 sound.  Though the surround tracks are not particularly daring in their arrangements, the audio is opened up a little more for cleaner sound and more dynamic range, and an altogether more satisfying listening experience than your CDs are capable of.

Features (zero stars)

Nothing…how cool would a running commentary by the band members have been?

Summary:

Poison: Greatest Video Hits is a fun, loud look back at a musical era when rock was wild, hair was big, and flash and trash equalled cash.  Nobody lived or trumpeted the “Nothing But a Good Time” philosophy better than Poison, and whether you loved ‘em or hated ‘em, they left their mark on music because of it.