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Friday, June 06, 2008

CD Review: Bret Michaels - Rock My World

Bret Michaels - Rock My World
2008 VH-1 Classic Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Of all the heavy metal figureheads from the eighties who have reclaimed a hefty portion of their past glory, numero uno has to be Bret Michaels. Up until his monster success with the televised melodrama of bouncy vixens clobbering each other for his presumed affections on the two Rock of Love series on VH-1, only Sebastian Bach had managed to crawl out of the grave where past rockers had been left for dead by a Generation X audience that had grown up and out of their puppy love crushes and fantasies about tour bus servicing to the tune of Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" and Skid Row's "I Remember You."

All things being equal and reality t.v. actually living up to its purportions, Bret Michaels' choice of 37-year-old Ambre Lake on Rock of Love 2 would seem to be the most logical if Bret was genuinely seeking out his be-all-end-all through the lens of a roving camera outlaying his continuously puckered lips and stuck-in-Teenland phallic engagement with his catty cast members. After all, if you can't penetrate the mind and the soul beyond the flesh, then it's all for naught and should be considered exploitation.

As lead vocalist for Poison, one of the most recognizable glam slammers of the eighties, certainly Bret and his posse have acclimated themselves to a road dog lifestyle exceeding the masturbatory idealism the average Joe processes through imagination. The fact an early-forties Bret Michaels is still carousing and pulling down buttsteak on Rock of Love only creates an envy factor for those who have grown up with him, much less a younger generation that witnesses a refuse-to-grow-up rocker still bearing enough external charima to maintain the airs of success that once surrounded Michaels and Poison before American heavy metal died out in the early nineties.

Poison today is still a good live draw (as this writer witnessed last summer on tour with Ratt), and it stands to reason that their last tour and covers album Poison'd were manufactured and boosted by the architecture of Rock of Love. There's no such thing as coincidence, the universe teaches, and the fact that Poison made a run immediately after the first Rock of Love only stands to reason that Bret Michaels could pliably sketch out a solo album released on the heels of Rock of Love 2. Call it cashing in or slick marketing, but one thing about Bret Michaels as evidenced by his solo album Rock My World, the man wastes no opportunity to feed his rock persona with near-Roman indulgence.

The good news about Rock My World is that Bret Michaels certainly knows how to entertain. Of course, the man has been proficient at it for over twenty years now, having trekked from Pennsylvania to the career-grinding streets of Los Angeles, and while there's been a ton of glam flash-in-the-pans in rock history, few bands outside of the originators like the New York Dolls, Twisted Sister and Hanoi Rocks had the wherewithal to back up the over-the-top image with equally over-the-top rock. At their best, Poison was appropriately obnoxious in sound to match their sneering macho dominator facades. Look What the Cat Dragged In remains Poison's best effort because there was still some bit of street left to a band destined to become MTV poster kids. Over time, Poison settled comfortably into a poontang party band, which was suitable for their largely-female-based demographic, but come judgment day in the nineties, they were ousted as quickly as they'd been embraced by a fickle American music public.

Rock My World gives us an audile glimpse at a Bret Michaels who has seen the ups, downs and ups again, and at times it's far heavier than anything Poison ever recorded, while at others, it's reflective of a rock dude who knows how to write songs with simplistic chord arrangements and a lovesick troubadour's plea-bargaining. It worked in Poison, thus it works mostly the same way on Rock My World.

Though the production of Rock My World is a bit slack and far more hollow than the usually-polished Poison albums, it's Bret Michaels' ability to sell memorable choruses that lends his album a fair degree of charm. Though he's still lyrically a tail-chasing muff hunter on songs like "Go That Far," "Driven" and "Strange Sensation" (the latter song being an amusing and pretty addictive love-hate ditty), Michaels does manage to mix in the bittersweet to salvage Rock My World from turning into a bitter pill.

"Start Again" was played on Rock of Love 2 and for sure it might as well be the encapsulation of Michaels' series in song, whether or not the events run true. Ironically (or maybe not so much if you consider Poison's biggest hits), Michaels is at his most appealing on Rock My World with his ballads "Fallen," "All I Ever Needed" and his amped-up love letter to his daughter, "Raine." The most endearing attribute to "Raine" and its delivered impact is to show there's more to Bret Michaels than the public portrayal of professional dickswinger. If this is the bona fide Bret Michaels at work here, then let's see more of that guy...

Though "Right Here Right Now" starts off with a vicious guitar chug, unfortunately the song's mix is utterly out-of-whack to where the riff clutters and sounds astray to the rest of the song. It doesn't help that a poorly layered sample likewise squanders the core drive of the tune. On the flipside, Michaels' flirting with country on "Songs of Life" works fabulously in the same manner Ron Keel has effectively made the transition from metal to country.

Featuring a cluster of guest musicians including Cinderella's Eric Brittingham on organ, Rock My World is by no means perfect, but it's a mostly nonsensical retro rocker's album with more than a handful of guilty pleasure tracks. Let's hope Ambre is Bret's true Rock of Love, because Flavor Flav is starting to look pretty damned ridiculous on his third go-round, and the already-engaged jester is fooling no one. Reality bites...

Rating: ***


David Amulet said...

Nice review

I'll probably still pass on this, though, because (a) I liked but was not a huge fan of Poison; (b) if I do want to hear Poison, I'll listen to the Poison albums; (c) I don't like ballads, which sound like his enduring strong suit.

Scott said...

What do these songs have in common: Bittersweet, Menace to Society, Songs of Life, Strange Sensation, It's my Party and Raine. Sure they are on Bret Michael's new solo CD, but they were also on Bret Michaels LAST solo CD in 2003. That's right, exact same songs. In fact, only It's my Party was re-recorded, the others were just lifted. So, this half of this 12-song album came from the last album. That's pathetic.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Good flag, Scott! I'll be honest, I never heard the other album, so thanks for pointing that out.

David, I never considered myself a big Poison fan either, but somehow like a lot of us "harder" fans, they ended up a guilty pleasure, though we always pretended to hate them in front of each other, lol

DPTH International said...

I liked "Look what the cat dragged in" after that I never cared for Poison. They had some decent songs later on, but I never bought another album.

This solo CD will probably have song catchy tunes, but I don't think I could purchase it.

A very respectable and unbiased review Ray!

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I appreciate those words, Dpth... I actually shook hands with Bret from the photo pit when I covered the Ratt/Poison gig last summer; my wife isn't a fan of the music but is of the show and she saw me get a handshake and was jealous, lol... I think LWTCDI is a fun slab of raunch rock and even the album afterwards, though it was more famous for the cover controversy. I have Poison's hits albums, which is perfect for me since I pull it out every so often when I just want some simplistic rock. That's something I don't take away from Poison and Bret Michaels; that ability to just generate catchy, noncommittal rock

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