The Big 3 of the 80’s (Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Poison) were plenty poised and primed to continue their commercial and artistic success into the 90’s. Bon Jovi had no problem, Def Leppard stumbled commercially but maintained a good deal of fans, and Poison, with their hit single of ‘92 ‘Stand’ was set to make their future mark as a serious, talented blues-based rock band. This never was, however. ‘Crack a Smile’, upon original recording in ‘94, was never released. (Until now). One listen to this album and you may know why. It’s not a sellout attempt to be angry and grungy, like so many other 80’s bands tried, it’s not a tone-down to adult-contempo level a la Bon Jovi, rather, Poison, for the most part, stays the same. There’s still headlong party anthems, still stellar, over the top guitar playing, and plenty of harmonies. In other words, it’s Poison, but they’ve grown up, and this record is sheer fun the entire way through. It’s not as pretentious as ‘Flesh and Blood’ or as silly as their first two albums. It just plain rocks. Poison’s transition to incorporating blues into their sound (starting with Native Tounge) works to the fullest here, showcased to the fullest on the excellent opening track ‘Best thing you ever Had’. From there, this album rocks, but it’s also quite humorous, repeadetly slamming the music industry of 1994, making fun of Kurt Cobain, the cynical record companies and turncoat fans, as well as poking fun at Bret Michael’s own misbegotten porn flick with Pam Anderson (Pre Tommy Lee). Throughout, there’s the occasional ballad but they’re not overblown or histronic, they’re well thought and well-executed. The lyrics are the best Poison’s ever written, hands down. Blues Saraceno (CC DeVille’s temporary replacement) shows his considerable talent, and the rhythm section finally gets to show their chops without all the overproduction. The actual ‘Crack a Smile’ album ends with ‘Doin as I see on my TV’ and then goes into the ‘And More’ section… including B-Sides and unfinished demos from the album, as well as a rare outtake from ‘Open Up and Say.. Aah!’ which will delight hardcore fans who already own bootlegs of ‘Crack a Smile’. Also thrown in are four excellent performances of old hits on MTV’s Unplugged. This 20-track strong album never lets up for a second, and even if you HATE Poison, this will appeal to you, gaurunteed. It’s rock the way it should be, without the overproduction of the 80’s and the gloominess of the 90’s. If the musical audience wasn’t so damn cynical, this album could be a surefire classic.