Rock star and recent reality TV king Bret Michaels releases his seventh studio album this week entitled Jammin’ With Friends, his first collaboration record. The album was first announced last year and titled Good Songs & Great Friends. Michaels spent three years writing and recording the disc as it’s the follow up to 2010’s Custom Built. As a huge fan of Poison’s and Michaels’ solo music, I was excited about this project, but not as excited when I began listening to the record.
Jammin’ With Friends features Michaels collaborating with fellow country, rock and rap musicians on 20 covers and originals. Seven of the album’s tracks are Poison remakes and with two included twice, which I’ll explain later. A couple of new solo tracks are also included (not sure why given the album’s title) and at least eight of the tracks appear on previous solo albums Michaels has released, which is a common occurrence, but very annoying trait in Michaels’ solo projects. In fact, several of the previously released tracks appear on multiple releases.
The Poison remakes include “Talk Dirty To Me,” “Unskinny Bop” and “Something To Believe In” with “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and “Nothin’ But A Good Time” featured twice with different performers or mixes. The other covers include Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” and a live version of “Margaritaville” that was recorded with Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band live in Detroit.
The new originals include “The App Song,” “You Know You Want It,” “Get Your Rock On” and its companion, “Get Your Ride On.”
The previously released tracks are featured in the middle of the record and include “Raine,” “Fallen,” “Nothin’ To Lose” featuring Miley Cyrus, the cover “What I Got,” “Party Rock Band,” the country version of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” with Chris Cagle, Mark Wills and Brad Arnold of 3 Doors Down, and an acoustic version of “Something To Believe In” that appears as if it were taken from Michaels Ballads, Blues & Stories disc. “Driven” and “Go That Far” also appear, but each dubbed as a Hybrid Mix.
The album opens with the Poison classic “Nothin’ But A Good Time” featuring Chickenfoot’s Michael Anthony on bass, former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley and vocals by The Shields Brothers from NBC’s The Voice and rapper Lil Jon. This version falls way short from the Poison party anthem we all grew up loving and still (admittingly) listen to on occasion. Michaels’ vocals lack the energy from the original and Lil Jon chanting “We came to fight!” throughout the song is quite overbearing and unnecessary, if you ask me. In fact, it ruins the vibe of the song and one may think Michaels only asked the rapper to lay vox down because they’re friends. However, Michaels did include a remixed version without Lil Jon dubbed “Classic Rock Version” toward the end of the disc. This is better, but it will never live up to the original.
“Sweet Home Alabama” features Skynyrd alumni Gary Rossington, Rickey Medlocke and Peter Keys and .38 Special’s Bobby Capps on their respective instruments backing Michaels. Die hard fans of the original wouldn’t recognize this track at first, and would probably call it blasphemous, as the percussion loops and congas give the track a Latin vibe. It definitely gives the track new life and may work at introducing a younger crowd to discovering Skynyrd’s original classic gem.
“Talk Dirty To Me” feels more like a modern day punk rock song than a ’80s hair metal classic. The song is generally faster while the drums are funkier and guitars are heavier than Poison’s original version. It features Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath sharing lead vocals with Michaels along with Brides of Destruction’s Scot Coogan on backing vocals and percussion. I’m not much of a punk fan, but punk lovers may dig this tune.
“Get Your Rock On” and “Get Your Ride On” are two more punk sounding tracks on the album. Both were released as digital singles last year and find their album debut here. Def Leppard’s Phil Collen and My Darkest Days’ Sal Costa lend their guitar abilities to both tracks. Both tracks are nearly identical as the former is about making love to a woman (go figure) while the latter is nearly two minutes shorter and was rewritten to be used as the 2012 Supercross theme.
Poison’s “Unskinny Bop” has been turned into a country tune with slide guitar, tambourine, and yes, even a banjo, as performed by Tesla’s Frank Hannon who also covers lead and slide guitar. The Shields Brothers and Bobby Capps make another appearance along with Robert Mason of Warrant and Lynch Mob lending backing vox.
Fans who have Michaels mobile application have probably heard a sample of “The App Song” from earlier this year. The track features backing vocals by Jimmy Buffett and guitar from Keith Urban’s Brian Nutter, and is a tongue-in-check take on how reliable our society has become to electronic communication through mobile apps, Facebook and texting. The song could actually do pretty well on country radio as it features percussion loops and hand claps, something that’s become a staple in today’s country music. It’s definitely the best sounding original new track Michaels included on this release.
As mentioned earlier, Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” is featured twice. The first version features a duet with country legend Loretta Lynn and could also be released as a single to promote the record. It could give Lynn her first radio hit in a long time as the song isn’t a bad cover. However, the original “country version” of the track with Chris Cagle, Mark Wills and 3 Doors Down’s Brad Arnold is by far my favorite cover of “Every Rose.” It originally appeared on Michaels’ 2005 album Freedom Of Sound and appears closer to the end of this record.
“You Know You Want It” features Bobby Capps on keyboards and Peter Keys on piano again. Keys is also credited as providing the programming on the track which sounds like a ’90s U2 single. The electronic dance sound is far from Michaels’ rock roots and doesn’t fit the album’s persona very well.
“Margaritaville” is the album’s lone live track where Michaels joins Jimmy Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band on stage in Detroit. Buffett and Michaels trade lead vox while the crowd cheers and sings along. A fun tune to sing and include on an album. It’s a true collaboration and is the album’s longest track at clocking in over five minutes.
As you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t cover some of the album’s 20 tracks. As previously mentioned, the middle section of the album is made up of previously released material from other albums, so I decided not to include my thoughts on them and keep things fresh with the newer material. These collaborations include Miley Cyrus, drummer Randy Castillo, country singer/songwriter Jeffrey Steele, Edwin McCain, Cinderella’s Eric Brittingham and more. Also included, is a stripped down acoustic version of Poison’s “Something To Believe In” that appears to be a solo track. I feel these tracks were included as “filler” and were completely unnecessary to include on this record (and the others they re-appeared on after their original release, some up to three or four times), even though they are collaborations.
If you’ve read any of my previous album reviews, you’ll know I still prefer to purchase the physical copies of CDs and see them on my shelf. I want to physically touch and read the album’s credits and lyrics, if available, and enjoy getting my money’s worth owning the CD. So, after striking out and not finding the record at Target, I went to Best Buy where it awaited my arrival. As I always do, I opened the packaging as I was walking out of the store and began examining it.
The album comes in a standard case with a clear tray card and features recycled images throughout the package. The front features Michaels wearing a cowboy hat while playing a guitar with the traditional artist name and album title, including BMB (Bret Michaels Band) getting a credit. The clear panel on the side reiterates the artist and album title.
The back artwork features a blurry image of Michaels performing live and grabbing fans’ hands. The track listing doesn’t indicate which artists Michaels collaborates with. Instead, it has a gray block at the bottom that states some of the album’s guests appearances.
The album’s booklet is just four panels and includes the typical album credits but no lyrics. In order to know which artists guest on which songs, you’d have to match the track number with their name in the credits. It can be confusing and quite annoying if you want to know immediately who is on what track. You can also use this article for reference, if you choose. Inside the front panel, it also states a new album is due in fall 2013 titled Rockin’ My Country. This title is reference to a track that appeared on his Freedom Of Sound CD in 2005, so I anticipate more rehashed material will be included with new stuff.
The disc art is in full color (DVD quality) and features a close up of the front cover with a head shot of Michaels. The track listing is printed on the left side of the disc. Under the disc, you’ll find a orange photo of Michaels with his hands crossed with the “rock and roll” sign language.
Jammin’ With Friends is partially what I expected. Rehashed material mixed with new stuff. The production quality and mixes lack on several of the tracks, but if you’re a big fan of Michaels, you’ll want to add this to your collection just like I did. Either way, it was a fun record to release and it shows throughout the newly recorded material.
I give it a 3 out of 5 stars!