Despite the flashy exterior, there's a whole lot repetition here
When hard rock outfit Poison find themselves taking time off the road (the band’s last tour was alongside Def Leppard and Cheap Trick last year in support of the band’s live album Live, Raw & Uncut from 2008), front man Bret Michaels sure does keep himself busy, with the singer dividing his time between his ongoing solo career and developing his growing recognition as a reality television personality (Rock of Love, Celebrity Apprentice 3 and Bret Michaels: Life as I Know It).
But after a lengthy five years since the release of Freedom of Sound, Michaels has once again turned his eyes towards music, with Custom Built, Michaels’ long awaited third full-length solo effort.
But as appealing as something new from Michaels sounds, and the hype that has been building prior to its release, it has to be said that ‘Custom Built’ is nothing short of a major letdown.
The opening track Riding Against the Wind (which is the theme tune to Bret Michaels: Life as I Know It) is definitely one of the album’s stronger cuts, with Michaels’ familiar mix of country and rock balanced perfectly against the lyrics reflective and storytelling theme.
The hard hitting Lie to Me is another great song, with the thick guitar riffing adding a heavier feel to the early half of the album, while Michaels’ duet alongside Miley Cyrus on the country tinged single Nothing to Lose is a surprising winner here. Despite my initial reservations, this song, along with the follow up ballad Wasted Time (the third single from the album), are where Michaels’ song writing talents really shine.
Unfortunately, it’s at this point where Custom Built starts to drop in quality and originality.
The cover of Sublime’s What I Got (from Sublime’s self-titled album from 1996) is O.K., and sits well on the album despite the fact that its not an original, but the inclusion of the country remake of Poison’s Every Rose Has its Thorn (which features 3 Doors Down vocalist Brad Arnold, Chris Cagle and Mark Wills), Open Road and Rock’ n My Country is quite bewildering considering that they all three appeared on Michaels’ last release Freedom of Sound.
As for the club mix of Go That Far (remixed by Godhead vocalist/guitarist Jason Miller) and the rock mix of Driven (which was released as a single as far back as 2008), they don’t really improve upon the originals, while Michaels’ acoustic demo for Nothing to Lose and I’d Die For You (again, a song that originally appeared on Michaels’ debut solo effort A Letter From Death Row from 1998) really does give the album a feel of more filler than anything else.
As an E.P., Custom Built would have sounded far more consistent, and might have even been viewed as one of Michaels’ strongest releases to date. But on the strength of this padded out version of Custom Built, it’s clear that Michaels’ simply doesn’t have time to write songs these days, and instead prefers to repackage old material to his fans, with the exception of a few brand new songs.
(Poor Boy Records/Stomp Entertainment)