Bret Michaels (a.k.a. Bret Michael Sychak, born in Butler, PA) first achieved fame as the frontman for Poison, a very successful '80's Glam-Metal band. But no one could have possibly charted Michaels post-Poison career path.
Poison sold millions of albums and are best remembered for hit singles "I Want Action," "Talk Dirty To Me," Nothin' But A Good Time," "Fallen Angel," Unskinny Bop" and the chart topping power ballad "Every Rose Has Its Thorn." In the early-90s the band self-destructed though their demise was augmented by the advent of Grunge.
Later Michaels formed a film company with actor Charlie Sheen. But his best known production was a sex video made with then-girlfriend (and Baywatch TV star) Pamela Anderson. Ever the gentleman, Michaels, through his attorney, said at the time he was doing everything possible to halt Internet Entertainment's distribution of the video.
With Poison finished (at least for the time being) Michaels signed a solo recording deal but his first effort, songs for the "Letter From Death Row Soundtrack" didn't appear until '98. He also wrote, directed and starred in the film which was produced by Sheen/Michaels Entertainment.
The album "Songs Of Life" dropped in '03.
Michaels served as a judge on the '05 edition of Nashville Star, a Country oriented singing competition (American Idol with a twang). That led to the release, the same year, of the Country-Rock "Freedom Of Sound," an album with a trio of singles including "All I Ever Needed" with Jessica Andrews. But these songs had negligible chart impact.
'08's "Rock My World," a 'best of' compilation, gathered the high points from Michaels' solo career.
Critics, when they bothered, were not kind to any of these offerings. The albums were dismissed as a pale imitation of Poison. But Michaels kept the albums coming
Alimony payments, therapy and excessive lifestyles likely drained all the money earned from the first go round, so it made perfect sense for Poison to resurrect itself, with the original line-up. "Hollyweird," an '02 effort, was the result.
Five years later, the group issued "Poison'd," a covers collection of songs from the '70s and '80s. No doubt these songs, out before Poison's fame, resonated with band members. In some way, they were an inspiration or influential.
Also in '07, Michaels began work on the VH1 reality/dating game show Rock of Love (and later, Rock of Love Bus). The premise was simple. Women would compete to be Michaels' girlfriend. Why anyone would want the honor was rarely addressed.
The first season winner, Jes Rickleff, later revealed she did not have romantic feelings for Michaels, and that she thought he should have chosen the runner-up. Ouch! Despite this glitch the show was popular and earned a second season.
Ambre Lake won the sophomore run but her relationship with Michaels ended after a couple months. In the third season, Michaels chose Penthouse Pet Taya Parker. Seemed his taste in women was improving.
In an effort to burnish his singing career Michaels released "Nothing To Lose" in '10 with guest vocals by the hugely popular Miley Cyrus. Then he landed a plum gig by being selected to participate in Donald Trump's reality series, The Celebrity Apprentice. This was prime time network reality baby!
Michaels was up against fellow '80s singer Cyndi Lauper, Sharon Osbourne (Ozzy's wife/manager) and former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, among other 'celebrities'.
But just a month later he was rushed to a San Antonio hospital for an emergency appendectomy. While the trip to the hospital was tense the procedure was pretty standard stuff. But what came next wasn't.
Michaels was soon back in the hospital. This time it was at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix to treat a brain hemorrhage that had caused bleeding at the base of his brain stem. In what doctors called an incredible recovery - based on a strong will to live - Michaels was discharged two weeks later to undergo on-going physical therapy at another facility.
Michaels appeared The Oprah Winfrey Show live via satellite to talk about his condition and the associated difficulties he'd suffered. While he looked like he was on the mend, Michaels had what doctors called a "warning stroke." They also diagnosed Michaels with a hole in his heart - a condition known as patent foramen ovale. It was treatable and may have led to the brain hemorrhage.
Despite health issues, Michaels amazingly won Celebrity Apprentice. He appeared on the show's season finale, against doctor's orders. Though Michaels had some difficulty walking he was in good spirits. His $250,000 winning prize was donated to the American Diabetes Association.
In what had been a rollercoaster year, Michaels launched yet another reality TV series Bret Michaels: Life As I Know It. The VH1 show, which focused on Michaels' home life with Lynn Gibson, his on-and-off girlfriend for the past sixteen years and their three daughters, had its premiere delayed due to his health problems. The couple got engaged shortly after the show's debut though no wedding date was announced.
Michaels then released "Custom Built" which contained the Cyrus duet plus "Lie To Me" and "Wasted Time." All were released as singles.
The follow-up to Michaels highest charting album was "Good Songs & Great Friends." The '13 set contained a cover of "Sweet Home Alabama" with Lynyrd Skynyrd's Gary Rossington, Rickey Medlocke and Peter Keys and a remake of "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" with Loretta Lynn.
2003 Songs Of Life
2005 Freedom Of Sound
2010 Custom Built
2013 Good Songs & Great Friends
There is actually more video on Michaels than there is music: the reality show, bio/concert DVDs and numerous TV appearances. There's even an autobiography, "Roses And Thorns: The Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy To My Reality."
Michaels' solo career is competent but hardly earth shaking or exciting. His lyrics though often possess some wit and humor. Even so, it's best to stick with the Poison catalog unless Michaels is an obsession.
A case in point is "Custom Built." Knowing Michaels story, there's a tendency to give him credit for having endured and summoned the grit and determination to keep going. But that only carries him so far. "Riding Against The Wind," the theme from Life As I Know It, is a typical pick-up song that's all bravado and no hook.
Given someone to tap down Michaels' excessiveness, like Cyrus on "Nothing To Lose," the results are good. But the duet with Brad Arnold (3 Doors Down) on "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," yes, a Poison cover, is simply redundant.
If Rock songs "Lie To Me" and "Driven" (the far better of the two) don't do it, there's a Dance track, "Go That Far," a Sublime cover, "What I Got" (which is actually very good) and a handful of Country leaning tunes besides the Cyrus track. "Open Road" comes complete with a fiddle. There is a little something for everyone but not enough to put it over.