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Album Review: A Lost Classic / Samantha 7 - by Jeremy Porter

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Samantha 7 was a short-lived power-trio formed and led by one Bruce Anthony Johannesson – aka C.C. DeVille - the spiky-blonde-haired, shredding axe-slinger for the pop-metal-glam-hair band Poison. How I ended up with this obscure disc is a bit of a journey, so bear with me for just a bit of back-story. Remember VH1?  Remember when they had a show called “Rock and Roll Jeopardy?” It was basically a Sunset Strip version of the Alex Trebek-hosted classic, with rock stars as contestants and rock and roll categories for the answers for which they were to provide the questions. Jeff Probst of Survivor fame was the host. Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath was a star contestant, as was C.C. DeVille, with his honest and innocent Spicoli-like LA-beach-bum-stoner with a hoarse Brooklyn accent persona and ditzy delivery that was ultimately overshadowed by his vast knowledge of all things rock. It was high art and great entertainment. What we’d give to have those days back, eh? As a gag, I bid $2 for the CD on Ebay as a Christmas stocking-stuffer for my better half, who had taken a bit of a liking to C.C. and his charming antics on RRJ. I set the CD aside for a few days until I was ready to wrap it. How could it not be terrible? I’ve never been a Poison fan, and never really considered C.C. more than you’re run of the mill shredder. I popped it into the player on a whim as I gathered the scissors, wrapping paper, and scotch tape. The music started, and after a few moments I stopped in my tracks, raised an eyebrow, and looked accusingly at the stereo.   

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Holy shit?!?! I Was Framed! had my attention right off. An upbeat powerpop-rock song that had all the energy of the New York Dolls, the melody, grit, and hooks of the first Cheap Trick record, and the raspy vocals of a punk-rock Bryan Adams meets Rod Stewart. The album has that feel throughout. Unlike Poison, it’s not raunchy and full of cheap innuendo. The lyrics aren’t exactly Springsteen-level, but they’re leagues above I Hate Every Bone In Your Body Except Mine. C.C. sings from the nostalgic mind of a confused kid about movie star crushes, long-lost and longed-for girlfriends, life in Hollywood, and the struggles of a hair-metal giant facing obscurity in the year 2000, long replaced in the public eye by Nirvana and the endless trail of cardigan-wearing pouting bands that followed. The record also has a loose, raw, under-produced (in a good way) feel, like three dudes walked in, plugged in, and let the tape roll. Oh, it’s got a sheen, it’s no demo, but nothing close to over-produced records like “Open Up and Say….Ahh!” and “Look What the Cat Dragged In.”   But most of all it’s got an honesty and innocence that lacks pretension and only comes from making music you love because you love to make it, and not for any other reason.

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 I Wanna Be Famous, their best known song, thanks to its use as the theme to “The Surreal Life” (with C.C. as a cast member) is a straight up rip off of He’s A Whore, but there’s at least a refreshing take that makes it forgivable. Good Day harkens back to the 90’s alternative bands reaching for that acoustic, strum-along hit ala Jane Says or Runaway Train. Every song has something you’ve heard before, but every song is fresh, honest, and fun. Sure, part of the attraction is that it’s just so unexpected, but damned if it doesn’t have staying power.    

Samantha 7 did a couple tours, including a set at Woodstock `99, and there has been the occasional reunion rumor, but it seems to have been a one time side-project as Poison has since enjoyed a resurgence that has them playing the summer shed circuit to sold-out crowds of cutoff-wearing housewives drunk on Coors Light, singing along and reliving their high school years. Can’t blame the dude for getting sober, going back to his bread-basket, and making a living, but if you’re looking for some honest, heart-felt, raw and fun rock and roll, give it a spin. It’s a lost treasure.   

Jeremy Porter lives near Detroit and fronts the rock and roll band Jeremy Porter And The Tucos - www.thetucos.com

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