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CD REVIEW: RICHIE KOTZEN – The Essential

| 3 September 2014 | 2 Replies

Richie Kotzen cover art

Label: Loud & Proud Records

Release Date: September 2, 2014

Rating: 10/10

Reviewed by: Todd “Toddstar” Jolicoeur

Normally reviewing a greatest hits package is not my thing, but when just about every song is new to me, as the artist has escaped my radar, it’s all new to me.  The latest from Richie Kotzen is a great package that culls tracks from his extensive catalog, including songs written while a member of other groups.  This first disc of this 2CD set kicks off with new tracks “War Paint” and “Walk With Me.”  The bluesy riffs and playing on both of these tracks give you a good grasp on where this great guitar player has landed after over 27 years in the crazy rock world.  Unlike a lot of guitarists out there, Richie sings really well – I couldn’t imagine another voice tackling these tracks.  The album 24 Hours from 2011 contributes four great tracks in “Love Is Blind,” “OMG (What’s Your Name?),” “Help Me,” and “Bad Situation.”  These rockers feature enough blues to keep the thread woven within the fabric of the collection as it is laid out, but also give the listener a glimpse into the rock groove behind the songs, especially “OMG (What’s Your Name?)” and “Help Me” which are accentuated by a funky groove that gets the foot tapping.  “Go Faster” and “Fooled Again” come from the 2007 disc Go Faster.  These songs, while they come from the same disc, are opposites in many ways, especially the guitar playing.  The guitar on the former is more frantic in pace while the latter has an intricate solo during the bridge.  Into The Black from 2006 is represented by the tracks “Fear,” “You Can’t Save Me,” and “Doing What The Devil Says To Do.”  These tracks have a heavier feel in the playing and vocals, lending themselves to the blues side of Richie’s playing and writing, especially the guitars on “Fear,” the lyrics of “You Can’t Save Me,” and the vocals on “Doing What The Devil Says To Do.”  “Lie To Me,” a cool balladish track featuring Richie’s emotional vocals comes from 2009’s Peace Sign.  “Remember (Reprise)” is the oldest track on this disc, as it originates from the 2004 disc Get Up.  This is the most diverse track on the disc and really shows how diverse Kotzen can be as a performer and writer.

The second disc opens with four re-recording of older tracks.  The oldest solo track song on the collection, 1998’s “What If” from the disc of the same name gets a face lift and truly demonstrates that a good track can benefit from a fresh coat of paint years later.  “High” and “Change” from 2003’s Change also get a makeover.  These tracks sound different with the twist of being stripped down to their acoustic origins.  Do yourself a favor, like I did, and hunt down the originals and give them both a listen.  They are as diverse as they are similar in both sound and feel.  “Special” is the final redux and it originated on Get Up from 2004.  The fusion of blues, funk, and rock that is added to the vocals on this acoustic track made this one of the standouts of the entire two disc collection.  The next four tracks are older songs that lend themselves quite well to the acoustic playing of Kotzen, and benefit from a stripped down approach of a man, his voice, and his guitar.  “Paint It On” and “The Road” come from 2010’s The Ballad Collection, while “Holding On” comes from Peace Sign, released in 2009.  “Until You Suffer Some (Fire And Ice)” is another standout on the collection.  The track originally appeared on the Poison disc Native Tongue back in 1993.  This stripped down version with Richie on vocals as well as guitar gives the song a new sound and breathes new life into the track.  The final two tracks on the disc are demos versions of tracks that were eventually recorded by The Winery Dogs in 2013 on their debut release.  This version of “Regret” is killer and really let’s Kotzen’s raspy vocals stand out and take center stage while the piano accompaniment plays solidly in the background.  This collection ends with “Damaged” which is by far the most listened to track on my iTunes player.  This short demo version is funk infused goodness that really captures the essence of Richie’s legend and history, while pointing toward the future.  This demo version, with it’s cool bass line and Kotzen’s vocals dancing from open to close, is as good, if not better than the final recorded product.  Never before has a greatest hits collection forced me to seek out more original material than this release from Richie Kotzen.

http://richiekotzen.com

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Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: CD Reviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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  1. Michelle Holland says:

    Todd, you NAILED it here !!
    Speaking from someone who has all of Richie Kotzen’s material…. you hit the nail on the head when it came to discussing this collection; especially the second disc. You are absolutely right when you advise folks to do themselves a favor and hunt down the originals! I know these originals inside and out, and when I heard these re-records in this collection… they blew my mind !! These acoustic versions are amazingly fresh and new. Just him stripped down to voice, acoustic guitar (with some added percussion and stand up bass), the once hidden nuances in his vocals, are now brought out to the fore-front, making his voice and the lyrics the focus in the songs.
    Thank you for the insightful, and on target review !
    Michelle

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