2014 marks Richie Kotzen’s 25th year as a professional recording artist. Over those twenty-five years, he has gone from being a ‘Shrapnel Shredder’ to a member of Poison, Mr. Big & Vertú with Jazz Fusion icons Lenny White & Stanley Clarke and has been highly productive as a solo artist. Yet, with nineteen solo albums, various solo EP’s, two collaboration albums with Greg Howe, an album with Poison, two albums with Mr. Big, the Vertú album, his ‘Forty Deuce’ & ‘Wilson Hawk’ albums and six solo compilation albums under his belt, it took joining forces with Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy in The Winery Dogs for Richie to finally gain respect and recognition from the music buying public.
His success with The Winery Dogs has had many people asking “Where did this Richie guy come from & why haven’t I ever heard of him?” Many people do not know about his prior projects or vast solo catalog because the majority has only been available overseas or directly through Richie’s website. Others refused to listen to him due to his stints in other bands. The Winery Dogs success and the attention given to them by mainstream media has many people discovering the immense talent of Richie for the first time & many are going back and re-discovering his prior works.
To give those interested an expansive and affordable overview of a twenty-five year career, Richie personally compiled a 2-CD and 1-DVD set that Loud & Proud Records will release on Tuesday, September 2nd. It is a fantastic package complete with two new songs, some of Richie’s favorite compositions, new recordings of past favorites and two demos he recorded that later were released on The Winery Dogs album.
Disc one includes thirteen songs, two of which are exclusive to this release, ‘War Paint’ & ‘Walk With Me’. ‘War Paint’ showcases Richie’s vocal range, is a beast rhythmically and includes a short yet sweet solo. It always amazes me how he usually plays all the instruments on his solo recordings yet the songs have a band feel to them. That is a testament to his musical virtuosity! ‘Walk With Me’ is by far one of the most interesting songs Richie has ever released. Usually his songs are guitar driven whereas this track features a Theremin as the main instrument. People will enjoy the video for this cut as Richie goes ‘mad scientist’ in several scenes while the majority of it features footage filmed in some beautiful locations around L.A. & Pennsylvania and his girlfriend plays bass while his daughter lays down the backbeat for the video.
‘Love Is Blind’ is probably my favorite on this album, Absolutely love the slide guitar playing on this track and Richie flat sings his ass off on a melodic gem that should resonate with the casual listener! The song also features his daughter August, Bret Domrose of Keanu Reeve’s ‘Dogstar’ and Jerry Cantrell of Alice In Chains fame as additional vocalists. Jerry really shines through with his “lead vocal ad-lib” during the final chorus beginning at the 5:04 mark. ‘Go Faster’ is just a rocker, plain and simple. ‘Fooled Again’ has multi-layered vocal harmonies and Arlan Schierbaum’s Floyd Cramer inspired touch give this epic a soulful heavenly feel. Virgil McKoy plays bass on this track and really shines, taking the listener on a journey compelling you to close your eyes and lock into the groove. This tune is soooooo good that if you will follow my advice and close your eyes and just ‘feel it’ that you will be stunned to learn that eight minutes had just went by.
The vibe I get from ‘OMG (What’s Your Name?)’ has me thinking Richie has been jamming a lot of Sly & The Family Stone along with his daily doses of The Spinners and James Brown because this track heads down that familiar funky road!! Trust me, that’s a good thing! A slammin’ drum groove and hypnotic bass lines are accented with splashes of synthesizer all the way to a first for Richie, a full-on synth solo! ‘Help Me’ kicks off with a funky lil’ guitar run before the vocals come in. This song just reeks of a tasty groove. ‘Bad Situation’ is eerily reminiscent of the vibe on his 1999 album Bi Polar Blues. That isn’t a bad thing since I’ve wished for another blues oriented album since then. Vocally he uses his range from one end of its ability to the other. There are some choice B.B. King inspired licks and phrasing in his guitar playing. ‘Lie To Me’ from 2009’s ‘Peace Sign’ slows down the pace with an emphasis on the emotion of the lyrics through his vocals.
The next three tunes, ‘Fear’, ‘You Can’t Save Me’ and ‘Doin’ What The Devil Says’ are from his 2006 masterpiece, ‘Into The Black’. I can’t rave enough about these three songs. ‘Remember (Reprise)’ ends disc one on a slower note. Richie really cuts loose vocally on this song.
Disc Two features eight new versions of songs from Richie’s solo catalog; four are complete re-records while the other four are new acoustic versions. The new versions of ‘What Is’ and ‘Special’ are highlights for me. The other two being ‘High’ and ‘Change’ are good tunes but have been staples of his live shows and re-cut acoustically for his ‘Acoustic Cuts’ album so I am just kind of over them. All four of the new acoustic recordings are stellar. I am stoked that Richie is finally giving fans the opportunity to hear ‘Until You Suffer Some (Fire & Ice)’ as he originally wrote it but updated with his 2014 abilities.
‘The Road’ from his ‘Wilson Hawk’ album is an all-time favorite & this version does not disappoint. The final two songs on disc two are demos Richie had recorded in his studio that later were re-written and recorded for The Winery Dogs album. ‘Regret’ is a simple recording of Richie singing with piano accompaniment while ‘Damaged’ is very interesting in this form. It features a drum machine and has almost a disco vibe to it. Completely different from how they ended up on The Winery Dogs album.
Disc three is the DVD & features eleven videos. Four of the videos, ‘Help Me’, ‘Player’, ‘The Shadow’ and ‘My Angel’ were filmed during rehearsals with his solo band giving a ‘Live From Daryl’s House’ vibe to them. ‘Chase It’ is a beautiful ballad filmed in the canals of equally beautiful Vienna. Fans of Richie’s shredder side will digg the song and video ’24 Hours’. The video is as frenetic as his playing in the song. The fact it is all finger picking makes it that more impressive.
With the exception of ‘Walk With Me’ & ‘Help Me’, none of these songs appear elsewhere on any of the three discs. That is 32 unique songs or videos and gives you a great cross-section of what to expect out of Richie’s back catalog.
If I had to recommend three of Richie’s solo albums to anyone, I’d start with 1994’s ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’, 1998’s ‘What Is’ and 2006’s ‘Into The Black’. Those albums showcase his growth as a songwriter, singer and musician.
One MINOR gripe about this compilation is that his vocal debut album ‘Fever Dream’, what is considered his best album to date, 1994’s ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’ and his 1996 album ‘Wave Of Emotion’ is not represented in any way. I would have loved to hear a re-record of ‘Dream Of A New Day’, ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’ and ‘Degeneration’!!! Beggars can’t be choosers as they say. The fact this was compiled by Richie himself is pretty cool because it is like asking him to pick his favorite child in a way. I highly recommend this package; it is a great bang for your buck. GREAT JOB RICHIE!
Richie Kotzen – The Essential Richie Kotzen –CLICK HERE to order TODAY!
Release Date:September 2, 2014
Loud & Proud Records
1. War Paint *
2. Walk With Me *
3. Love Is Blind
4. Go Faster
5. Fooled Again
6. OMG (What’s Your Name?)
7. Help Me
8. Bad Situation
9. Lie To Me
11. You Can’t Save Me
12. Doing What The Devil Says To Do
13. Remember (Reprise)
* never before released *
1. What Is (2014)
2. High (2014)
3. Change (2014)
4. Special (2014)
5. Paint It On (Acoustic Version)
6. Holding On (Acoustic Version)
7. Until You Suffer Some (Fire And Ice) – (Acoustic Version)
8. The Road (Acoustic Version)
9. Regret (Original Demo Version)
10. Damaged (Original Demo Version)
1. Walk With Me (2014)
2. Paying Dues (2009)
3. 24 Hours (2011)
4. Larger Than Life (2009)
5. Losing My Mind (2005)
6. Help Me (2012)
7. Chase It (2008)
8. Player (2011)
9. The Shadow (2011)
10. My Angel (2011)
11. I Would (2008)