I'm a relative new-comer to the world of Richie Kotzen. I was aware of him, but only to the extent that I knew of him as one of the former guitarists for rock group, Mr. Big, filling the large shoes of Paul Gilbert. I quickly discovered that not only could he lay claim to that title, but he could also tout the label of former member of the band Poison (co-writing tracks on their album, Native Tongue). However, as a solo musician, I wasn't familiar with his work at all. Thanks to a new friend of mine, I was given a wake-up call to how amazing this fellow is! After listening to just a handful of songs, I was hooked, and quickly ordered two albums to further immerse myself. Though I found both albums to be full of great tracks, I thought Go Faster was a more well-rounded release and decided to share a small taste of that with you.
Go Faster is, at its core, a blues rock album. Kotzen kicks us into high gear right off the bat with the title track, which is a musical joyride about -- not surprisingly -- racing cars. Interestingly enough, none of the other songs seem to possess any traits that relate to the record title, but they're so good that I hardly care. "Fooled Again" is an eight minute epic that hardly feels like eight minutes, "Dust" is a hard rocker that possesses a wailing chorus which will infect your mind, and "Chase It" begins with a progression reminiscent of a seaside vacation before floating into a beautiful ballad about moving on. Every song on this release is solid, and I find it difficult not to hit repeat on each one as it begins to fade out.
Aside from the obvious fact of having great songs, three things really make this album stand out to me. The first is Richie's guitar playing, which is quite simply mind-blowing. His style sounds natural and organic, one moment melding with the rest of the instruments as though they could only ever be as one, and the next bursting at the seams into a whirlwind of fretboard magic. The second is the amazing tightness of the band, who complement each other so well and make the songs sound full and alive. The bass playing is thick, the drumming right on time, and the keyboards fill in any gaps to catch stray notes as they fall. Finally, and this is what blew me away the most, the amazing vocal talent of Richie Kotzen. I was struck by his soulful performance, which makes the songs transcend the "good" and reach the "great". I still believe that he sounds like a mix of Sammy Hagar and Soundgarden's Chris Cornell, at moments sounding like one and then the other.
I really love classic hard rock. My parents raised me on the stuff. At the same time, I'm thoroughly impressed and awed by the virtuosity that made Mike Varney's Shrapnel Records guitarists famous. Richie Kotzen brings the best of both worlds, and then tops it all off with a good deal of soul. I know that I've only skimmed the surface of his work, but I expect it won't take long to fix that. As for you, if you dig this sort of music, this is a good place to begin getting to know Kotzen. Go Faster is a great release -- I wouldn't change a thing.
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