Saturday, December 3, 2011
Richie Kotzen-24 Hours Album Review
Released November 11, 2011 (Headroom Inc.)
01. 24 Hours
02. Help Me
03. OMG [What’s Your Name?]
04. Get It On
05. Love is Blind
06. Stop Me
07. Bad Situation
08. I Don’t Know Why
09. Tell Me That It’s Easy
10. Twist of Fate
Richie Kotzen: Written, Produced, Performed & Recorded by Richie Kotzen at "The House'
August Kotzen: Wurlitzer Piano, Additional Vocals & Co-writer track #6 and
Additional Vocals on tracks # 5 & # 9
Jerry Cantrell: Additional Vocals on track #5
Bret Domrose: Additional Vocals on track #5
Mike Bennett: Percussion on track # 3
'24 Hours' marks Richie Kotzen's 23rd album since 1989 including a live album, an album under the banner of 'Wilson Hawk', one with 'Forty Deuce' and two collaborations with Greg Howe. Throw in all the albums he did with Mr. Big, Poison, Vertu, an acoustic album, three 'Best Of' compilations, all the guest appearances & the tribute albums he has appeared on and the number exceeds 125........EASILY!!
Beyond sheer numbers, his catalog of recorded material runs the gamut from Hard Rock, Pop, Blues, Soul, Funk, R&B and even Country! Yes, I said Country......Google "Kent Stanfield Jesus In The Way"!!! I must admit, ol' "Kent" is mighty wicked on that there Banjo & I hope he releases an entire album someday!! Back to Richie Kotzen.......
*****WARNING:SELF PLAGERISM FOR THE NEXT PARAGRAPH (This was included in a review of I did of Richie's 2007 album Return Of The Mother Head's Family Reunion & I felt it was appropriate to include here to segue into the rest of the review.)*****
"First off, I must warn everyone that when it comes to anything that has Richie Kotzen's name attached to it I am 100% biased, I will admit! I've been a devoted fan of all things Kotzen since I got his Fever Dream cassette in 1990. I am not so "blinded" as a fan that I won't admit when something isn't up to par with Richie's talent. Case in point, his 1999 release Break It All Down. That disc sonically was flat and sadly the writing and playing seem very un-inspired with the exception of the song "It Burns". "
With Richie, it is hard to predict what is coming next album wise. His influences are diverse. One year you may get a hard rock flavored album and then next year he throws you a curveball with a soulful R&B flavored gem. There is no cookie cutter approach to Richie and his music. That is what keeps me coming back for more, year after year and album after album! I will do a track-by-track rundown of '24 Hours'.....here we go!!
24 HOURS (4:14) Richie released the title track as a single and video back in September. My first impression of the title track was mixed at the beginning due to the usage of autotune over his vocals in parts of the song. Over time I got past that and now dig the tune for what it is, a furious romp and one helluva pyrotechnics show on the fret board!! The video is just as fast paced with some stellar camera work and editing!! In the past few years Richie has ceased using a plectrum and went the Jeff Beck route, finger picking. How his fingers aren't shredded after playing this tune is beyond me!
HELP ME (4:35) 'Help Me' kicks off with a funky lil' guitar run before the vocals come in. This songs just reeks of a tasty groove. The bass and drums are right in the pocket. Richie's vocals are in a higher register than usual on most of this track as well as on most of the album. My only gripe is about that buzzing bass synth part that comes in on the choruses starting at the one minute mark and returns periodically throughout. It took me a while to realize that my stereo wasn't screwing up or that there wasn't a glitch in the mastering of the album but that buzzing was intentional. Don't let the buzzing deter you, the track is a sweet funky lil ditty!
OMG [WHAT'S YOUR NAME?] (4:22) I'm sensing that Richie has been jamming a lot of Sly & The Family Stone in 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!!
GET IT ON (3:10) Kicking off on the mellow side with sparse guitar licks before picking up the tempo, 'Get It On' sounds like it could have been on his 1996 album Wave Of Emotion. That album is where Richie really started incorporating his R&B, Soul and Funk chops into his music and going beyond being pigeonholed primarily as a shredder. Over the years he has always added a touch of those influences to his tunes and this cut is no different. I feel his bass playing is often overlooked because of his reputation on the guitar but he always lays down some tasty grooves. Many don't realize that Richie often plays all the instruments on his albums in addition to his singing and guitar playing.
LOVE IS BLIND (5:37) This song is probably my favorite on this album, it may be tied with the final track on this album. It is hard to choose. If I was an A&R man at Headroom Inc., I would advise Richie to release this to radio and definitely make a video for it. 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! I feel like going all 'Wayne's World' in his presence and proclaiming "I'M NOT WORTHY"!!!!
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!! Richie has worked with Bret in the past having appeared with Dogstar as a 2nd guitarist on several talk shows back at the start of the decade & August has really blossomed into a seasoned singer.....probably doesn't hurt that both her parents are exceptional vocalists in their own right! She has even begun singing back-up at his live shows and takes the lead on a version of on the Dorothy Moore classic "I Don't Want To Be With Nobody But You" & The Yardbirds classic "Shapes Of Things". Richie has to be proud!! Jerry really shines through with his "lead vocal ad-lib" during the final chorus beginning at the 5:04 mark. AN INSTANT CLASSIC IN MY OPINION!!
STOP ME (2:58) Another catchy mid-tempo tune that was co-written & features his daughter August on Wurlitzer Piano and additional vocals. I hope they will release a duet album in the near future. The guitar solo is classic Richie, full on frenzy on the fretboard!!
BAD SITUATION (3:51) 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 over the past 11 years! 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.
Dig this one big time & I really connect with the lyrical content. It feels like he wrote this song about a prior relationship I was in. When a song touches you in a way that you feel that they wrote it about a time in your life or you wished you wrote it because it was exactly how you feel about something, that is the mark of a true artist!!! Richie has done that many times since I began following his career 21 years ago & that is why he is my all-time favorite singer/songwriter/musician!!
I DON'T KNOW WHY (3:51) Vocally soulful and in the ballad realm. This is one of the most brilliant vocal performances I've ever heard Richie turn in. The music is subtle & laid back and allows the vocal performance to take the forefront. Richie really lays his emotions out for the world to hear here. His sense of melody is in a class by its own.
TELL ME THAT IT'S EASY (4:46) Another mid tempo R&B song bordering on a ballad that again features August Kotzen adding her soulful vocals to the mix. The guitar fills sit back in the mix and add a classy touch to a beautiful song.
TWIST OF FATE (5:12) Now we have come to the end of an emotional journey and to my other favorite song on the album. Starting off with some classical acoustic guitar before he comes in with his soulful vocal styling's. The lyrics tell a story that takes the listener on a journey as he sings to the one he loves. You get a sense that the person Richie is singing to has given off the vibe of being unsure as to their relationship and that he is trying to convince her to put her guard down, as the lyrics allude to.
The guitar has a 'Maggie May' feel to them before he comes in on piano at the 3:20 mark. I can close my eyes and see Floyd Cramer playing the ivories on this track, but he has long passed. Another example of what a world class musician Richie is. The song picks up steam at that point with bluesy guitar runs over a subtle groove and the piano. While I feel this song is perfect as it is, I can envision Richie writing parts from a female perspective and having someone sing almost a point-counterpoint duet with him.
In concluding, it took a few listens to the album as a whole to get it but I GOT IT! There were no full on rockers or instant pop radio hits that grabbed you. Instead you have to sit back and immerse yourself in the passion and soul for which is coming into your ears!
This album is a look inside Richie's heart and life since his last album. While at points melancholy, you come away with a renewed sense of hope and love thanks to the audio journey you have just taken. In a few years, this album will be looked upon by his legions of fans the same way his 1998 album "What Is...." his 2005 album "Into The Black" are these days. It is a beautiful artistic look into his soul and shows another step in his musical evolution. Well done Richie, well done!!
24 Hours Promo Video.......