"The Essential" (DGC; 2014)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

This is a two-CD and DVD compilation the tracks of which are taken from Richie's eighteen solo albums. There is a lot of music here, all of it extraordinary and with Richie's blues-born voice you can put this dual disc on play and relive the moments that he chose to tell his musical story. This offering even has two new cuts, "War Paint" and "Walk This Way," so you get Richie past, present and future. He also included three never-before-heard tracks. "The Essential" is appropriately named.

This is an easy review to write because Richie has done all the hard work here. Those familiar with his guitar prowess probably have a lot of these discs that the music was pulled from and those who are just starting to know about Richie will dig his set list and that was his idea behind this offering. There are a lot of features to the DVD section and you can really get a feel for his playing by watching him perform. He's even got some bootleg material included, so you get Richie from a fan's perspective.

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"Into the Black" (Headroom-Inc.; 2006)

Reviewed by Ray Van Horn Jr.

If I had an Album of the Week, this would certainly be it. You may be scratching your head saying “Man, that guy sounds familiar…” Richie Kotzen played with Poison in their early stages, as he did with Mr. Big. Kotzen also teamed with Stanley Clarke in a fusion jazz band called Vertu. Otherwise, Kotzen has been releasing intermittent solo albums and none have been more deeply personal than "Into the Black."

"Into the Black" resonates with a deep-felt funk that reflects little of his past endeavors. In fact, the frequently apologetic tone of "Into the Black’s" lyrics makes it deliciously painful to listen to. Just the opening track “You Can’t Save Me” with its choruses of “and fuck your money, fuck your fame, fuck my life I’ll walk away,” Jesus ...

The melancholic tone of "Into the Black" lends part of its charm. Kotzen’s vocals will frequently remind you of Chris Cornell, but he’s been in the game awhile, so give the man his props. Other songs like “Misunderstood,” “The Shadow” and the bluesy “’Til You Put Me Down” are full of such down-tempo vibrancy (is that an oxymoron?), and while the album’s closer, “My Angel,” is an obvious reworking of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” this self-performed album is full of introspective strength and passion. Plain and simple, this album bleeds.

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"Bi-Polar Blues" (Blues Bureau Int'l.; 1999)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

If you know anything about music then you should have an opinion, either way, about Richie Kotzen. He stepped in and recorded with Poison, then stepped out and recorded with everyone else. He’s got heavy metal skills and blues tendencies. Guess what that’ll get you? This is one of his best solo efforts.

I’m a bluesman some days of the week and this release always gets my fingers nimble when I want to play something besides the standard chord progressions. Richie really caught my attention when he stripped Poison down to a blues outfit and caused Brett and the boys to explore a new musical direction. I don’t think they’ve ever been the same since. I caught a few tracks from him while he was in Mr. Big; more applause from me.

Kotzen’s voice seems to be made for the blues; he’s got that comfortable sound and if you never knew he did anything in the rock world you’d think he was blues singer and player all his life, all 37 years of it. His voice really isn’t the key here, his guitar playing is. He’s got such a strong style that even sitting in front of my PC I feel the smoky sound and think I’m in a basement with dimmed lights and I’m being spoken to by a crying gitfiddle.

Because the title suggests the blues but with another side, Richie does the traditional arrangements. He covers “They’re Red Hot” and “From Four Till Late” by Robert Johnson. He even covers “Tobacco Road” by John D. Loudermilk and does a fine job, yes sir. The rest of the disc is peppered with his creations; you can tell he enjoys paying homage and playing the blues.

Most of the CDs I have reviewed lead me to list the hits so you’ll get the best songs if you’re new to the band or the sound. I won’t do that here because this isn’t a record that spawned any hits. Its sounds more like a labor of love. So, enjoy Mr. Kotzen’s playing.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Revised: 03 Apr 2022 15:56:16 -0400 .