I listen to a lot of music. I listen to tons of metal in all the melodic genres, and also most any melodic hard rock I can get my hands on. Every once in a while, I come across an artist or band who simply does not fit the grid. The music surprises me and pleases me. Call it cognitive, or acoustic dissonance, if you will. Such is the case with Richie Kotzen's new work 'Return of Mother's Head Family Reunion.' Mr. Kotzen is probably best remembered for his work with Poison and Mr. Big. But he has an impressive solo career, longer than his time with the aforementioned bands, that has mostly gone unnoticed except to his fans. This is a damn shame because Kotzen is a fine guitarist. On this album he continues his blues-driven, melodic rock with some very profound results.
Let me begin by saying one thing: not every song on this album grabbed me. However, as a whole, I found this album to be exemplary in content. The first two numbers are pretty straight ahead rockers, nothing extraordinary here; the best being 'You Know That.' When you get to 'Fooled Again' you know you're in for something special. Kotzen is incredible on vocals and guitar. His voice is smooth and alluring; and the guitar work is astonishing: sound, sure and astonishing. Now that we're in the guts of the album, there is more to highlight. Specifically, 'Faith' is an inspiring Gospel-like, blues song that shows that Kotzen knows his roots. (Be advised: there is know real Gospel in his 'faith.') 'Bad Things' is another knock-out rocker with a great bass line. 'Dust' has a rawness and simplicity that makes you wonder if Mr. Kotzen is either living in the past or only convincing us of the importance of blues rock. 'Dust' is another cut, short and superb, that shows Kotzen at his most sublime mixing acoustic guitar and piano in a wonderful ballad.
The remainder of the album is equally fine. 'Do It Yourself' and 'You Are Crazy' are both incredibly melodic songs with a great choruses and sterling guitar work. 'Feed My Head' rock in a more complex way which is a good thing. However, lyrically it totally negates the positivism of 'Faith.' Finally, 'Can You Feel It' simply blows you out of the water. The chops alone will have you snapping your figures. Musically, it is the most 'fun' song on the album.
As I said above, not everything impressed me on this album. You really need to get through the first two songs (and that does not mean that they're bad) to really appreciate this album. Kotzen thrills with his consistent and mature vocals and his slick guitar work. Did I mention that his band is exceptional? This a tight act. Give this album an work a listen and you will be surprise and pleased as well. Highly recommended!
- Craig Hartranft