Album review: SMITH KOTZEN (Adrian Smith, Richie Kotzen)

SMITH KOTZEN (Adrian Smith, Richie Kotzen)

BMG [Release date 26.03.21]

What have rock stars been doing in Lockdown?  Streaming, recycling back catalogue, a bit of gardening, maybe even new material.  And some have joined forces with others.  Strength in numbers, or something.

Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden) and Richie Kotzen (Poison, Mr Big, Winery Dogs) have pitted their combined guitaring and songwriting skills to fashion nine tracks of pure unadulterated hard rock heaven.

Smith has only ever produced one “solo” album (i.e. under his own name) – ASAP in 1989 – whilst Kotzen has been highly productive since his stint with Mr Big and continuing a solo career that started in 1989.

The two musicians originally met up by chance in Los Angeles in the 1990s and kept in touch, both having equal respect for their respective musical activities.  It is only more recently they’ve managed to hook up again with something more musical in mind although strictly speaking this liaison took place before Lockdown happened in early 2020.

There is absolutely no filler in this enterprise which is characterised by the musicians’ good taste, knowing just when to drop in that ear candy solo and when to leave it out.

It’s the songs that shine through, and whilst occasionally this sounds more like a Kotzen album with a special guest that has mainly to do with the song stylings and Kotzen’s distinctive vocal phrasing.

Standouts? Well, it’s all good but the three opening tracks have all been early singles which tells you the quality and immediacy here.

‘Glory Road’ (and to a lesser extent ‘Some People’) reminds of Bad Company but overall there’s a definite homage feel to those bands that both musicians grew up with, including Mk III Deep Purple (the twin vocal thing) and Whitesnake (at their bluesy best).

‘Til Tomorrow’ is more a showcase for Smith but promises more than it delivers.  There’s something amiss with the production, not least the drumming, and the mix which makes it sound more like a demo.  The rhythm guitars are muddy and lost. Half a star docked for that.  It’s potentially a great song.  Perhaps Kevin ‘Caveman’ Shirley is losing his touch?

‘Scars’ is a six minute meltdown of smouldering blues rock and a great showcase for this dynamic duo.  There’s a touch of Glenn Hughes in Smith/Kotzen’s vocals.  Ageing rockers are not always best placed or disposed to sing of love and longing but it’s on display here and repeated on the southern-rock tinged ‘I Wanna Stay’.

Well, it is spring when a young man’s fancy etc.  A wizened old reviewer’s thoughts, on the other hand, tend to turn to albums of the year.  Three months in and this is a sure contender.  Let’s hope this partnership is more than just a Lockdown bromance.  ****1/2

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 12 September 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 14 September 2021.

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