Richie Kotzen

August 16, 2007

In a 1970s America, Richie Kotzen would probably be an über-star. He has the looks, the guitar chops, the voice, the pop-songwriting skills, and the production savvy to deliver albums that are mesmerizing, uplifting, and thrilling. Go Faster is no exception—it’s a gem from start-to-finish. Kotzen employs a pretty brilliant audio-seduction strategy of maintaining listener interest throughout the tracks by embracing different genres—classic rock, funk, gospel, blues, and so on—without sacrificing a molecule of his own characteristic identity. That tactic alone is something GP readers might wish to study, as it’s a fine line between utili-zing stylistic influences to energize one’s musical personality, and not simply spewing cover-band readings that tend to gobble any chance at uniqueness. Kotzen’s guitar tones are big, articulate, and ballsy—those suckers move a lot of air, even from a desktop playback system—yet they’re always empathetic to the song’s stylistic echoes and overall vibe. He obviously puts a lot of critical thought into how the guitars set each song’s mood, rather than just plugging in, saying something like “Oh, that’s a nice blues-rock tone,” and letting it fly. His layers are beautifully constructed, as well. Strat spikes shimmer out of washes of distorted textures, low-end rumbles mate with more articulate punches, and wild solos snake in and out of driving rhythm tones. The only tragedy here is that tons of kids who consider guitar bands to be exemplified by acts such as the Killers and My Chemical Romance may not feel Kotzen’s old-school, ’70s-influenced material speaks to them. That’s a pity, because this is what a commercial rock-guitar album should sound like—even in 2007.
—Michael Molenda

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