Release Date: August 21, 2007
Former Poison and Mr. Big guitarist Richie Kotzen has matured gracefully in the years since he entered the scene in 1989 as a budding six-string virtuoso on Mike Varney’s Shrapnel Records. Since adopting Fender instruments in the early 90’s, Kotzen has developed two signature guitars with Fender Japan that consistently rank amongst their best-selling models. Kotzen has been pumping out quality solo material and playing to adoring crowds worldwide for years.
Kotzen’s latest offering (called Go Faster here in the US, and Return Of Mother Head’s Family Reunion in the rest of the world) is a groove-infused celebration of rock music. While maintaining a contemporary edge, Go Faster recalls the classic rock of the 60’s and 70’s, and also draws inspiration from vintage soul and funk – check out the infectious vocal refrain in ‘Faith’ and the wah-drenched background guitars in ‘You Know That.’ Whatever styles Kotzen brings into a particular track, he maintains a distinctive rock attitude in his delivery of every song.
Go Faster boasts a good balance of ripping tracks like the title track and ‘Feed My Head,’ as well as slower tunes. Of the ballads, ‘Chase It’ stands out as a tremendously catchy composition, tailored to a radio format by joining gorgeous melodies with reflective lyrics and a tasteful arrangement that builds to a powerful peak. His compositional skills shine in bluesy rock songs like ‘Bad Things’ and ‘Do It To Yourself,’ where he develops his catchy themes with distinctive sections that flow fluidly into one another. Song after song, the album contains riffs that grab you and melodies that keep swimming around your head hours after you hear them.
From the album’s opening track to its final moments, Kotzen sings with authority. Kotzen brings bluesy inflections to his vocal melodies in songs like ‘Feed My Head,’ and an insistent wail to soulful rockers like ‘You Know That.’ His vocal lines are memorable and delivered with fire – something that is often missing in guitarists of his caliber who take the mic.
The guitar tones all over Go Faster proudly scream ‘single coil!’ courtesy of Kotzen’s signature Strat and Tele. He coaxes lead tones out of them that serve each musical setting – from the brutal lines of ‘Bad Things’ to the buttery solo in ‘Fooled Again.’ His rhythm tone complements his shimmering chord work, as well as his more frequent guttural riffage.
He infuses his playing with as much inflection as he does his vocals, and anchors it with a rock solid groove. Kotzen’s solos are the only inconsistent element here – he sometimes comes out of the gate blazing and slows down only briefly for a bend, which prevents songs like ‘Feed My Head’ from rocking as thoroughly as they could. Other times, as in ‘Dust,’ his solos lock right into the groove from the start and progress naturally towards a satisfying finish.
The performances and recordings of every player involved are tight and crisp. Every instrument holds its own ground in the mix of Go Faster, and fuels the winding vibes that make up the album. Kotzen involved the band in the jams that produced the final cuts of the album, and it shows in places like the down-and-dirty verse of ‘Bad Things,’ where the rhythm section sets off Kotzen’s riff with some very hip accents. The vocals stand above the rest of the mix, followed closely by the lead guitar – which is loud enough to command your attention without masking the performances of the rest of the band. Overall, this an excellent rock album that showcases strong songs and striking vocals as much as it highlights Kotzen’s virtuosic guitar work.
- Kotzen’s soaring falsetto in the chorus of ‘Go Faster’
- The addicting pre-chorus and chorus of ‘Fooled Again’
- Kotzen’s sharp phrasing and incendiary rock fire in ‘Fooled Again’ (5:26 – 6:19)
- The trudging groove that fuels the intro and verse of ‘Dust’
- The gnarly dyads that open the ‘Dust’ solo, and its twisting wah lines (3:24)
- The push-pull interplay of the bass drum and guitar in ‘Do It To Yourself’s verse
- Every emotive minute of the radio-ready ballad ‘Chase It’
- ‘Feed My Head’s escalating intro riff