2015-11-21

Album Review: Richie Kotzen - 24 Hours

Photo courtesy CDBaby.com

Released in 2011, 24 Hours was an album on which Richie Kotzen seemed to have hit his stride, and was channeling all of his many characteristics into a single, unified musical vision.

What do I mean? Well, Kotzen is a remarkably diverse artist. He's got the guitar god thing going for him, the jazz/fusion thing going for him, the soul singer thing going for him, the singer/songwriter thing, the multi-instrumentalist thing, the singer/frontman thing... and so on. Any one of these things is enough for most artists to build a career on. Richie Kotzen, though, is not "most artists," he's thoroughly unique in the sheer breadth of his virtuosity.

With that in mind, if any criticism can be made of Richie Kotzen as a musician (and I'm not sure any valid criticism can be made), it's that perhaps on an album or two he rested too heavily on one of his particular laurels, to the detriment of the many others.

Take, for example, his early years on Shrapnel Records, when he was making "guitar god music," if you will. During those years, we never got any exposure to the side of Richie Kotzen that was capable of writing a song like "Twist Of Fate," the stunning album closer on 24 Hours. On an album like Break It All Down, by contrast, we got plenty of that kind of great, moody songwriting to the detriment of the Prince-inflected funk jams like "OMG (What's Your Name?)."

24 Hours, by contrast, gives equal billing to absolutely everything Kotzen does. We get the virtuosity, the soul, the passion, the writing... we get the whole package.

A few important things stand out for me on this album.

First, the sheer funkiness of it. There's always a little funk going on in a Richie Kotzen album, but on this one, the funk takes the foreground. The result is possibly one of most danceable albums of Kotzen's career.

Second, "dat bass." Kotzen plays bass himself on this record, and it is always awesome. Kotzen proves he's as good a bassist as anyone in the business on this record. His approach is aggressive, taking control of the song, while still holding down a solid rhythmic and harmonic center. And the bass leads are just to die for.

Third, while the album is quite well-produced, the album has a sort of stripped-down, back-to-basics sound to it. The guitars, bass, and keys all sound 100% dry. The drums have a nice "in the room" sound to them, with perhaps some slapback on the snare drum for thickness, but other than that, they sound pretty much like they must have sounded when they were recorded. Most of the "special effects," if you will, seem devoted to backing vocals. Even the lead vocals sound pretty straight. Now, ordinarily a very dry production can sound "thin" or "weak," but on 24 Hours, everything seems to come together exactly how you'd want it to. The result is a set of clear and spacious tones that sound, above all, honest.

Well, an artist like Richie Kotzen can afford to put out a completely honest record, because he's among the best in the business. 24 Hours is no exception.