Song Of The Day - 6th October 2008: Fooled Again

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6 Oct 2008, 22:38

Richie Kotzen / "Fooled Again" / Go Faster (3) / 2007

Artist: Richie Kotzen
Original Album: Go Faster (US) / Return Of The Mother Head's Family Reunion (Europe)
Track: Fooled Again

This is the second time I've featured a track from Richie Kotzen, and the second from this album...despite the total lack of comments on the previous selection.

Ok, if you've never heard of Richie Kotzen, he, like Greg Howe (featured in SotD a few days ago), began his career as one of many talented young guitarists (including Yngwie Malmsteen and Marty Friedman) talent spotted by Mike Varney on behalf of Shrapnel Records. Unlike many of his Shrapnel labelmates though Kotzen was keen to expand out of simply playing the guitar really very well and by his second album (1990's Fever Dream) Richie was singing. Coincidentally enough, a track from Fever Dream was lifted into the Bill and Ted sequel "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey", that I also mentioned quite recently.

Richie was soon placed in Poison for their 1993 outing Native Tongue replacing original guitarist C.C. DeVille. According to Wikipedia "Kotzen's writing and performing contributions dominated the album." Introducing many elements of funk and blues to the otherwise cliche glam metal the band usually dealt with. The resulting tour most likely accounts for why Kotzen now seems unable to conduct an interview without seeming like the most drugged up rockstar not to appear on the Osbournes reality show. However, the remaining founding members of Poison were quick to expel Kotzen from the band before a second album with him could be made despite the fact RK wrote and co-wrote the album's biggest MTV hits. (Stand, Until You Suffer Some (Fire And Ice)) The official reason for RK's expulsion from the band was (quoth Wikipedia again) "he had been romantically involved with the fiance of drummer Rikki Rockett." However, a popular opinion is that RK's style simploy conflicted with the style of Poison to an extent that they no longer wanted him around.

After leaving Poison, Richie would resume his solo career, during which time his voice was gradually improving along with his songwriting abilities. The focus of his music also shifted away from the guitar and to the lyrics and songs as wholes. Save for 1995's Inner Galactic Fusion Experience and two collaboration albums with Greg Howe (Tilt & Project) almost entirely instrumental outings with an extreme jazz fusion leaning, but a great treat for guitar fans.

The next big thing in RK's career was arguably his appointment as Paul Gilbert's (another guitarist who began their career courtesy of Mike Varney and Shrapnel Records) replacement in Mr. Big, who by this point had become all but unknown in the west, (having not landed a hit since 1991's acoustic ballad To Be With You,) but were however enjoying some big success in Japan. Richie recorded and wrote with Mr. Big on their final two albums 1999's Get Over It and 2001's Actual Size, the latter delivering a number 1 hit single in Japan, the Kotzen penned Shine. Shortly afterwards however, the band mutually decided to split up, which, as I far as I understand it, was this time mainly down to bassist Billy Sheehan and how no one in the band really got on with him anymore.

While I'm sure the Mr. Big tours must have been quite profitable for RK, the dissolution of the bands seems to have done him good as a musician as he's been putting out much stronger material since then, and his vocals have improved to a great extent, giving him a really nice soulful voice that few other guitarists of his ability seem to have come close to paralleling.

While I haven't heard and don't own his full discography, I've got five or six of his records (including the Mr. Big album Actual Size) resulting in an incomplete retrospective spanning most of his career, which I regard as a resonable ground to suggest with some confidence that last year's album (titled Go Faster in the States and Return of the Mother Head's Family Reunion in Europe and Japan) is probably his strongest one to date. His voice is sounding much stronger than on 2003's Change or 2000's Something to Say, while the songwriting is deeper and more fully realised than both, particularly StS. When the guitar solos come, they are as fluid as ever, if not moreso, and the instrumental section on this track (the longest on the album at 8 minutes) is a treat to behold.

I really do have to strongly recommend looking into Richie's recent work if you like hard rock that isn't hair metal by numbers and has a strong awareness of blues, soul and jazz routes as well as what can be learned from more commercial pop acts. A word of warning if you're going to go straight to youtube for research though, you may want to close your eyes if you stumble across some of the late 90s videos as men really shouldn't pluck their eyebrows, something I think RK's learnt now.

Besides his solo exploits Richie has also formed his own band, Forty Deuce to house a grungier, more straight forward, arguably marginally heavier side to his music.

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