(voir la version française written by Franck ”andfurious” Urban – Traduction by Phil ”Lizzy”)
Point of view from France
Virtuosity, multi-instrumentalist, soulful voice, classy clips, second degree humor, grace, advantageous physics … Would it alone define art in all its breadth … art in all its splendor? I’m exaggerating? Perhaps!? At the time of zapping and superficiality, if you want to spare the presentation, the Paid My Dues clip reveals his talents as musicians where we see him in turn, playing all the instruments, and this in a musical category on which, it will be difficult for you to remain impassive (that of STAX and MOTOWN). One talent that can hide another… Could this guy be the source of jealousy as long as he accumulates talents?
A picture in agreement
Speaking of clips, we will appreciate the aesthetics that come from them, either in terms of decoration or in atmospheres. The You clip with and composed by his daughter is a marvel. Of course, we are far from Mylène FARMER’s budgets. But let’s say that with few financial means, you can make you feel a lot, including this rare elegance. That must be what we call class. In his other videos, there is often a humorous side if you pay attention to it. The end of the clip The Damned where he does not seem to understand what he is doing here, is an example, or the final of Venom where he exudes a certain authority, or his video selfies, private frenzy on his facebook page. At a time when more people are spending large budgets on videos, we will welcome the effort of creativity.
If the visual is sometimes a trompe-l’oeil for ephemeral artists, they sometimes define a career, a personality. If you also prefer to discover his journey through his clips, instead of starting with the first of his thirty albums, you will see an evolution but also a certain coherence, ranging from the “fluff” of youth (Mother Head’s Family Reunion) to a more posed to a staider imagery of maturity (You Can’t Save Me… er oops sorry lol, this one is more focused on breasts than on saints … I said that Riot clip is rather more focused on maturity consequently it is softer. For a musician, finding the right match to his image is the pinnacle of success.
A beginning, a misunderstanding – Too deep, too talented?
Surprisingly if his discography and probably also his portfolio would arouse much jealousy, Ritchie KOTZEN has not really reached that mega-star status that his abilities and his handsome face should have brought him. Fans are still looking for the explanation. I offer you some without being sure of anything, except for his undeniable genius :
C / Blurred by the image of his label
D / Hired in a divisive band
E / Its physical and vocal resemblance : a brake for médias ?
F / The trio: touching glory by playing in trio is quite rare
C / Blurred by the image of his label
Therefore that gifted person started in the early 90’s as a shredder for Mike VARNEY’s label which was specialized in tribute albums and instrumental albums following Joe SATRIANI’s success, who in turn will highlight Tony McALPINE, Marty FRIEDMAN, Vinnie MOORE, Greg HOWE’s catalogs, and many others’ Launching into this move with a first instrumental album, he will put forward his particular technique of playing with fingers.
But this team of fast-paced guitarists saturates the market and gives all of its musicians a reputation of musicians stripped of feeling and obsessed by the downpours of ear-hugs. As a result, with rare exceptions and apart from learning musicians trying to reproduce the plans of these technicians, many of them will be labelled and forgotten. There will be little regard for the two songs sung that already reveal a voice. Because how can you imagine that there is so much depth in this young man with such a MTV 80 look? Truth In Life wich appeared on Fever Dreams could have alerted us, but prejudice often has the disadvantage of letting laziness, even bad faith, dominates us, when on the contrary it would be necessary to dig a little.
So there was a kind of disagreement with signing in the VARNEY’s Record Compagny which highlights the schredder side of his foals. While his first instrumental albums already demonstrate an exceptional groove. The instrumental track Acid Lips on Electric Joy already presents the vocal lines of a future song. The cover and the choice of title of the album does not encourage either to believe in such music. According to me, a more attenuated and less cheap photo, would have better corresponded to the music itself (see below). That of Peace Sign seems to me to correspond to its 70’s access rock. That of Peace Sign seems to me to correspond to its 70’s access rock.
If we can understand that the label wanted to focus on the young man’s good-looking face, a photo like the ones below, could have been a happy medium. The shooting will be rectified in 1994 with Mother Head’s Family Reunion but after 3 albums had already been released, the damage is done and the Grunge is there! (see besides the holey jeans and the ‘patte d’eph’ jeans) A signature on a label which was more focused on jazz or blues might have been more judicious (!?). The Vertù project will lend credibility to the hypothesis.
In my opinion this label choice will therefore, slightly distort the perception of the artist who was still hiding behind that image of virtuoso.
D / Hired in a divisive band
He still had the time to compose a mega tube, the gospel ballad Stand which should earn him some nice annual royalties. He will have tried to make that group credible but in the end, this ballad will have finished showing the vocal limits of Bret MICHAELS. (live version performed by KOTZEN). He even stole the show on the twin song Until You Suffer Some the fair play blond-haired singer who shared the microphone. (live version interpreted by RK) Moreover we will notice in this clip the potential that is bubbling. We will also already notice his ability to put his technique at the service of the song and not vice versa, with a bluesy and non-demonstrative solo which the image of the group could have imposed.
He will gain credibility when he replaces the phenomenal Paul GILBERT who was on vacation from MR BIG, one of the last good of Big Rock groups and in which a certain Billy SHEEHAN appears. At that moment too, he will write a number one hit in Japan, the ballad Shine (live version interpreted by RK)… It must be said that he is also gifted in this exercise (Soul To Soul, Change, The Enemy, Time For The Payment, Dogs …)… But the height is that he is gifted in all musical exercises. It is even almost disgustingly easy.
A complete artist
Because KOTZEN is musically unlike these misleading images of that music business. The artist only swears by rhythm ‘n ’blues music and everything that can come out of the illustrious labels such as STAX and MOTOWN.
Soul, Blues (A Step Away, Some Voodoo,…), Funk and Jazz, Swing (From Four Till Late), come to consolidate his Rock repertoire with a touch of Dance (Time Gonna Tell, Slow,…) which cannot leave people motionless, because it is really groovy! (Socialite, Used,…), all without forgetting the potential hits with winning refrains (Air, Go Faster, Make It Easy,…). or the killing songs that are powerfull (I Still, 24 Hours,…) Especially few then know how golden his voice is, even if he will use it as a backing vocalist in those two groups.
Certainly, the man is playful and likes to deceive his world, especially when one is not bilingual. Also the video of Wave Of Emotion could also be confusing if we stick to the only imagery which can be perceived as very ‘Freddie MERCURYian’, while the lyrics seem to translate here his taste for the second degree. Don’t Wanna Lie’s also doesn’t help with an image of the shirtless Californian playboy and his bimbo who plays… blues. The imagery could attract young people of his generation but he plays music for “old people”. In other words musically speaking he does not play according to young people’s niche. Because they were crazy about boy bands at that time. However, visually speaking, we do not see how he could find any credit with a more mature audience.
Anyway, we can salute him for not having sold his soul, not necessarily try to seduce one or the other and let it go, taking the offers that were submitted to him while he was keeping his profoundness, even with POISON.
His guitar playing – Bullet-time before the gust
Playing with his fingers, listening to it more closely, his first instrumental album is filled with reference and stands out from the other instrumental albums VARNEY- labelled. But the flooding of the market with this type of product has bored the general public for it so that they could listen to this album very carrefully especially since it came out a little after all the others and on the eve of the Grunge virus.
Because if at the beginning, the speed was put forward, the guitarist improved himself by varying the times. He is even one of the few ones with Ritchie BLACKMORE to know how to play with silences in order to let the listener breathe. Knowing how to space the moments, he is able to let the notes float at times … as if between two super fast phrases, he managed to invent the Bullet-time in music, that is to say this famous cinematic slow motion effect which was presented for the first time in the MATRIX film. I f the notes are played either fast or slow, they fly away so that everything could becomes airy. Devil’s Hand‘s solo is one example, among his many guitar masterpieces filled with sensuality and ‘finesse’. He even applied for the title of solo of the year. Like many others, he improves over time, over the notes. (read also the more technical details on Wikipedia)
Paradoxically for me, it was through a tribute album that in 1992, I was going to discover this voice. I did not discover it through just an ordinary tribute band because that was thanks to CREAM and its legendary classy blues rock.
I bought it for the presence of Glenn HUGHES and Joe Lynn TURNER on the record. And it will be him who will keep me glued! From the first words, I fell off my jaw. But who is this guy who is singing like that, with such a powerful, scratchy and high-pitched voice, a cousin of COVERDALE’s? Love at first sight ! (Strange Brew) And it still lasts. So I will buy all of his albums.
When we listen to that pure gem and his innumerable talents, I only see in this early career, the explanation of an “only” underground success in France and maybe in Europe (let’s put it in perspective, the guy has a nice house in a famous place), and ”stinks” so much class at all levels.
Even when he schreds, there is a kind of elegance, finesse in his way of playing. One might even think that his velocity is a paradox with the sweetness of his voice, filled with soul, as if it were always necessary to get two opposites like white and black, so that the first one could highlight the other one in order to counterbalance any excess of one. In short, I cannot explain the inexplicable.
E / Its physical and vocal resemblance : a brake for médias ?
Would his physical and vocal resemblance with the died singer of SOUNDGARDEN be an obstacle to a marketing investment made by his record company ? As he was recently interviewed, he was asked what he would do if he received a phone informing him he had to replace Chris CORNELL. in one of the groups that dominated the 1990s. he answered elegantly:
He adds to the level of his vocal influences:
“It doesn’t have anything to do with numbers; it would not be a numbers game. I think that it would be an honor for anyone to have that opportunity. And again, it goes back to the sentence I said earlier: ‘Never step into a great man’s shoes.’ But I think that that phone call, whether it was me or anyone else, would be a complete honor, and I think someone would have to be a bit of a fool to say ‘no.'”
During the same chat, KOTZEN acknowledged similarities between his voice and CORNELL’S, but denied that he was ever directly inspired by the late SOUNDGARDEN and AUDIOSLAVE singer.
“Well, I think it is a compliment,” Richie continued talking about comparisons. “He’s one of the greatest rock singers of our generation, so it’s definitely a compliment. And I think people make comparisons, because that’s what they do — they hear things that resonate that are familiar. Now, the comparison, I think it is a coincidence. I think I’m a little too old and I’ve been doing it a little too long to say that his work was a direct influence on what I do. But I could say that we probably had similar influences. And I can say that I think he’s a fantastic and amazing artist. And it’s an honor to be compared to anyone that’s great.
My biggest influence as a singer is Terence Trent D’Arby,” Kotzen explained. “And that is where that sound comes from. So the sound that caused rock people to mention Chris, I got that sound, and I will admit I lifted it from Terence Trent D’Arby. So the rock people, many of them, aren’t gonna get that, ’cause they don’t listen to that kind of music. So they say Chris. If they did their research, they’d know that I listened to Terence, I listened to [David] Coverdale and Glenn Hughes and Ronnie Dio and Paul Rodgers. So, it’s a coincidence, but it is a very nice compliment. And being compared to someone great is always a good thing.”
By the way, he had already been invited to sing a cover of AUDIOSLAVE Cochise with Tom MORELLO. In parallel, the Lenny KRAVITZ, Terence Trent D’ARBY and PRINCE also occupy the field of the star-system.
Who is who ?
F / The trio: touching glory by playing in trio is quite rare
But how many are there to combine voice-guitar solo, at such a high level? We seem to be attached to the notion of group, and the complicity between a singer and a guitarist (AEROSMITH, GN’R, VAN HALEN …), and this fantasized friendship, sometimes real sometimes conflictual, sometimes reduced to a simple professional collaboration … But hush! Admitting this does not make fans dream because it keeps them in their professional life while the artists are there to escape from us. After looking at it very closely, he could replace the guitarist and singer at the same time in those groups and others quoted in my examples.
The way of singing, playing the guitar and swinging and being keen on stepping out of the way as shown in Mother Head’s Family Reunion video, clearly proves that he has watched a lot of TYLER and ROTH performances. But how can we do without a Steven TYLER, a David Lee ROTH, an Eddie VH, or a SLASH, … As if this notion of group seemed finally more human than individualism? Okay, I’m going astray! However, I don’t have coronavirus fever.
Outside work this man seems to like nourishing contradictions. He is not smiling despite a seductive physical appearance, he seems to be a deadpan who is keen on british humor. You just have to go to his Facebook page to regularly discover his jokes, or appreciate his latest clip As You Are in relation to Covid. 19. So, as my friend Bertrand will say at the end of his concert in Toulouse in 2019: “If he smiles, he puts the whole world at his feet”
The musician seems to be satisfied with a critical success in France living on his rents and therefore investing little in our very capricious, it should be remembered, but nevertheless who is really interested in blues and jazz if we believe the few national festivals (Cognac, Mirande, Marciac,…)? Because for a very long time, I had not experienced such fervor from the French audience to beg for an encore. That’s a proof, isn’t it !? …
As he is exceptional, he will prove it again in a subtle way by celebrating his 50th birthday with the release of an album containing no less than … 50 songs, just that !? We have never seen that !
Is it still an elegant way to distinguish himself, with a certain courage as for the profitability of such a product !? That was a totally controlled marketing risk-taking ! (read the column)
Hats off to the artist! How classy he is !!!! Thank you !
Why is KOTZEN on this DPF site?
If I mention him, it is because I think his music gets closer MARK IV’s even MARK III’s and that he belongs to the generation. He declares he was influenced by David COVERDALE and Glenn HUGHES with whom he made a “duet” on Stoned, (version interpreted by GH) title which will be covered by the two artists with the coquetry of hearing them reverse their vocal parts. One was singing the backing vocals for the other.
His voice and his vocal style are close enough to the two singers: the bluesy rocky and rough side of COVERDALE and the soul, acute and modular side of HUGHES. His participations to DEEP PURPLE tribute albums are quite innovative and respect the Purple spirit, that is to say, make music evolve and mix the musical families. (Strange Kind Of Woman, Smoke On The Water, Rat Bat Blue, Woman From Tokyo)
Moreover, we wonder what kind of production Tommy BOLIN would have been proposed today. If he was still with us, I am not far from thinking that his musical orientations would follow the same paths, such as the blues, jazz and sweetness are common to them. But this is only my opinion and a point of view from France*.
* When I was organizing concerts (2005-2011), I contacted Richie. He had kindly answered me and remained open. I could not follow up. It was not his fault but mine and the French market – Franck
Your opinion on Facebook
” Very well done! Informative and thorough. I scammed through it, but I’ll revisit it again. ?” Chris Reyes
** Discographie & Reports **
Dans sa discographie solo, l’homogénéité de style demeure. Mis à part le projet Prog-Jazz Vertù, seules quelques influences mises en avant d’un album sur l’autre distingueront ses albums et évidemment, la qualité des compositions.
1988 Gallery Closed (Glam fm – RK n’y chante pas)
1989 Richie Kotzen (non écouté – principalement instrumental ?)
1990 Fever Dream
1991 Electric Joy (instrumental)
1994 Mother Head’s Family Reunion =)) Le plus groovy : son meilleur !?
1995 The Inner Galactic Fusion Experience =)) Le plus fusion
1996 Wave Of Emotion =)) le plus dance !?
1996 Times Gonna Tell (EP)
1997 Something To Say
1998 What Is…
1999 Bi-Polar Blues =)) Le plus … bluesy
2000 Break It All Down =)) Le plus 5C : canapé – chandelle – cheminée – chéri(e) – calins = le plus ballades
2004 Get Up
2005 Ai Senshi Z×R (Pour la série animée Gundam, plusieurs reprises assez fm sans l’être)
2006 Into The Black
2007 Go Faster/Return Of The Mother Head’s Family Reunion =)) le plus rock !?
2009 Peace Sign
2011 24 Hours
2015 Cannibals =)) Le plus pop
2017 Salting Earth =)) Le plus mainstream
2020 50 For 50 =)) Le plus soul-blues, le plus couillu, le plus fou commercialement, un record !
** Live & compilations **
2003 Acoustic Cuts
2004 The Best Of Richie Kotzen (Greatest Hits)
2006 Instrumental Collection: The Shrapnel Years
2008 Live In São Paulo/Bootlegged In Brazil
2010 A Best of Collection
2010 A Ballads Collection
1993 Native Tongue
1999 Get Over It
2001 Actual Size
2000 Deep Cuts
2002 In Japan
2004 Influences & Connections – Vol. 1
1999 Vertú (avec Stanley Clarke et Lenny White) =)) le plus jazz prog contemporain
2005 Nothing to Lose =)) le plus métal voire le plus grunge (projet avec un groupe japonais)
2009 The Road =)) le plus soul pop
The Winery Dogs (avec Billy Sheehan et Mike Portnoy)
2013 The Winery Dogs
2015 Hot Streak
Collaborations (non écouté)
1994 Sass Jordan Rats (chœurs)
1995 Tilt (avec Greg Howe)
1996 Sticky Wicked (avec TM Stevens)
1996 Ground Zero (avec TM Stevens)
1996 Only You (avec TM Stevens)
1997 Project (avec Greg Howe)
1999 Not So Innocent (avec Jesse’s Powertrip)
2000 Mikazuki in Rock (avec Mikazuki Tekkodan)
2000 Submarine (avec Gregg Bissonette)
2003 All That I’d Be (avec Steve Saluto)
2004 Nowhere To Go (avec Takayoshi Ohmura)
2004 Asshole (avec Gene Simmons)
2006 Rough Beat (avec Steve Saluto)
2006 Avalon (avec Richie Zito)
2006 Erotic Cakes (avec Guthrie Govan)
2007 Emotions in Motion (avec Takayoshi Ohmura)
2007 Live For Tomorrow (avec Marco Mendoza)
2010 Resurrection (avec Steve Saluto)
2010 You Can’t Save Me – Remix (avec Clarence Jey & Steve Mcleod)
Hommages et participations diverses
1991 Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey: Music from the Motion Picture
1992 L.A. Blues Authority – “L.A. Blues Authority” – ”Blues” de Glenn Hughes
1992 The Guitars That Rule The World – Vol. 1
1994 L.A. Blues Authority Volume V: Cream Of The Crop
1996 Crossfire: A Salute To Stevie Ray Vaughan
1997 Black Night – Deep Purple Tribute – According To New York
2000 Bat Head Soup: A Tribute to Ozzy
2001 Stone Cold Queen: A Tribute to Queen
2002 One Way Street: A Tribute To Aerosmith CD
2002 An All Star Lineup Performing The Songs Of Pink Floyd
2004 Spirit Lives On: The Music Of Jimi Hendrix Revisited Vol. 1
2005 Numbers From The Beast – An All Stars Salute To Iron Maiden
2010 Siam Shade Tribute
Pas de vidéos ? … ben t’as juste oublié de cliquer sur les titres ! t’es bon pour remonter le post hé hé ! Bonne écoute !
I invitate you to follow the career of his daughter August Eve ! A voice between Sade’s and Anggun’s, a cinematic aesthetic research, perhaps also that of Kate Bush’s without dance, and a beauty between Salma Hayek’s and the cold beauty of Isabelle Adjani