Richie Kotzen’s new album is anything but Slow. Bluesy, ballsy, and full of soul, but not slow by any means. It’s full of funk and chunk and lightening fast blues licks so searing hot that it gained immediate acceptance with me on my first listen. Slow is a testament to Richie’s playing and versatility as a musician and a songwriter. Most remember Kotzen from his first hair teased, Shrapnel recording debut and from his stints with Poison and Mr. Big. Over the years, however, his solo albums and recent work with Stanley Clarke has shown a strong commitment to blues, funk and fusion. “Slow” incorporates all of those leanings (including Jazz and R&B) and plants them firmly in a rock format. There are no dead spots on this CD. Every song on Slow is an easy listen and they will also have your feet tapping, head shaking in time. One of those CD's you pop in for a long drive, or played on repeat on lazy Sunday afternoons. Think Living Color, Steve Winwood, meets The Fabulous Thunder Birds, meets George Clinton.
What about his playing? Yes, Richie rips it up... all of it. He played, programmed and recorded every instrument himself. “Conflicted” starts off as a quiet free form jazz jam instrumental that morphs into a distorted shredding carnival. The “Answer” is another instrumental treat. 120 seconds of solo guitar scales that sounds like a warm-up for Richie‘s pre-stage performance. The lack of any guest players or additional musicians gives this album a very smooth and even feel. But we all knew could Richie rock. It is his songwriting, and production skills, however, that deserves the most attention. The entire album sounds thick and full. He liberally uses production tricks (power stops, stereo pans, distortion) and guitar effects (wah, talk box) to give the entire album a very professional and polished feel. The overlay of guitars, slap bass, vocal, beat box and percussion is so tight that it gives Jive Records a run for their money. Songs like “Scared of You“, “Slow” and “I Can Make You Happy” are delivered with so much conviction you’d swear that Richie was born on the Delta, went to school in Austin and spent his summers in Mo-town. Couple that with Richie’s intuitive approach to melody, smoky vocals and his ripping guitar playing, you have a meaty album full of tasty songs which are all full of style and soul. For a nice break from definitive prog or for anyone who’s CD collection who is sorely lacking in anything resembling Prince, expand your horizons, impress your friends, and pick up this great album.