By Oscar Jordan
Richie Kotzen continues to distinguish himself from the Shrapnel Records stable from which he emerged in the late 80’s. He’s moved on beyond the note fests, arpeggio calisthenics, and fusion workouts to embrace an earthier, soulful, more 70’s rock side of his personality for some time now. He’s good at it too. On 24 Hours, Kotzen gets deeper into the funk and his old school soul explorations. He has of course explored this territory before on past records, but on this new release, he’s managed to create a cohesive musical environment where soul, funk, shred, and blue-eyed soul co-exist in harmony.
“Bad Situation,” “Get It On,” “OMG (What’s Your Name?),” and the title track come right out of the classic funk rulebook but with a twist. In the pocket guitar parts merge with old school piano sounds, while vocal auto-wah guitar lines weave through the tightest arrangements. You can pretty much tell what Kotzen has been listening to, but it’s only a spark that fuels his own ideas. His soulful vocal stylings truly serve the stories. He really means it too, and manages to belt, falsetto, and croon, without one iota of cartoonish American Idolisms.
“24 Hours” magically illustrates how one can get really deep into the funk without sacrificing power chords and an inspired, yet over the top (finger picked) shred solo. It all works. It all grooves. The production is clean and solid. The D-Fi Pro Tools octave effect on his guitar, doubling the flangy vocal line is pretty hip. Kotzen produced the record himself and played just about all the instruments. It sounds like a one-man recording project, but it has none of the faults – as in a disparity in proficiency when switching to other instruments. Kotzen can really play the hell out of all the other instruments. Dig the in the pocket funk-rock drumming on “Help Me,” or his wicked keyboard synth solo on “OMG (What’s Your Name?).” He’s a one-man band.
But it’s not all about the funk. Kotzen gets bluesy on the acoustic nylon stringed ballad “Twist of Fate.” It’s a great vocal performance with an epic arrangement as he slowly builds the track, adding electric guitar, piano, and drums along the way. He gets help from Jerry Cantrell of Alice In Chains and Dogstar’s Bret Domrose on vocals for “Love Is Blind.” Kotzen’s daughter August lends her chops on Wurlitzer piano and background vocals on “Stop Me,” and also contributes vocals on “Tell Me That It’s Easy” and “Love Is Blind.”
“Tell Me That It’s Easy” is a stylistic departure for Kotzen. He dips into his 70’s era Hall & Oates bag and finds room for some of the tastiest guitar playing he’s ever recorded. It’s the highlight of the record and shows his range as a composer, producer, and guitarist. 24 Hours continues along the flight path of his last two studio releases. We already know he’s a badass on guitar and vocals, but as a producer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, he just keeps getting better and better.