Guitar legend/songwriter/singer Richie Kotzen is celebrating over 25 years of recording by releasing a collection appropriately entitled The Essential Richie Kotzen. The songs on the two CD/one DVD collection were personally selected by Kotzen as both an introduction to people unfamiliar with his work and as a bonus to current fans. CD1 could be described as the electric album, while CD2 is the unplugged collection.
The first CD has 13 songs showcasing how Kotzen has grown as a recording artist, with 11 tunes from his previous solos albums combined with two new songs, War Paint and Walk With Me. The songs on the first disc will be familiar to longtime RK fans, and many have been staples of his live shows. Disc 2 features reworked acoustic versions of some of his favorite songs, along with demo versions of two songs, Regret and Damaged from the Winery Dogs debut album.
One of the more interesting aspects of this album is comparing the electric with the new acoustic versions. For example, take the lead track on CD2, What Is. (Newcomers to Kotzen’s work can readily find the original versions of the songs online, and it’s fascinating to play both versions back-to-back). Kotzen stated that he reworked these songs acoustically to strip away all the instrumentation and production, and let the listener focus on the lyrics and melody. And it works! You can really hear the passion and emotion in his presentation. The soulful vocal delivery accentuates the lyrics, many of which are in heartfelt songs written about love and loss.
The two original demo tracks are rare treats for the listener, as demos are almost never accessible to the public. By choosing to add them to the collection, Kotzen allows the listener to hear the evolution from rough draft (Damaged simply ends abruptly) to the final version that appears on the Winery Dogs album.
The Essential Richie Kotzen works well as Kotzen designed it—both an addition to a longtime fan’s collection, and as an intro to his solo work to those who may have only recently discovered him via the Winery Dogs.