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  • Writer's pictureConny Chavez

Album Review: Smith/Kotzen – Smith/Kotzen

An explosive collection

Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith and The Winery Dogs’ Richie Kotzen are debuting their new project Smith/Kotzen with an eponymous nine-track album meant to capture the spirit of ’70s rock alongside dashes of blues, R&B and hard rock. The album features plenty of kick-ass guitar solos, but nothing less is to be expected from either legendary guitarist, let alone both. Smith and Kotzen share lead vocals and take turns on guitar and bass duties throughout the record. Smith/Kotzen is a satisfying assortment of incredible rock ‘n’ roll sounds and a great combination of seasoned talents from an already well-worn genre.

Smith is known to venture into multiple projects outside of Iron Maiden, with this particular collaboration with Kotzen giving off a Maiden vibe with a blues-rooted rhythm. Smith/Kotzen is, to some degree, a way for each artist to showcase their incredible skills in songwriting, vocals, drums and of course, exquisite guitar techniques. These two incredible musicians not only show off their talent but also pay homage to their roots and inspirations.

The album kicks off with “Taking My Chances,” a groovy track that will have people moving within the first 10 seconds of the song. Smith’s and Kotzen’s vocals are complemented by killer guitar riffs and harmonious drum rhythms that, as previously mentioned, are guaranteed to provoke some dancing. The remarkable musicians treat fans to an exceptional guitar battle at the end of the track which showcases each artist’s specialty.

Smith and Kotzen harmonize with one another on “Scars,” one of the album’s slower tracks. Kotzen performs all the bass and drum parts as well as a melodic guitar solo. The ’70s rock and blues inspirations seep throughout the soulful rhythm of this track. Next up is “Some People,” where the pair explore the intersection of R&B and rock. Smith and Kotzen’s vocal trade-offs work best on this song, as the transitions are much smoother and coincide well with the corresponding instrument transitions.

“Glory Road” and “Solar Fire” are both carried by a stomping blues rhythm. “Solar Fire” features Smith’s Iron Maiden bandmate Michael Henry “Nicko” McBrain on drums, where his upbeat drum work allows room for Smith and Kotzen to show off a little extra on their guitar solos for this track. “Glory Road” includes a range of heavenly guitar riffs as well as more moving drum work, but what tops it all off is the catchy chorus that will be stuck in people’s heads for days.

The album ends with “‘Til Tomorrow,” a track that closes the project on a much more laid-back and positive note. The song opens with a smooth guitar riff and soft percussion beat. However, the mesmerizing guitar solos will have people reaching for the repeat button as soon as the track (and project) is over.

The impeccably strong chemistry between Smith and Kotzen on this debut project captivates the listener. Both rock stars complement one another’s musical talents quite well, as one might expect. With this release, the superstars have treated fans to an explosive collection of guitar solos and incredible blues-rock performances. Smith/Kotzen is so well written and performed by both Smith and Kotzen that the entire album comes off as a tribute to rock guitars, rock fans and rock gods everywhere.

(Originally published in MXDWN.)

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