Smith/Kotzen - 'Smith/Kotzen' Album Review


Tracklist:

1. Taking My Chances

2. Running

3. Scars

4. Some People

5. Glory Road

6. Solar Fire

7. You Don’t Know Me

8. I Wanna Stay

‘9. Til Tomorrow


For me, a side project featuring any member of Iron Maiden is definitely something to listen to. And in many ways, Adrian Smith is a dark horse in Iron Maiden (as much as there can be one) – because your mind doesn’t automatically fill in a musical style for him (well, mine doesn’t anyway). Steve Harris has the bass-led gallop and Bruce has the voice, but apart from some great guitar solos, I had no idea what else to expect when I put this album on.


And I know that I’ll annoy any Richie Kotzen fans out there by focussing on Adrian, but to be honest I had no knowledge of him prior to this (though having read his biography, I suspect that there will be things that I’m going to go back and listen to), but I approached this album as primarily a fan of Adrian Smith. So how did I feel about it? To be honest, I was kind of underwhelmed by the whole thing. That’s not to say this is a bad album at all, but it is just sort of unmemorable throughout.


The whole album has quite a Bluesy vibe, which is not a bad thing, but one of the really appealing aspects of Blues-Rock is that it should feel rough and ready, like a thing that is born from love and passion. And sadly this whole thing just feels supremely over-produced – like some of the worst production excesses of the 90s. All of the rough edges have been filed off, compressed and filed off again just to be safe. The vocal performances all sound like they were being sung quietly as to not wake someone sleeping in the next room, so nothing has any urgency or gravitas.

But production doesn’t make or break an album. Some albums are absolute classics despite terrible production, so what about the songs?


Sadly, there’s no absolute classics here that help lift the album above the realm of ‘technically impressive but ultimately forgettable). Some of the songs have singable choruses (“Running” being a prime example), and there are a fair few good riffs scattered throughout the nine tracks, but it isn’t very often that one of the songs coalesces into something that you’ll remember. In fact, for me, the only track that made it to that level was “Solar Fire”, which is easily the most memorable thing on the album.


In conclusion, this album wasn’t for me. It has ups and downs, and I’m sure that for some people it will be an amazing record that they keep coming back to, but for me it sits right in the venn diagram of ‘Technically Impressive’, ‘Too Polished’ and ‘Unmemorable’. So I’m unlikely to come back to it and give it much more of my time in the future.


Review - Michael Braunton




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