Kotzen’s music is cut for hard rockers who like insane playing and a side of R&B.
Did anybody really expect Richie Kotzen to stay in Poison? The chances of that happening were always about as good as a Beatles reunion tour — next to zilch. Kotzen’s talent burst at the seams that were Poison. He could not have been content for long. Post-Poison he resumed business swiftly with Mother Head’s Family Reunion, his fifth overall recording.
A funky “Socialite” demonstrates Kotzen’s diversity. Drummer Atma Anur breaks it down while Richie brings the soul. Kotzen’s music is cut for hard rockers who like insane playing and a side of R&B. The soulful profile is on full display with “Mother Head’s Family Reunion” which sounds like a Black Crowes cover. Switch to blues balladeering on “Where Did Our Love Go”, and “Natural Thing” brings it all the way to funk again.
Listening closely, Mother Head’s Family Reunion sounds a lot like Native Tongue, Phase II. It’s that album, but beyond: it’s Kotzen completely unleashed and without Bret Michaels. You could easily imagine a track like “A Love Divine” on side two of Native Tongue, among the more grooving material. That connects seamlessly with “Soul to Soul”, another bluesy ballad, with a summery feel. “Testify” has a similar bright side, and a wailing chorus.
Cover songs can be shaky ground, and “Reach Out I’ll Be There” sticks out like a sore thumb, a song from another era that doesn’t match up with Richie’s originals. That’s not to say it’s bad. Far from it — it’s one of the best covers of it that you’ll find. It’s just on the wrong album, even as it jams on for seven minutes!
Through the last four tracks (“Used”, “A Woman & A Man”, “Livin’ Easy” and “Cover Me”) Richie and company rock it up and slow it down again with consistently impressive chops. There are no weak songs, and Kotzen’s ballads have a genuine sound that stays timeless no matter the year. The speedy funk-soul-metal soup of “Cover Me” concludes the standard domestic album by smoking your ears with blazing hot licks.
This album, long out of print, has been reissued in Japan with the bonus track intact, at a surprisingly low price. (Amazon Canada had it in stock for $22.33.) If you’re lucky enough to acquire it, you’ll get the extra song “Wailing Wall”. Sometimes the Japanese fans got the best exclusives. “Wailing Wall” is one. It taps into the spirit of Tommy Bolin-era Deep Purple and it could be the best song of them all.
Easy decision: Get some.