ritchie kotzen

REVIEW: Mr. Big – Deep Cuts: The Best of the Ballads (2000)

MR. BIG – Deep Cuts: The Best of the Ballads (2000 Atlantic)

Although 15 tracks of ballads is more than enough for anyone, Mr. Big’s compilation Deep Cuts has value to collectors.  A number of these songs are rare or previously unreleased versions.

Most of Mr. Big’s hits are ballads, so that’s why this thing exists.  All the important ones are present:  “To Be With You”, “Wild World” (Cat Stevens cover), “Just Take My Heart”, and lots of deeper cuts too.  The selling point of this album is the rare stuff, and there’s more than average.  “Had Enough”, “Promise Her the Moon” and “Just Take My Heart” are all re-recorded with Richie Kotzen on guitar (who was in Mr. Big at the time).  That’s fine; at least they had a reason to do it.  “Promise Her the Moon” isn’t vastly different, but “Had Enough” and “Just Take My Heart” have slightly new arrangements.  “Had Enough” is much more fleshed out, and sometimes even a little funky. That’s the Kotzen influence.

There are also two “new” songs, one amusingly called “Where Are They Now?”  It’s a cool song with a decent chorus, though it certainly can’t compete with the big hits.  It could have used more Kotzen.  The other newbie, “I’ll Leave It Up to You” sounds more like Richie, and more like a laid back blues.  Finally, there is a B-side from the Kotzen era:  “You Don’t Have to Be Strong”.  This one (from “Superfantastic”, which is also on this CD)  is the best of the bunch, not least because it’s a duet with Eric Martin and Richie Kotzen.  This is the kind of stuff that is nice to have.  It beats hunting down an obscure CD single to get it.

Deep Cuts is rounded out by a whole bunch of classic ballads from the Paul Gilbert albums.  And yes, “To Be With You” is the original version, so if you’re buying the CD for one song (shame on you!) then at least you get what you wanted.

Still…it’s a CD with 15 ballads in a row.  Not the kind of thing that gets played all the way through in a single sitting.

2/5 stars

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REVIEW: Mr. Big – Get Over It (1999)

MR. BIG – Get Over It (1999 Atlantic)

Mr. Big broke up in 1996, and reformed in 1999 without Paul Gilbert.  It wasn’t personal; he just wasn’t available.  He was working with a revamped Racer X, and his solo albums were popular in Japan.  In a stroke of genius, Mr. Big tapped a contemporary of Gilbert from his Shrapnel records days — Richie Kotzen.  Kotzen, like Mr. Big, was popular, could shred, and could write commercial music.  Kotzen has a distinct soul/blues vibe that he introduced to Mr. Big along with his own vocals.

The resultant Mr. Big album, Get Over It, was an amalgam of the two artists.  Different, but still a good fit.  Leadoff track “Electrified” is almost like a new band, based on the quality of the old.  Kotzen, like Gilbert, can shred – check out “Hiding Place”.  He just does it with more blues.  He also sings co-lead vocals on “Static”, the only Kotzen solo writing credit.  With him and Eric Martin in the same band, you get two of the most soulful hard rockers on Earth in one place at one time!

The song that, in past days, would have been the “bit hit” is a track called “Superfantastic”.  This campfire rock track recalls the good old days, but the bluesy stuff is more interesting.  Kotzen pours on the slide for “A Rose Alone”, which sounds like an old Shaw/Blades tune.  “Try to Do Without It” is a delightful confection of soul and bluesy guitar.

Get Over It lacks in one way.  Mr. Big albums are usually peppered with many unforgettable standout tracks throughout.  Get Over It only has a handful of those, stacked near the beginning.  It’s an enjoyable listen throughout, with no dull or skipable moments, but it’s missing those high points.  The songs you remember for days after.  Instead, Get Over It plays like cool bluesy (and sometimes funky) background CD.

3.25/5 stars

Most Unrightfully Ignored Albums of the 1990s – LeBrain’s List Part 3

In alphabetical order, here’s Part 3:  88 albums that meant the world to me in the 1990′s but never got the respect I felt they deserved.  

King’s X – Faith Hope Love (most KX discs didn’t get the attention they deserved!)
King’s X – Dogman
King’s X – Ear Candy
King’s X – Tape Head
Kiss – Carnival of Souls (while you can’t argue it wasn’t a sellout, it sure wasn’t wimpy!)
Leadfoot – Bring It On (Karl Agell and Phil Swisher ex-COC)
Marillion – Brave (what a brave, brave album)
Marillion – Radiation (a lot of people don’t like this one, but I consider it a highlight for them)
Duff McKagan – Believe In Me (diverse, fun and pissed off)
Kim Mitchell – Aural Fixations (a little soft, but Kim in the 1990’s was scarce indeed)
Kim Mitchell – Kimosabe
Motley Crue – Motley Crue (they were better without Vince, honestly)
Vince Neil – Exposed (…and Vince wasn’t doing too badly himself)
Ozzy Osbourne – Ozzmosis (it sold by the buckets, but I think today it’s ignored which is a shame)
Poison – Native Tongue (Ritchie Kotzen took them to a new level of maturity and virtuosity)

Pride & Glory – Pride & Glory (Zakk Wykde’s first album without Ozzy, and one of the best)
Queen – Innuendo (in North America, most of what Queen did went ignored before Freddie passed)
Queensryche – Promised Land (spacey and mature)
Queensryche – Q2k (riffy)
Quiet Riot – Terrified (the only thing they’ve done since the 80’s worth playing)
David Lee Roth – Your Filthy Little Mouth (I didn’t need to hear Dave do reggae but it ain’t bad)
David Lee Roth – DLR Band (John 5 on lead guitar…crank it up)