Review by Andy Houghton for MPM
Barely eight months after the release of their acclaimed self-titled debut album, Smith/Kotzen – the superduo comprising Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith and The Winery Dogs’ Richie Kotzen – are back with ‘Better Days’.
Smith and Kotzen’s first encounter dates back to 1985, when a teenage Kotzen was attending his formative first concert experience at Allen Town Fairgrounds, PA. He saw Iron Maiden – with Smith playing – on their World Slavery tour.
Smith himself has been closely associated with Iron Maiden for much of this career, involved in all but 3 of their 16 studio albums to date and the writer of fan favourites like ‘Wasted Years’ ‘2 Minutes To Midnight’, ‘The Evil That Men Do’ and ‘The Wicker Man’.
Over three decades later, the duo’s collaboration began when Smith moved to LA and met up with Kotzen. As Kotzen says, “The first time we actually jammed together was at his house in LA. I’d been invited to the get together…and we just played for hours…and really hit it off! Then we just got together whenever he was back in LA and threw some ideas around. From that it just evolved.”
Their partnership led to the release of a self-titled nine track hard rock album in March 2021, which won praise for the songwriting and, as you might expect for two musicians at the top of their game, for its guitar playing.
The new four-track EP continues the creative journey of this productive partnership – blues-influenced hard rock, albeit with a marginally heavier edge this time around. This heavier sound is most evident in opening title track ‘Better Days’, a slow-paced number that kicks off with a rumbling riff before the soaring vocals kick in. It’s clear from the outset that there is considerable chemistry in the partnership between Smith and Kotzen, not only in their instrumentals but also in their vocals: the trade-off between the two as they combine vocal duties adds considerable colour to an already rich musical palette.
The tempo goes up a level for ‘Got A Hold On Me’, which has a more bluesy feel and culminates in the best solo of the album. Meanwhile ‘Hate And Love’ is far more restrained by comparison, and makes for a nuanced counterpoint to the earlier tracks.
Closing track ‘Rise Again’ once again brings the guitarmanship to the fore, with some stunningly dextrous fingerwork, while the spoken vocals take a back seat. If you needed any further confirmation of their skill as instrumentalists, this track supplies evidence by the bagful.
What sets their music apart is that it’s clear Smith and Kotzen are having the time of their lives – their enjoyment of the music they’re creating comes across throughout the EP. It’s an absolute blast. If you’re after huge hooks and massive riffs, delivered with energy and passion, then look no further – ‘Better Days’ delivers the goods. Highly recommended.
- Better Days
- Got A Hold On Me
- Hate And Love
- Rise Again
‘Better Days’ is released on November 26th, 2021
Pre-order the Better Days EP: https://Smith-Kotzen.lnk.to/BetterDay…
Listen to the debut album Smith/Kotzen – https://Smith-Kotzen.lnk.to/albumID
Follow Adrian and Richie: Adrian Smith: Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/misteradria…
Richie Kotzen: Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/richie_kotzen