The one thing that should not surprise anyone even remotely acquainted with Iron Maiden, is that guitarist Adrian Smith has far more in his bag of tricks than the usual twiddly diddly that makes Maiden fans happy. An even passing acquaintance with the mothership will reveal that the man is responsible for many of that band’s greatest songs, not to mention that he is more than capable as a frontman and a singer in his own right.
Which brings us neatly onto Smith/Kotzen.
This is one hell of an album, concocted simply as a result of a personal friendship between Smith and Richie Kotzen (The Winery Dogs), guitarist extraordinaire, and a man with his eye firmly fixed on a musical firmament well beyond our usual north star(s). It’s a most pleasing thought that Smith finally has an excellent, if unexpected, partner to pursue his vision outside of Iron Maiden. This is especially poignant considering his exit from Maiden in 1990 for the reason that it was too limiting, and the relative disappointment of a number of worthy projects in the late 80’s and 90’s (A.S.A.P., Psycho Motel) that failed to take off commercially.
It may have taken a while, but he has pulled it off now. Smith/Kotzen is an absolute feast for blues and guitar fans in general, and obvious singles “Taking My Chances” and “Scars” aside, the album’s most precious gems are a triumvirate on side B, with “You Don’t Know Me”, “I Wanna Stay”, and “’Til Tomorrow” revealing two men at the apex of their art and dealing with everyday human conundrums that are central to the beauty of the music itself.
You’ll want to play this while you’re falling in love with some beautiful girl – but you’ll also play it when she’s gone….and you’ll know why once you hear it.
Smith/Kotzen was released on March 26th 2021 via BMG