If Mama Said was Kravitz’s marital breakup album, then “Are You Gonna Go My Way” was his rock-retro super-stud follow-up. But let’s make one thing very clear, Lenny Kravitz is a musician who seems to have no original ideas of his own, and remains hell-bent on slavishly imitating and reproducing whatever the real pioneers had fashioned in years of old. And just to reinforce my statement, is that him on the front cover flashing his percy at some unsuspecting woman on the street? He had only recently divorced, so I guess it doesn’t hurt to do a bit of extra advertising when you can. The booklet itself is hardly a font of information, just pictures of Lenny posing in front of the camera, writing and recording his ‘masterpiece’, all of which have about as much artistic spontaneity as a David Beckham photo shoot.
The blistering title track has Hendrix written all over it, so much so that the guitar solo could have been flown in from some obscure 1970 outtake, and you’d never even know. In fact such a move would likely have resulted in plenty of extra sales thanks to all the Hendrix nuts out there (myself included) who would have bought the album just to hear a few unheard moments of their deceased idol.
“Believe” is pure Beatles (with a bit of John Paul Jones), all wobbly vocals and drugged-out keyboards, whose opening lines “I am you/And you are me/Why’s that such a mystery” are fairly cringe worthy. Think “I Am the Walrus” meets Deepak Chopra.
“Come On and Love Me” has some funky guitar with drumming courtesy of the ghost of John Bonham, but that’s about it.
“Heaven Help” shows not only does Lenny want to get inside your panties, but that he’s ready to “take the chance on love”. Because at the end of the day all he really wants you to know is that he’s just a misunderstood romantic. Basically John Lennon meets Terence Trent Darby. And while we’re on the theme of Lennon, “Just be a Woman” sounds like an Imagine outtake. The guitar solo which closes out the song is enjoyable enough, and probably about the only thing here worth preserving to your memory.
“Is There Any Love In Your Heart” is another derivative early 70’s rocker, where Kravitz complains about his woman being far too superficial, who goes around “fucking all his friends”, while caring only about “Gucci and Mercedes Benz”. Craig Ross’s guitar solo does sizzle however, and makes me wonder why he’s wasting his time and talents on this album, when he should be playing his own stuff.
“Black Girl” is boring imitative soul(less) dribble, but once again Ross delivers the goods with a tremendous solo. The only substance to be found I’m afraid.
“My Love” is another Beatles imitation that doesn’t really go anywhere. Not even some superb guitar playing can save this one. And as for “Sugar”, Lenny even rips himself off, recycling many of the elements found on “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over”. Perhaps he was hoping for another hit, or just plain ran out of ideas.
If there’s any reason to own, or at least listen to the album, it’s this. “Sister” proves that beneath all that glitzy vacuous veneer Kravitz really does have a social conscious after all, in that the lyrics actually have meaning, something you don’t hear very often coming from him. Now, if he could only write more songs of this calibre, no-one would complain. But maybe that’s just asking too much. The first few seconds are reminiscent of “Angie”, but if you can let that similarity go, this is in my opinion the finest song he’s ever written. Once again Craig Ross pulls out the big instrumental bickies, and proves he’s on the same level as Marc Ford.
The last track is a reggae number, and a pretty dull one at that. Mind you, I’m not exactly the greatest fan of that particular genre, so perhaps the problem lies with me. Actually the only interesting thing about it is the title, which I had to look up; it originates from the Greek, and apparently means “liberty”, or “freedom of speech”. So, if nothing else, at least I’ve learnt something.
It’s one thing for any up-and-coming artist to pay homage to their idols, but something else entirely if that artist remains so obsequiously beholden to those same identical influences throughout their entire career. And that’s the problem here. He’s obviously an extremely talented individual; it’s just a pity that those talents are compromised by his obvious penchant for style over substance; because at the end of the day it takes more than just a handful of great riffs to make a great album.