What I’ve Been Listening To: Lenny Kravitz/Raise Vibration

Eleventh studio album illustrates that after 30 years Kravitz maintains his gift to combine retro with modern sounds and write catchy tunes

Somehow I completely missed Lenny Kravitz’s new album Raise Vibration when it was released on September 7. I guess I should perhaps subscribe to a music publication to better stay on top of new music, except of course I’m not into most music that’s coming out these days. Anyway, I “discovered” Raise Vibration earlier today after I had seen a related clip on Facebook. Most of the reviews I read were quick to point out Kravitz’s 11th studio release doesn’t break any new ground. I mostly agree and that’s just fine with me.

I feel many critics have given Kravitz a hard time since he emerged in September 1989 with Let Love Rule. Some have said his music too much reflects his ’60s influences like Jimi Hendrix or early Led Zeppelin. Last time I checked both were among the most outstanding artists on the planet. Some folks have maintained Kravitz doesn’t sound black enough, while others have found he sounded too white. All of this is complete and utter nonsense, in my opinion!

Lenny Kravitz

When I look at Kravitz, I see an incredibly talented artist who writes, sings and produces his own music. Oh, and apart from being a capable guitarist, he also plays most of the other instruments on his records. Most importantly, Kravitz has the gift to mix retro elements with modern sounds and write catchy tunes. All of these qualities are present on Raise Vibration, his first new album in four years since Strut from September 2014.

But evidently, Kravitz found himself in a very different place three years ago after he had finished his last world tour, he told Rolling Stone in April this year. “I really wasn’t sure where I was going musically,” Kravitz explained. “After doing this for 30 years, I wasn’t feeling it. I’d never felt that confused about what to do. And it was kind of a scary place. You don’t know when it’s going to come.” While there are techniques that can stimulate creativity, ultimately, you can’t force it.

Lenny Kravitz In Concert

Kravitz bravely rejected the advice from others to collaborate with producers and songwriters who know how to score hits. “I’ve never really worked that way, following trends or doing what people think you should do,” he further noted to Rolling Stone. “I’ve always made music that came naturally out of me.” And fortunately that’s exactly what happened when one night Kravitz woke up at 4:00 am in his house in the Bahamas with a song in his head, which would become Low, one of the standouts on the album. It proofed to be the catalyst he needed to spur his artistic creativity. “I learned you have to trust yourself and the artist in yourself. Always trust what you have.” Yes! And with that let’s get to some music.

I’d like to kick things off with the above mentioned Low. Like all other tunes on Raise Vibration except for two, it was written by Kravitz. The song also became the second single released ahead of the album on May 29. If the “oohs” in the track sound like Michael Jackson, that’s because it features posthumous, presumably sampled “guest vocals” from the King of Pop. This is one great funky tune!

Next up: The album’s title track. I just love the guitar sound and the cool breaks on that track. The native American chants and drums toward the end ad an unusual element. So much for not breaking any new ground!

Johnny Cash, a moving tribute to the country legend, is based on an encounter Kravitz had with the Man in Black and his wife June Carter Cash in 1995, when they were all staying at producer Rick Rubin’s apartment in Los Angeles. At the time his mother was receiving treatment for breast cancer. After getting a call from the hospital that this mom had passed away, Johnny and June consoled Kravitz. “…they decided at that moment (to) treat me like they would treat someone in their family,” Kravitz said during a BBC interview, as reported by Music-News.com. “It was a beautiful moment of humanity and love.”

Another gem on the album is Here To Love, a nice piano-driven ballad.

The last tune I’d like to call out is It’s Enough, which also became the album’s lead single released on May 11. It’s got a cool Marvin Gaye vibe that lyrically is reminiscent of  What’s Going On with a bass line that sounds like it could have been inspired by Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler). Also check out the horns that start at around 6 minutes into the song: nice touch of ’70s Temptations – super cool!

Like he usually does, Kravitz produced the album and plays most of the instruments. Other than string and horn players, the only other musicians are longtime collaborator and guitarist Craig Ross, who also co-wrote two of the tracks with Kravitz, as well as keyboardist and orchestrator David Baron. Kravitz is supporting the album with a world tour. The 2018 section started in April ahead of the record’s release and mostly focused on Europe. It also included 10 dates in the U.S., which wrapped up in Las Vegas in late October. According to the schedule, the tour will resume in March 2019 with a series of gigs in South America before traveling back to Europe. Currently, the last date is June 11, 2019 in London, U.K.

Sources: Wikipedia, Rolling Stone, Music-News.com, Lenny Kravitz website, YouTube

 

6 thoughts on “What I’ve Been Listening To: Lenny Kravitz/Raise Vibration”

  1. I’m fairly fond of his first 5 albums, though I have to admit that I lost touch with stuff after that. Not so much as feeling like it wasn’t worthwhile, but just turning onto other music. He doesn’t get the recognition he probably deserves, though…

    Strangely enough, it wasn’t too long ago that I was reading that Terrance Trent D’Arby felt that Lenny was a cheaper version of him. That’s how I learned that Lenny had a new album cooking (one of those “what’s Lenny up to these days” searches).

    Anyhoo, reckon I’m gonna listen to Circus before delving in to some new Lenny tunes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally hear you. There is so much music out there that’s very hard to keep up with any particular artist, unless perhaps you’re a huge fan and make that artist a priority.

      In my case, there is almost no artist where I could claim I’ve listened to all of their records. While I think Lenny is pretty cool and I have listened to songs throughout his career, I certainly don’t know all of his albums. I’ve definitely listened to Circus and there’s some great stuff on there. I also really dig the Mama Said album, which was my intro to Lenny.

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      1. Mama Said is a belter… so many big tunes on there, too. Possibly the one I reach for most, actually. The songs are lifting. Even when there’s some melon collie.

        I’m feeling like I want to listen to more Kravitz. Get to know the albums after 5. I’m ready to delve in and see where it takes me.

        As for listening to all of an artists discography, I can only say that I’ve done that with more recent artists really (some from the 80s/90s till now). Like you say, there’s just so much music out there to explore.

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  2. Screw all these dopey critics that make those ridiculous comparisons. Lenny’s got chops for sure. I like to play the intro to “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” He’s got a great, funky rock sound. On this album, sounds like he’s channeling more of his inner Prince and MJ which is cool too. I’m not hearing stuff I love but I like.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I dig “Are You Gonna Go My Way” and also really like the “Mama Said” album.

      But it’s perhaps also a bit unfair to compare the new record to these gems. Overall, I feel it’s a pretty solid piece of work. Lenny’s definitely a very talented artist.

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      1. Yeah it’s a different thing. But I’d disagree we can’t compare. Artists put themselves out there and we’re shelling out hard-earned bucks. I may not want to hear the same thing. But if I don’t get the quality I want I’ll spend elsewhere. That’s not a knock on this album just a general statement.

        Liked by 1 person

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