Lenny Kravitz

Virgin Records, 1998


REVIEW BY: Alfredo Narvaez


"Fly Away."

If you have, by some miraculous chance, avoided the monster hit from Lenny Kravitz's last album 5, then count yourself among the few. From TV ads to VH-1, this song has been around for the past couple of years and refuses to go away.

And why should it? After the success of songs like "It Ain't Over Till It's Over" and "Are You Gonna Go My Way," the artist once known as Romeo Blue has waited a while for his next big hit to strike. Though well liked by people across various generational gaps by his mix of '60s love vibes, '70s funk, and '80s guitar rock, Kravitz has nonetheless never gotten over with critics. He is often perceived as nothing more than a cheap knockoff of the music of the '60s and '70s. Add to that the message to "Let Love Rule" that permeates all of his work -- a mantra plucked straight out of the flower power generation. It has not been easy for Kravitz to separate himself from detractrors' cries for unoriginality.

That said, Kravitz's last offering, 5, serves a more potent mix of his music than his last album did. It may have been due to the recent death of his mother, TV star Roxie Roker, but my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Circus was a dark and depressing album. After all, Kravitz, like all artists, feeds off his emotions and feelings to create. I doubt that he was feeling cheery and peppy during those times.

However, the Kravitz of Are You Gonna Go My Way makes a welcomed return here as 5 presents more fun and funk. The album kicks off with the straight rocker, "Live," which is not bad. From there you get some of 70s funk -- both in sentiment and in music -- in "Supersoulfighter" and the instrumental "Straight Cold Player," R& B in "Take Time" and mid-tempo rock with "It's Your Life" and "You're My Flavor." Along with that you get some soulful music. "Thinking of You" seems to be a dedication to his mother and is very good. At the same time, "Little Girl's Eyes" is for his daughter and is very soft and tender.

Then you get the three hit singles. "Fly Away" is a monster. I remember seeing the video way back and instantly liking it. It captured all of the emotions I was feeling during midterms. By now, though, I'm sure you've decided whether or not it is for you. "American Woman" finds its way here after the song became a hit from that Austin Powers movie. Again, I won't meddle too much with your opinion, but I will say that it's just as good as the Guess Who's original. Finally, "I Belong To You" is a great, danceable, song that is full of tropical flavor. It's become a hit in its own right.

There are no truly bad songs in here. However, there are a few throwaways. Most notably, those are mid-tempo and moody tracks. Songs like "If You Can't Say No," the enviro-friendly "Can We Find A Reason?" and the other bonus track "Without You" are not bad. However, they tend to drag the album down. It's not that I don't like soft or moody material -- both "Thinking Of You" and "Take Time" can fit in that same bill. The difference, nevertheless, is that those songs are enjoyable. At 15 songs (13 in the original release, plus the two tracks later added), I personally don't see why they could not have been culled and released as single B-sides. It would have made 5 a much tighter album.

In the end, this album ended up being the boost that Kravitz needed in his career. While some of the funk and lovey-dovey lyrics may not be your cup of tea, he mixes in enough rock to make it into something original and personal. Here's hoping the next album keeps on this trend.

Rating: B

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© 2000 Alfredo Narvaez and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Virgin Records, and is used for informational purposes only.