Lenny Kravitz - 'Black And White America' (Roadrunner) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Johnny H   
Monday, 22 August 2011 05:55

Lenny_KravitzLove him or hate him, consider him to be a fake or the real deal?  There's no denying the fact that Lenny Kravitz has sold millions of albums worldwide through his ability to fuse rock, funk, soul, and pop sensibilities into one very sellable commodity.  He's also released some truly excellent albums during his twenty odd years with Virgin ('Let Love Rule' and '5' probably being my own faves), but here in 2011 he's found a new home for his ninth studio album 'Black And White America', and that home is Roadrunner Records.


So I guess the first thing you're all wondering is, has Lenny produced a full on heavy metal album to please his new label bosses?  Well, what do you think?


One look at the album cover (which features a portrait of the artist as a young hippy) should be enough to tell you that not a lot has changed in camp Kravitz since his last album, 2008's 'It's Time For A Love Revolution', and yes that does include his fondness for telling us all about his spiritual rebirth at every conceivable opportunity.... Ho hum, but if you can put that aspect of the man's music aside for just a minute there is still some pretty cool music waiting to be discovered here.


Album opener 'Black And White America' for example fits a tight but loose jazz funk riff over some seventies disco strings and horns to give a Crusaders type groove that I can only imagine gave the guys at Roadrunner heart failure. Joking aside though 'Black And White America' the album is probably Lenny's least hard rocking in a very long time, and it is credit to his new label that they haven't tried to push him in that direction. The lack of "in your face" tunes on 'Black And White America' though really isn't such a bad thing, as it gives the sugar sweet powerpop blasts of 'In The Black' (Elvis Costello meets Gay Numan), 'Rock Star City Life' (with its 'Since You've Been Gone' guitar riff intro) and second single 'Stand' (bizarrely conjuring up images of Scissor Sisters covering Sailor) the chance to truly shine, and when Lenny is this good he really is the Chameleon King of Rock.



So what of the rest of 'Black And White America'? Well 'Everything' is perhaps the most hard rock track of the sixteen tracks that make up 'Black And White America' sounding like a mellower 'Presence' era Led Zeppelin, whilst 'Come On Get It' is 'Are You Gonna Go My Way?' rewritten for the one track attention span generation, but not even the swathes of horns that pump the track along can disguise the obvious self appreciation going on here.



As well as the great slab of funk that is the aforementioned title track, you also get the funk lite of 'Looking Back On Love', which is almost a Paradis (sic) of a certain era from Lenny's past, which when coupled with the falsetto drum machine lead dirge of ''Liquid Jesus' makes up the good, bad and ugly of what is the flipside to Mr Kravitz musical creativity. Staying on the downside for just one minute quite what Lenny must have been thinking (other than let's make a fast buck) when he decided to include the risible 'Boongie Drop' within the album's regular track listing whilst relegating the Lennon-esque 'Push' to the status of a bonus cut is frankly beyond this reviewer?



And herein lies the problem with 'Black And White America' it simply wants to be all things to everyone, and whilst not including that heavy metal song I half jokingly referred to earlier, it might as well have, as Lenny seems to have covered every other musical base. Hence rather than focusing on what makes his songwriting so damn infectious he kind of loses focus regarding what HE is all about, and whilst 'Life Ain't Ever Been Better Than It Is Now' for Mr Kravitz, it's frustrating as hell for us, his fans.