Over the years, I have listened to many artists who I would say their careers have been “confounding”. I mean, sometimes I like them, and other times I don’t. One huge example for me is Bob Seger. While in high school, it seemed as though a majority of the people walking through the doors of my old school would describe themselves as Bob Seger fans. But, I never really got it. I understand that his lyrics were bringing country music themes to the rock world, but if you honestly recall the Urban Cowboy sound of the late70s/early 80s, country music was very vanilla. I preferred my heartland rockers in the form of Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and, despite that I am a born-Hoosier, John Mellencamp (most people from Indiana like Mellencamp because he is from Indiana, where I like him because his lyrics buck our Hoosier culture, whatever that means).
Back when this artist burst on the scene in 1989, I had him pegged for some retro-, faux cover artist, meaning an artist that could perfectly co-opt another artist’s sound in his song, while never really synthesizing that influence into his own sound. This artist is Lenny Kravitz. Now, his music never made me turn the knob on the radio as Bob Seger’s would/does. Still, Kravitz music never inspired me to purchase his music. I remember when my older son was in high school, that he once owned Kravitz’ Greatest Hits CD. And, at the time I thought it was okay. But, lately, my attitude has changed toward Kravitz.
Let me get it off my chest right now, his last two albums are fantastic, if not the best in his career. Finally, he has shed it tendency to make songs that sound like his heroes (Hendrix, Prince, Gaye, Lennon, etc.) and has now created his own sound. In 2011, Kravitz released Black and White America. Finally, we got to hear what he felt as a child of an interracial marriage. This album is a fine social critique of America’s race relations, that can be played along side other classic albums of this ilk such as Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back by Public Enemy and D’Angelo’s Black Messiah.
Then, in 2014, Kravitz followed up that near-classic with his most rockin’ statement ever on his album Strut. Finally, Lenny shed the trappings of his heroes and became Lenny Kravitz, his own voice of a rock star. Now, I am a fan of Lenny Kravitz. So, today, I will rank Lenny Kravitz’ 10 albums from my least favorite to my favorite.
10. Baptism (2004). As the new millennium dawned, Kravitz was experiencing something of a hot streak. He had just had three of his five biggest hits: “Fly Away”, “American Woman” remake and “Again”. Four years later, he misplaced his mojo and presented us with this crap. Foolishly, I wrote him off at the time.
9. 5 (1998). The Kravitz fans will yell at me for this, but other than “Fly Away”, Lenny was going through the motions.
8. Circus (1995). At this point in Kravitz’ career, he had a tendency to follow up a classic album or two with some drivel. This was the first of two consecutive pieces of the latter.
7. It’s Time for a Love Revolution (2008). I officially gave up on Lenny after this album. In retrospect, it is not that bad, but it is still not what he was capable of making.
6. Lenny (2001). I give this album the slight edge of the previous one because it has the song “Dig In”, which I dig.
5. Mama Said (1991). I had such high hopes for this album after hearing “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over”. Unfortunately, when he had the chance to make his divorce album, like Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, Lenny understandably pulled back on the rains.
4. Let Love Rule (1989). This is his debut album, and it announced to the world that we might have another Prince on our hands, in that he writes, plays a bunch of instruments and wanted to take over the world. I was with him at the time.
3. Are You Gonna Go My Way (1993). Lenny was still in his can you name my influences for each of my songs phase. That’s okay, when you have an Hendrixian song like the title song to base the album on.
2. Strut (2014). FINALLY! Kravitz has become a rock star with his OWN voice. Several songs are classics that many other artists probably wish they could write at this point in their careers. This is a keeper!
1. Black or White America (2011). This album BLEW my mind when I first heard it. I thought that Lenny Kravitz has finally put on his observation glasses and told us what it’s like to be a child of a mixed race relationship. This man spelled it all out right on this album. Unfortunately, the general public missed out on a great Lenny Kravitz album.
So, over the years, I have evolved from someone interested in Lenny Kravitz’ music, to one who could not stand to listen to him, to my present status as a Kravitz fan. By the way, rumor has it that a new album is on the way for 2017. That remains to be seen.