Sunday, October 19, 2014

Kat's Korner: Lenny chooses to strut

Kat:  Lenny Kravitz has made a solid album in spite of himself.

The four time Grammy winner is back with his first album in three years and the good news is Strut plays start to finish.

That's not a minor accomplishment for any artist and certainly not for Lenny who delivered a solid album with 1989's Let Love Rule and followed that with albums that half worked and half didn't.

2008's It Is Time for a Love Revolution found him serving up a fully functional album again but then came Black and White America.

Kravitz is a highly talented guitar player and an amazing vocalist.

Where he tends to falter is in songwriting.

On Strut, he does a cover of Smokey Robinson and Warren Moore's "Ooh Baby Baby."  As with his cover of "American Woman," he doesn't just nail the song, he reconfigures it.  Which makes you wonder why he doesn't do covers more often?  I'd love to, for example, here what he could do with INXS' "Never Tear US Apart," Tracy Chapman's "Give Me One Reason" or Madonna's "Like A Prayer."

But closing with "Ooh Baby Baby" was a smart choice, letting the album go out on strong note.

Fortunately, the four songs leading up to it are strong musically which tends to overcompensate for the weak lyrics because by "She's a Beast," he (and, on one track, Craig Ross) are really stumbling lyrically.

Prior to that, Lenny (and Craig Ross)  offer the title track, "Dirty White Boots" and especially "Sex" which satisfy musically and lyrically.

The thing about Lenny is how unself aware he is.

This allows him to avoid repeating himself but it also allows him to miss his greatest strength.

Lyrically, he writes best about freedom and constraint, the dualities, the dual between the two.

For example, "Fly Away" was not an ode to leaving, it was about a desire to leave.

And if any artist working today has a Joni Mitchell Blue or Hejira in them, it's probably Lenny.

He's not yet moved towards that but with Strut he's released a solid album which will remind everyone not just that he's won four Grammys, but also that he deserved to win them.