Rhymes with the times

By Tom MacIntosh

Some 30 years after his debut album Let Love Rule, New Yorker Lenny Kravitz has cut his 11th record, Raise Vibration, released this month, with the same purpose and intent, “The message remains the same, it was and always will be about love...With these songs I offer you vibrations of peace love and unity.

The album opens with We Can Get It All Together, a stomper with booming optimism that is signature Kravitz, from the strong smooth vocals to the rock and soul beat that he owns so well. He plays most of the instruments on the 12 tracks, with just two helpers, Craig Ross on guitar and keyboard/orchestrator David Baron. Track 2, Low explores intimate relationships and sensuality, and contains Michael Jackson backup vocal extracts, how cool is that? It was put out as a single 6 weeks before the album’s release, it begins with him on drums building into a sexy funk number easy to digest and dance-ready. Another single release on the album is It’s Enough, about racism, greed and political corruption, “It’s enough (3), in the system you cannot trust...when the whole wide world is corrupt...and we all are just getting fucked”. Some say it is clearly a shot at the Trump presidency, and beyond.

Kravitz has played a variety of guitars throughout his career, including his Gibson Les Paul Traditional electric, and the Deluxe, used on this album, but he is most associated to the Gibson Flying V, and has his own signature model. The title track Raise Vibration is a bluesy puncher, that features his voice and guitar playing harmony, typical Kravitz licks, and even American indians chanting to close out this ‘vibrant’ song. The piano ballad Here to Love is one of the gems on the album in my humble opinion. A call for unity sung by his remarkably touching vocals, “We are not here to judge, we are here to love, there’s no room for hate, we are just one human race; a noble sentiment brought closer in this beautiful song. On Who Really Are the Monsters, he lets loose with 80s style electro-funk, yet keeps his touchstone sizzling sound intact. It’s good to see Kravitz still experimenting with genre concoctions, pushing the sound his way. His tribute to the title of Johnny Cash is a good example (he met Johnny and June Carter after his mom’s death and they left their mark on him); a solid base line throbs behind his sweet voice lamenting the death of his mother, with a countrified weeping steel guitar in the background; very touching.  

His stutter-step chord arrangement on Gold Dust impresses. Again, the thick vocal output is classic Kravitz, with soaring solos by Ross on his Gibson Firebird VII, and whirling keyboard effects to pull the song together. Speaking of whirling, The Majesty of Love puts you on the dance floor, a pure funk beat over guitar licks will take you back to 80s disco, yet driven from behind by a horn section that bites into the night. It’s a tasty number that even Prince
would be proud of; clean and crisp layering. The way ‘God’ (Prince) meant it to be.

If the album has a weak spot, tracks Ride and 5 More Days ‘Till Summer could be put in that corner of flacid jingles. But, there’s not really a bad song on the record. He comes through with his message of love, hope, and peace, which is truly genuine, and very Lenny Kravitz.

Raise Vibration
is not history repeating itself, but it rhymes with the times.