(#473: 13 March 1993, 2 weeks)
Track listing: Are You Gonna Go My Way/Believe/Come On And Love Me/Heaven Help/Just Be A Woman/Is There Any Love In Your Heart/Black Girl/My Love/Sugar/Sister/Eleutheria
Out of the CD booklet which came with my charity shop-sourced copy of Lenny Kravitz’s third album fell an old credit card slip. This indicated that the album had been purchased from a branch of Our Price (the slip refers only to “67 High Street” in London – it doesn’t specify which High Street branch in London) on 7 March 1993, i.e. when it was a new release (though still priced relatively stiffly at £11.99). And ultimately the record ended up in the charity shop. There’s twelve virtual quid that the initial purchaser will – or would? - never see again.
Perhaps, as I suspect was the case with many buyers, that consumer was wrongfooted by the lead single, the title track, and expected a lot more rocking eruptions, whereas the rest of the album turned out to be nothing like that top four hit at all. Yes, it sounds like Hendrix (a cross between “Stone Free” and “Crosstown Traffic”) from the next room, minus all of the sex, danger, noise and radicalism. It combs its hair and is well-behaved. You’d never get a chap on the door from the police who have been told of an unruly rock record causing bother to the neighbours (also, that lead guitar is played by one Craig Ross, not Kravitz himself, who sings and plays boxed-in drums).
I don’t know what to make of Lenny Kravitz. In “Believe” he repeatedly urges his listeners to “believe in yourself,” having already paraphrased (and decaffeinated) “I Am The Walrus” (“I am you and you are me”), but I cannot see any evidence on this record of an actual Lenny Kravitz in whom one could believe. I hear the end product of someone who grew up with seventies AM radio and eighties FM radio and who does a reasonable facsimile (at a distance, e.g. when you’re driving your $80,000 BMW with built-in speakers) of that music but cannot seem to negotiate with the present or the future to help make it matter again. Unlike Prince, Saint Etienne or Ed Motta, he is not capable of producing something entirely new from his accumulated, received history.
Yes, he can do a fair Curtis Mayfield, a not-bad Bob Marley (on the pretentiously-titled “Eleutheria” – this record, and Kravitz’s art in general, has little to do with “liberty”) and can even have a go at a Bono-style State Of The Nation address (“Sister”). But nothing here stands out, makes me want to revisit the album again, and I ended up feeling that, in 1993, this music was just in the way, and perhaps the original buyer of my copy of the album came to the same conclusion. Nothing of Kravitz’s subsequent work has convinced me otherwise, and, perhaps wisely, he now appears to devote most of his time to interior decoration. For a genuine and exhilarating escape from pop history in 1993, try instead, as I did for much of that year, Justin Warfield’s My Field Trip To Planet 9 (“Whatever's kinda clever, what the future holds for me/I guess it's just a thought, though my mind is kinda hazy/My name is Justin, baby”).
Oh, and a young Angie Stone turns up, providing half of the backing vocals on “Heaven Help.”
There's a very convenient word for what Kravitz does; ah yes, it is "studium." All studium here, no punctum whatsoever.