Lenny Kravitz

Greatest Hits (Virgin ’00) Rating: A-
Throughout his career, Lenny Kravitz has been criticized for plundering the past, for Lenny is a true believer of old time rock n’ roll virtues. As such, he’s never been afraid to wear his influences on his sleeves, primary ones being Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, Philly soul, and Prince. And while the charges against his lack of originality certainly have a ring of truth to them, his retro stance actually seems pretty unique these days. By simply sticking to his guns in this age of teenybopper pop and thuggish rap rock, Lenny has persevered as one cool cat who has outlasted any musical trends. Now, five albums into his career this Greatest Hits collection serves as a nice summation of his achievements thus far while also working as by far his best album to date. This is because even Kravitz’s best albums are inconsistent, making him an artist that’s tailor made for a greatest hits collection. Fortunately, the song selection here is solid throughout (it’s shocking how often this isn’t the case with these types of endeavors), and the new song, a sad ballad about love lost titled “Again,” actually belongs. In fact, it became a big hit, and all of Lenny’s other major hits are also here. These include funky hard rockers such as “Are You Gonna Go My Way” and “Always On The Run,” as well as last year’s huge hit singles “Fly Away” and his lame take on The Guess Who’s “American Woman” (I always skip this one as I far prefer the original version). Meanwhile, the smooth, Philly-styled soft soul of “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over” and “Heaven Help,” as well as slowly smouldering ballads such as “Can’t Get You Off My Mind” and “Stand By My Woman,” show that the likes of D’Angelo and Maxwell have nothing on Lenny when he hits his mark. Elsewhere, Lenny delivers the socially conscious “Mr. Cab Driver,” while the naïve lyrics of “Believe” and (personal favorite) “Let Love Rule” recall Bob Marley’s equally naïve and universal sentiments of spiritual salvation and togetherness through love. And while Lenny usually opts for the old time production values of simplicity and spontaneity, “I Belong To You” and the techno-tinged “Black Velveteen” are both smoothly contemporary, proving that Lenny isn’t always stuck in the past (though recycling the past is what he does best). In another song Kravitz proclaims “Rock n’ Roll is Dead,” but clearly he’s being ironic, for would a man bother to play and arrange almost every single note on each of his five albums if he felt that he was working within a medium that no longer worked, much less no longer existed? I seriously doubt it, and as long as we have the steady likes of Lenny Kravitz generating radio ready hit songs such as these fifteen Greatest Hits, rock ‘n roll will be in capable hands.

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