I liked all of Lenny Kravitz’ albums – up to a point. I first heard his second album, Mama Said. I still think it’s brilliant. That song It Ain’t Over (Til It’s Over) reminded me of dear old Terence Trent D’arby (which pretty much means that it reminded me of Prince). And there were other great songs on that album.
And then I heard Are You Gonna Go My Way? This album changed my world. That – like most things that are world-changing at a particular time in life – was because of a girl. A girl I knew had the album and liked the album. That pretty much meant that I needed to get the album and needed to like the album. You can follow the thread from there…
I never really got the girl; even though I convinced myself I liked the girl. But I never considered myself a total fool for what young ones are sure is love, because I did actually like Lenny before she told me to like Lenny. But I truly loved that album Are You Gonna Go My Way? And for many reasons.
Driving was a new-ish hobby of mine around this time. I had recently nailed the license test (only took me two attempts! Funny thing was I was so sure I’d pass my test the first time I drove in to it alone and therefore drove home alone after failing). And everywhere I went – for a while – in my big blue Volvo (damn that thing was so ridiculously un-cool that it redefined cool) I was accompanied by the sound of Lenny. I was signed up. And he may have never known it. But I was like so fully prepared to go his way.
Somewhere around this time of loving Are You Gonna Go My Way? a lot. And liking Mama Said a great deal, I bought his first album, Let Love Rule. It’s also a great album – I still really like it. The gospel choirs, the mix of funk, soul, rock and pop-ballads.
Circus was released. The fourth album. Darker, weirder, less accessible, it didn’t do so well. I loved it. It’s got some great songs and some great playing – the feel from Are You Gonna Go is still there, but the songs reach deeper.
And then he released 5. And the slide began.
I never liked this album. I bought it, sure. I was in the Lenny zone by then, well and truly. I dug his music. But I could never get in to this album. After that we got Greatest Hits – with the new ballad that was hugely popular, Again. It’s not a patch on Believe or Stand By My Woman or Heaven Help – but it’s a nice-enough song.
The album Lenny was released – and did as well as most albums that are released after a greatest hits/best-of album. It’s a dumb move releasing a best-of when you still have music up your sleeve. You can’t do it in this day and age, it signals an end – if not the end. And in the end, it’s the same end to most listeners/buyers.
Since then any Lenny Kravitz album is a joke. If it’s even noticed.
There’s a copy of Lenny Kravitz’ Greatest Hits on my iPod and I have revisited it a bit lately. But here’s the thing – I never liked hearing his hits. I think Lenny Kravitz made great albums – four of them by my count – and he is not a musician that excerpts well. Hearing the alleged best bits all in one place never worked for me. Not with Kravitz. The hits felt like he was trying, so hard, to be liked, to have a hit. Maybe that’s the problem with music of a time and place – even when you want to go back to that time and place, via the music, it’s never as it was, never able to be. So the music only exists in that present-tense time, or as tragic, jaded soundtrack.