Lenny Kravitz and Henry Hirsch

Apr 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Chris J. Walker

THE POWER OF TWO

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Lenny Kravitz stands alone. On the one hand, he is known for embracing some of the musical ideas of many predecessors he openly admires, from Jimi Hendrix to Led Zeppelin to Prince to Stevie Wonder. Indeed, he has frequently been accused of sounding “retro.” At the same time, Kravitz and his longtime engineer, Henry Hirsch, are also famous for not following rules in the studio — for breaking away from established sounds and techniques to create new styles and forms. Kravitz's latest collaboration with Hirsch, their eighth together, is called It Is Time for a Love Revolution, and once again it shows their unmistakable nonconformist tendencies while serving up hard-rocking jams, soulful ballads and other genres that are not exactly mainstream in the current sense of the word, yet have a certain unmistakable commercial appeal. But then, that's how Kravitz has always rolled.

His 1989 debut CD, Let Love Rule, was a throw-back juggernaut that caught the recording industry off-guard, especially the rock sector, which was then dominated by the aggressive raunchiness of Guns N' Roses and Def Leppard, the driving yet pensive sounds of U2 and Sting, and the stylized pop of Madonna. Instead, Kravitz's music had overt similarities to Hendrix, Zeppelin, Humble Pie, even Grand Funk Railroad, as well as touches of The Beatles and Bob Marley, and early '70s soul innovators such as Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. Hirsch says that Kravitz had never heard of the Grand Funk, Humble Pie or some of the other bands to whom critics compared Kravitz. From the beginning, the multitalented musician has played most of the instruments on his albums (though on early albums Hirsch contributed numerous keyboard tracks).

Since his impressive debut, Kravitz has had a quite diverse career. As a songwriter, his resume includes work with Gun N' Roses guitarist Slash on “Always on the Run” for Kravitz's second release, Mama Said, penning Madonna's hit “Justify My Love,” and contributing tunes for discs by Mick Jagger and other artists. The 1993 album Are You Gonna Go My Way was Kravitz's blockbuster breakthrough, the record that firmly established him as an arena-rock force, which he remains to this day, despite a series of ups and downs. His next album, Circus, was more in the psychedelic oeuvre and didn't garner the acclaim of his first albums, but 5 (1998) produced his top-selling single “Fly Away,” and the 1999 Austin Powers comedy flick The Spy Who Shagged Me featured the hot-rocking soul man's version of the Guess Who's “American Woman” — another smash. Lenny in 2000 and the introspective Baptism in 2004 didn't produce any huge hits, but by then he had become so well-established that he had a dependable following and his personal celebrity has always remained strong. In 2007, he turned up on the excellent all-star John Lennon tribute album Instant Karma (singing a harrowing version of “Cold Turkey”), but Love Revolution, his first album release in a few years, marks Kravitz's return to the charts and airwaves in a big way.






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