REVIEW: Lenny Kravitz Makes Organic Effort on ‘Blue Electric Light’

Videos by American Songwriter

LENNY KRAVITZ
Blue Electric Light
(Roxie Records/BMG)
🎵🎵🎵 1/2

RATING CHART:
1 note – Pass
1.5 notes – Mediocre
2 notes – Average
2.5 notes – Above Average
3 notes – Good
3.5 notes – Great
4 notes – Excellent
4.5 notes – Exceptional
5 notes – Classic

The ‘70s and ‘80s were and remain influential decades for pop. Few pay as much fealty to them as Lenny Kravitz. 

That’s the thread connecting his work, starting with his 1989 debut album, Let Love Rule. Eleven releases later, he’s still injecting those sounds into new original music with consistent, if obvious, references to the past. 

Six years after his previous set, Kravitz stays the course admirably, crafting another dozen tracks that could have convincingly appeared on a record from four decades ago. Judging from the cover photo, he even seems not to have aged physically over his lengthy career.

To the multi-talented musician’s credit (he produces and plays nearly every instrument), these selections twist in enough unique directions to keep from sounding dated, stale, or worse, ripped off outright. Rather, there’s crackling life and inspired sparkle to the performances despite the multiple overdubs and the lack of a band to gel with. 

Like Prince, whose clear influence informs the pumped-up “Human” and the moving soul ballad “Stuck in the Middle,” Kravitz mixes and matches rock, pop, R&B, funk, and even techno into a brew boasting memorable hooks and catchy choruses. The tracks feel effortless and organic, if not entirely novel. Lyrically, he sticks to his tried-and-true, rather clichéd “let’s love each other” template. 

“Bundle of Joy” has flashes of Tom Tom Club and Prince. The thumping “Paralyzed” runs a John Bonham drum lick through a slow rocker, switching tempo to the middle percussion section of “Whole Lotta Love.” The cherry on top is the guitar talkbox effect that Joe Walsh and Peter Frampton used so effectively.

Add the blue-eyed Hall & Oates/early Todd Rundgren soul of the radio-ready “Honey,” a pinch of Yello (courtesy of Kravitz’s Dieter Meier-level baritone voice) from “Let It Ride,” and the thick ’80s Depeche Mode synths and Hendrix-ian lead guitar of the title track, and you’ve got the perfect soundtrack for your next retro party. 

All you’ll need are black lights and bell-bottom trousers.  

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