At 43, Lenny Kravitz is more self-reflective than usual.
He recently spoke to Maxim magazine about his newly declared sexual abstinence, "a promise I made until I get married." Sex-free for the past three years, Kravitz wants more than just a physical connection. "I'm looking at the big picture."
Relishing the satisfaction that can result from practicing self-discipline in a gratify-me-now culture, the four-time Grammy winner told Australia's Herald Sun that abstinence "frees you from a lot of things and it also takes a lot of power away from people who are trying to seduce you… Ultimately I'm trying to do the right thing, to honour myself and the other person and honour God."
From the moment I heard "Let Love Rule," the first single from his 1989 debut album of the same name, I was a Kravitz fan. At the time, he was married to "The Cosby Show" actress Lisa Bonet, whom I also adored. A cool mix of rock and psychedelic soul, Let Love Rule gave me a new appreciation for the 1960s and 1970s music that influenced Kravitz.
Son of the late Roxie Roker of The Jeffersons fame and the late Sy Kravitz, a television producer, Kravitz followed up his debut with Mama Said. By this time, he and Bonet were history. The single "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over" sounded like a touching lament over the break-up. Kravitz would go on to make six more albums (excluding a greatest hits collection) and score such hits as "Fly Away," a rousing remake of The Guess Who's "American Woman," and "Again."
Kravitz's eighth studio album, It Is Time For A Love Revolution, is a 14-track manifesto of love's power to rule over lust and material things. Released by Virgin Records last week, the album is his first in four years. Fans will find the drum-heavy style familiar. Often described by critics as a "retro rocker," Kravitz deftly handles lead and background vocals and mostly all the instruments, except for strings and horns on a few tracks.
The mantra-like "Love Revolution" is standard, anthemic fare you can't help bouncing to. What it lacks in lyrical creativity, it compensates with an appealingly repetitive guitar riff. Kravitz brings more of the same in "Bring It On," a guitar-heavy rock-out that combines rebellion and religion: "I'm gonna walk by faith/Gonna raise my sword/I'm gonna fight my battle/Gonna praise my Lord."
Speaking of faith, Kravitz is open about his beliefs, invoking the name of the Savior on two other tracks. In the mid-tempo "If You Want It," he sings: "There's a choice that you need to make/One is ore and one is clay/So drop your chains and take up your cross/And let Jesus make your way." He continues his unambiguous appeal in "A New Door": "Just ask for what you need in Jesus name/Don't be ashamed."
Reviewing Baptism (2004) for Christian Music Today, Russ Breimeier noted that although Kravitz declared his faith and acknowledged its influence on his music, these beliefs are "blurred by mixed messages… sometimes alluding to the sexual." Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), It Is Time For A Love Revolution has no overtly sexual allusions that I picked up.
"Good Morning" is a lyrically superficial yet pleasant enough Beatles-style track, and the grooving "Love Love Love" is about rejecting the trappings of fame. Kravitz slides into a soulful ballad, "I'll Be Waiting," and I can't help but wonder if he's singing it for ex-wife Bonet: "You are the only one I've ever known/That makes me feel this way/Girl you are my own/I want to be with you until we're old/You've got the love you need right in front of you please come home."
Kravitz makes his honorable intentions known in the funky "Will You Marry Me" (you can almost hear James Brown shouting in the background), followed by the melancholic "I Love The Rain." Equally gloomy is "A Long And Sad Goodbye," a song about the rift between Kravitz and his late father, who cheated on his mother and abandoned him. The disco-style "Dancin' Till Dawn" is passable, while "This Moment Is All There Is," a hypnotically smooth and sensuous tune, stands above the rest.
In true 60s-revolutionary fashion, Kravitz closes the album with two anti-war songs, "Back In Vietnam" and "I Want To Go Home." Making peace, not war, is a wonderful concept, but only if the other side is willing to make peace, too.
It Is Time For A Love Revolution doesn't break new ground, but it will satisfy longtime fans and win over a few new ones, especially with stand-outs like "I'll Be Waiting" and "This Moment Is All There Is."