January 5, 2012

The Soundtrack To Your Next Soul Train House Party

                                               Black And White America
                                           (© 2011 Roadrunner Records)
“The future looks as though it has come around
And maybe we have finally found our common ground”
The line from the opening, title track to Lenny Kravitz’s latest album Black And White America seems to be the manifesto for all that follows. This album could very well have come out in 1978, and yet it sounds every bit 2012, musically and rhetorically. He touches on race in an optimistic way, and rides the “love, peace, and SOUL” train with all the authority and cool of Don Cornelius.

That Kravitz worships at the altar of James Brown, Sly Stone, Curtis Mayfield, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Jackson 5/Off the Wall-era Michael Jackson, and Prince is not news. Fact is, aside from the sporadic output of The Purple One, no one but Kravitz makes this sort of music anymore so consistently and so well. So appreciate it for all its rock-star-soul-brother-spaceman splendor.

Black And White America is Kravitz’s most focused, best written, and f-f-f-funkiest effort since 1998’s 5. There is very little fat or filler in this 17-track album. When there is, as when he treads dangerously in the Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson I-believe-the-children-are-our-future waters of The Faith of a Child or Dream, you almost want to excuse him because he does it in such earnest…but let’s not. To the unforgiving, cynical ear, the two aforementioned tracks are the only things getting in the way of making this album flawless.

  • Black And White America – the funky opening version and the acoustic b-side are an insight into songwriting.
  • Come On And Get It – what if Zeppelin, Hendrix, Sly, Super Fly, JB, Prince, and hot girls got in a room together?
  • Liquid Jesus – Maxwell, you ain’t the king of Mr. Lova’ Man music.
  • Rock Star City Life – this should be the theme for Victoria’s Secret’s next ad and runway campaigns.
  • Boongie Drop – close your eyes and you’re in a sweaty Kingston dance hall, as Jay-Z drops by to say “I make that pussy speak patois like Petra, remember hah?”
  • Stand – a brilliant theft of Three Dog Night’s Nights in Shambala.
  • SuperLove – Eh, Maxwell.  It might be time to call it a night.
  • War – a track worthy of Michael Jackson at his Off the Wall finest.

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