Lenny Kravitz, Greatest Hits (Virgin 2000)
by Randy Krbechek
With a recording career beginning in 1989 and including five studio releases, including his 1998 triple platinum 5, Lenny Kravitz is well due for a greatest hit set. Greatest Hits highlights the skills of this breakthrough artist, who plays almost every note on his albums, while also acting as producer, arranger, writer and live performer.
Greatest Hits draws from all of Kravitz' albums: "Rock and Roll is Dead" comes from Circus, "Always on the Run" comes from Mama Said, "Heaven Help" and "Are You Gonna Go My Way" are from Are You Gonna Go My Way, "Let Love Rule" and "Stand By My Woman" come from Let Love Rule, and the slinky "Black Velveteen" and "American Woman" come from 5.
Kravitz has followed in the footsteps of James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, while forging his own sound. Says the artist, "I think I've covered a lot of ground. There are a lot of different elements in my music . . . It's a blessing for me to have the opportunity to put this record out, especially in an era of music when careers are very disposable."
The album also includes a new track, "Again," recorded at Kravitz' Roxie Studios in Miami, which is named after his late mother, TV actress Roxie Roker.
Even though Kravitz won back-to-back Grammys for best rock vocal performance in 1999 ("Fly Way") and 2000 ("American Woman"), I've never been a big fan. But Greatest Hits wins me over, as Kravitz' consistent musicality and skills come through.
What's fun about the Greatest Hits collection is finding overlooked gems, like the rock-steady-jam of "Mr. Cab Driver" and the plaintive, "Heaven Help."
Says the artist, "Doing this record brought back a lot of memories. You remember what you were going through at the time you wrote and recorded each song. It also recalled the work process. It's like having these old friends drop by that you haven't seen in a long time. You don't remember all the details, but you feel good about them."
Kravitz is an absolutely assured, absolutely skilled artist. Says Lenny, "They think I'm being serious when actually I am a very big clown, but you have to know me to see that. I'm constantly cracking up and cracking everybody else around me up. They see my photos and think I labor over my image, and I'm this cool, brooding artist. But I'm just having fun with it."
Greatest Hits shows all the facets of Lenny - sublime lover, funkmeister, lights-on rocker. Enjoy this top ten smash.
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-- Randy Krbechek