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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Lenny Kravitz

Greatest Hits - Limited Tour Edition CD and DVD

Review by Gary Hill

Released to coincide with his tour, this is a somewhat expanded version of the Greatest Hits disc released in 2000. It has two new tracks added, "Dig In" and "Where are We Runnin'?" and a couple songs have been moved around. This also includes a bonus DVD with six music videos. Certainly Kravitz fanatics will want this no matter what. For more casual listeners if you didn't get the original release, pick this one up. That one was a good cross section of Kravitz, and this is a turbo charged version of that. I suppose if you already got that one, and aren't a Kravitz junkie, you'll probably opt to pass on this one. Just a note on the track by track review - one song "Dig In," I already reviewed when I covered the Lenny album. For the sake of consistency, this review was modified from that one.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Are You Gonna Go My Way
This hard rocking groove with quite a bit of a retro texture has always been a real smoker and a favorite of mine. I'm pretty sure everyone reading this has heard the song, so I'll just point out the killer classic rock song structure and smoking guitar solo and call it a day.
Fly Away
Another cut that should be familiar to most listeners, this one combines more of that hard rock retro sound that Kravitz loves with a cool funk texture. It is another strong one.
Rock 'n' Roll is Dead
Not as well known as the two previous cuts, this one has a major Hendrix sound on the main instrumental riff with a cool, slightly distorted and psychedelic vocal delivery from Kravitz. The cut features a great guitar solo with a Zeppelin like breakdown that serves to hold the number down underneath The outro also includes some awesome hot as hell guitar sounds. This one, while proclaiming, "Rock 'n' Roll is Dead," proves that, in his case anyway, it definitely is not. This is lyrically a stab at unnamed artists of today that Kravitz feels are talent less.
Again
Making its first appearance on the original edition of this album, this is a mellower cut that just doesn't hold the "oomph" of the earlier numbers. It feels like a fairly sappy '70's rock ballad ala John Waite and his ilk and just doesn't do much for me.
Dig In
A hard-edged retro-infused pop rocker, that is pretty typical Lenny Kravitz. It was the first single off the Lenny disc, and should have been because the chorus is quite catchy.
It Ain't Over Till It's Over
Well, this one is just plain weird, Kravitz goes disco - yuck! This is the only real loser on the compilation with only Kravitz' impassioned vocal delivery making it at all listenable.
Can't Get You Off My Mind
This one feels like a cross of influences between the Stones and a touch of country music. It's an electrified and rocking ballad that works rather well.
Mr. Cab Driver
Bouncy, gritty, and oh so cool, this stripped down rocker from the first CD is understated, but very entertaining. With its anti-racism lyrics Kravitz pulls no punches - so, parents beware. The later faster paced jam is exceptionally cool and I like the overly distorted texture of this song a lot.
Heaven Help
Starting with piano, this one is a pretty ballad with a definite pop bent. Granted it's a little over produced, but it has a great '70's R & B texture. It's a nice change of pace.
American Woman
Kravitz' take on The Guess Who classic, I'm willing to bet there are a lot of younger people who think this is the only version of this one. I like Kravitz' take quite a lot, but prefer the original. It always amazes me how so many people take this one on its face - a man telling a woman to get lost - and completely miss the scathing indictment of U.S. imperialistic tendencies.
Where Are We Runnin'?
A stripped down rocker with some serious Stones leanings and a healthy dosage of Ace Frehley, this is definitely fun. I like the drum vocal break and especially enjoy the meaty jam afterwards.
Stand By My Woman
This feels a lot like the balladic side of Prince, but of course with a strong Kravitz' flavor. This one is very powerfully emotional. The sax solo is a nice touch.
Always on the Run
A killer hard rocking jam, this has 1975 written all over it. This is a high point of the disc, feeling a bit like Grand Funk. The horns bring in a definite taste of Earth Wind and Fire.
I Belong To You
This one takes its time coming in, focusing on a tinking key sound and percussion through the extended intro and first verse. The chorus, though, is quite lush. The single repeated note on the second verse (Kravitz strips the arrangement back down after that first chorus) gets a little annoying, but as the guitar enters towards the end of that verse the song begins to truly soar going into the chorus. A very tasteful guitar solo takes it, then they move it back into an extended and energized version of the chorus. This one is inconsistent, but parts of it are just plain awesome. It drops back down eventually to that one note, with bass this time, making up the outro.
Believe
Church organ starts this and eventually acoustic guitar comes in, until the song completely reinvents itself as a modern psychedelic piece of wonderment. This powerful and positive piece has always been a favorite of mine. The arrangement can get a bit over the top at points, but it really works here.
Let Love Rule
The first song I (and probably a lot of other people) heard form Kravitz I've always loved this Beatlesesque (think The White Album) rocker. It still holds up very well and is a killer.
Black Velveteen
This comes in with a modern techno/house sort of rhythm. This one isn't bad, but Kravitz doesn't seem to have his heart in this genre. Once it turns to the expansive, more hard rocking progressive rock like mode it seems to get much stronger. As the techno part returns it retains some of the harder edged, feeling almost Nine Inch Nailsish. The full dance break, though, is a mistake, but they pull it back out in style to the prog-like segment that carries the cut forward. From such a weak start, this one is turned into quite a strong number.
 
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