Lenny Kravitz – Black And White America (2011)

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No major artist has or will ever claim to be more of a 1970s-styled musical chameleon than Lenny Kravitz, since his whole career has been about simulating the analog sounds and feel of that decade (and arguably, into the 1980s a bit).

Black And White America signals a departure not in style by in themes. Here, he takes up the topic of race relations — one that strikes close to home for this son of a white father and black mother. Like, Sgt. Pepper, however, he forgets the theme soon after the beginning, but also like Sgt. Pepper, it hardly matters, as there’s several good songs in the album — regardless of theme.

Not as many as the Beatles classic, mind you, but from the Curtis Mayfield/Temptations vibe of the title track to the sunny California pop with the Stones-y riff of “Stand” (video below), Kravitz is playing to all his strengths on this record.

Other strong tracks are the Isley Brothers-soundalike “Superlove” and the anthem-rocker “Everything.” “Life Ain’t Ever Been Better Than It Is Now” is a dead-on James Brown portrayal (with a sharp assist by Trombone Shorty). Kravitz only stumbles on the couple of occasions where he goes off the retro script (“Boongie Drop,” “Sunflower”).

Even at his best, Kravitz’s music is confection, but also a lot of fun — and a direct connection to the more carefree, simpler times, when the music on the radio wasn’t “black” or “white.” Just good.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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