Lenny Kravitz | Baptism (Virgin)

On Baptism, Kravitz continues to combine a wide variety of stylistic elements to form an eclectic yet cohesive body of music.

 

“I’m the minister of rock ‘n’ roll/I can heal you/I can save your soul.” This far-from-modest proclamation is the opening line to Baptism, the seventh studio CD from one of the few artists who can actually live up to those words. Over the past decade, Kravitz has created a highly successful, media-hyped empire for himself, due in no small part to his ability to write and perform some of the finest pop-rock songs of his generation.

On Baptism, Kravitz continues to combine a wide variety of stylistic elements to form an eclectic yet cohesive body of music. There’s plenty of his old-school, classic rock–flavored guitar fuzziness throughout the 13 tracks; however, a newer, more forward-thinking sound is also introduced, especially on the aforementioned “Minister,” which utilizes a fair amount of electronic effects. Slower, romantic ballads such as “Calling all Angels” and “What Did I Do With My Life?” are intermingled with funky, soulful, Sly Stone–like numbers such as “Sistamamalover” and “Storm,” the latter including a vocal solo by Jay Z.

Kravitz also reminds us of his lighter, mainstream pop sensibilities with “California,” the song with the greatest radio potential. Two of the stronger tracks—the first single “Where Are We Runnin’?” and “Flash”—are straightforward, head-bopping rockers with super-catchy choruses and attention-grabbing hooks that hold on tight and don’t let go. The final track, “Destiny,” finds Kravitz singing at the highest end of his vocal range, and consists of nothing more than his voice and an acoustic guitar.

The multitalented Kravitz wears many hats on Baptism; he wrote, produced, and co-mixed every song, and plays almost every instrument himself, including the string arrangements. Only a few other musicians are utilized on about half of the tracks (including famed saxaphonist David Sanborn); the rest are 100 percent Kravitz creations from top to bottom.

Lyrically, it seems that Kravitz was focused mainly on questioning the importance of his superstar status and examining the value of what he has accomplished. On “I Don’t Want to Be a Star,” he acknowledges that, while meeting some of his idols (like Dylan and Jagger) has been a great experience, he still prefers his “Chevy and an old guitar” to having “a fat cigar.” On “The Other Side,” he states, “With platinum and gold, I’ve got millions sold/But after the party, I’m left standing in the cold.” And on “What Did I Do With My Life?” Kravitz reflects on the many moments that have led to the present, with thoughts that we can all apply to our own lives. In the end, he tells us what’s truly important is to “learn to love your life/’cause that truly is romance”; he also reminds us that to “achieve anything you thought of/you just have to take the chance.” Words to live by, those.

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