Words by: Gerrod Harris
Release Date: September 23, 2014, via Roxie Records
Lenny Kravitz’s new album, Strut, is his first album in three years, since the release of Black and White America, in 2011. Kravitz has been keeping busy in the last few years by expanding his acting career by appearing in such films like The Hunger Games series, as well as the highly acclaimed, The Butler. His return to the music world is certainly welcomed, as Strut proves to be an innovative album, encompassing a large variety of styles, while remaining modern, yet true to Kravitz’s roots.
Similarly to his idol, Prince, Kravitz has played nearly all the instrumental parts on the album, with the exception for a small handful of guitar tracks from touring guitarists, Craig Ross and background vocals from James “D. Train” Williams. As he is often known to do so, Kravitz has played nearly all the guitar parts, all the bass, drums, keyboard, and percussion parts, as well as all vocal parts, and production duties.
The album begins with the first single, released earlier this summer titled “Sex”. The song starts with a very funky guitar riff but takes a turn towards the pop side of rock during the chorus. This is then followed by the second single, “The Chamber”, which also continues the fusion of funk, rock, and pop. This seems to be a common trend with some of the songs on the album. They all have great, funky hooks which each develop as the song progresses.
As the album continues past the first two tracks, the pop textures take a back seat for the most part, and the music expands into many different realms. Kravitz once again demonstrates that not only is he incredibly talented on each of his instruments, but he also knows how to play through a variety of styles with such finesse sure to make other musicians jealous. To name a few, the album touches on songs belonging to 90’s rock and roll, “Strut”, and “Dirty White Boots”, the blues on “Happy Birthday”, gospel on “I Never Want To Let You Down”, and surf rock on “I’m A Believer”, all played with Kravitz’ signature funky tone.
As always, the instrumental parts are quite excellent. Kravitz proves, once again, just how proficient he is at all that he plays. He makes a killer one man band. The songs are very well written and exhibit interesting parts for not just the guitar, but also the bass and drums. In the 25 years since his debut album, Let Love Rule, his voice has only gotten more powerful. His vocals shine through the most on the gospel and r&b inspired ballad, “I Never Want To Let You Down”. The songs are very well written and excellently performed. I could have done without the more pop parts; however, they do not hold this album back from achieving greatness.
Strut delivers some incredibly tight grooves. Kravitz on bass and drums makes one of the tightest rhythm sections in modern music, and the guitar always adds a funky flavor to each song. Above all, I would have to say the grooves are just too infectious to ignore. Kravitz has masterfully recorded a wide variety of styles with Strut.
In a recent interview with Billboard, Kravitz claims the sound of his new album to be “Grit’n’glamour… because it’s rock, but there’s polish to it. That’s why I got Bob Clearmountain to mix. When you hear records he does, he’ll put that beautiful polish on it, but the guitars are huge, the drums are huge.”
At the heart of it, Strut is a functioning marriage between rock and funk, with some pop rock textures layered overtop. At first listen the pop flavour stood out, especially on the first two songs, but on my second play though, they seemed to take a back seat, and their variety in sound added to the overall quality of the album. It’s a rock record you can dance too! Strut is one of the few modern examples to provide such a diverse mix of genres without getting gimmicky. For this reason I find the album to be very innovative, as few musicians could pull off such a feat with such style. I would say it’s one of Kravitz’ better albums, and is certainly worth checking it out for those who like their rock and roll with a funky twist.
2: The Chamber
3: Dirty White Boots
4: New York City
5: The Pleasure And The Pain
8: She’s A Beast
9: I’m A Believer
10: Happy Birthday
11: I Never Want To Let You Down
12: Ooo Baby Baby (Smokey Robinson & the Miracles)
13: Sweet Gitchey Rose
14: Can’t Stop Thinkin’ ‘Bout You