Lenny Kravitz Joins the Revolution with ‘Raise Vibration’

I write a lot here about independent music, and how only indie artists will ever get to tell the truth in music, and why we should support them and ignore the propaganda trash that’s pumped out by corporations because it is only either there to distract you or mislead you. But I believe that when someone of note does something with meaning, it’s important for us to give them props. Because more people will be touched by it, moved by it, and perhaps have their minds opened to some truth and that goes a lot further than me writing a song about peace and playing it to 30 people in a bar. Lenny Kravitz’s new album Raise Vibration is one such album. It deserves a lot more attention than its gotten, and it deserves the right kind of attention, because it’s fucking revolutionary.

It’s been quite a few months since I’ve been so blown away by a record, and even longer since it was largely because of the lyrics. I’ve listened to the album for a few weeks and it’s made a very positive contribution to the quality of my life, I must say.

The three things I pay most attention to in music are melody, arrangement, and content. Before delving into the latter, I’d like to first say that the melodies and arrangements on this album are nearly perfect. The production is flawless, but Kravitz could have recorded these songs in his garage with just a guitar and I’d still be writing this review because of how good the songwriting is. He has said the songs came to him in dreams, which may have something to do with their magical qualities. I believe we are mere vessels for art, and this method of writing purifies the process. It removes the writer from getting in the way.

The record is a consummate blend of classic Motown, less classic R&B. funk, dance, and rock & roll elements. Use of harmony, effects, and compositional devices adds to the quality of the songwriting, providing a sublime experience that only grows with repeated listenings.

The dancible “Low” is the first song since “Zeen Requiem” by The Wildhearts that I’ve had to put on repeat because I just couldn’t get enough of it. It makes me feel like an addict after being given all the drugs I want to binge on. There’s a remix album dedicated just to this song, which I tried for a while, but none of the versions compare to the original which is nothing short of a perfect single.

Another song I should call attention to before digging into the real depth of this album is the ballad “Johnny Cash.” I didn’t see the Joaquin Phoenix film, but I imagine a scene where Cash’s wife June comforts him after the death of his mother. Even non-fans of Kravitz know of his profound love for his late mother, which makes the chorus that much more moving.

Just hold me like Johnny Cash
When I lost my mother
Whisper in my ear
Just like June Carter
And though I fight these tears that I hide
Just hold me tight for the rest of my life

A subtle nod to John Lennon occurs in the chorus chords, a quote of sorts, from the coda of “God.” Lennon famously wrote of the loss of his own mother in the songs “Julia” and “Mother”. (The second of which opens Lennon’s self-titled solo album, also including “God”.) Kravitz uses these kinds of “quotes” throughout the album, paying homage to the likes of Prince, Lennon and Gaye with familiar applications of harmony and studio mastery.

All of the above alone would make this a standout LP, but what moves me most about this album are Kravitz’s political statements that reflect a mature depth, and non-partisan command of the issues we face. (And I’m not talking about Donald Trump.)

Here are some highlights. Emphasis mine:

————————————————————————————

From “Who Really Are the Monsters?”

It’s all about the money, it’s all about the fame
It’s all about control, it’s all about the game
Now their heads are rolling
And there’s no place to hide
Terror is overflowing
And it’s from the inside

The war won’t stop as long as we keep dropping bombs

From “Raise Vibration”

Be a vessel, never settle
For the status quo
Love will lead us and complete us
This is what I know

We’ve got to raise vibration

Just like Jesus
As he teach us, do it like the Lord
Just how Martin got it startin’
And without a sword

Just as Gandhi went to war
And never used the gun
We can join together
And through love we’ll get it done

We’ve got to raise vibration

From “Here to Love”

We must all unite for we are one creation
We must join the fight, together we are strong
We must do what’s right in every situation
Love each other’s lives as you would do your own

Just think twice
Before you cast your stone at someone’s soul
It’s their life
So the choice is theirs and theirs alone
We’re not here to judge
We are here to love
There’s no room for hate
We are just one human race
We must rise above
We are here to love
There’s no time to waste anymore

We must all unite, there’s no more segregation
When you’ve seen the light there’s nowhere else to go
And with peace in sight no walls could separate us
We would be as one because this earth’s our home

From “It’s Enough”

.45 caliber in the face
Shot him in the head because of his race
Now that he is dead, will we plead his case?
While the executioner’s out on grace

I just thought somehow
That things would get better

It’s enough, it’s enough, it’s enough
In the system, you cannot trust
It’s enough, it’s enough
When the whole wide world is corrupt
It’s enough, it’s enough
And we all are just getting fucked
It’s enough, it’s enough

What’s that going down in the Middle East?
Do you really think it’s to keep the peace
How we love to control a foreign land
Taking what we can is always the plan

And they know, they know
That Africa is the centre

————————————————————————————

What I get from this is not Kravitz “lending his voice to the Resistance as Rolling Stone proclaimed in their dumb review headline, or more “earnest hippy beliefs” as All Music wrote in their review, but that this man gets what we are up against and knows what it will take to save us. Imperialism, climate change, corporate greed, and targeted police killings of minorities all are included here. And the questioning of official narratives, which I find to be especially impressive, courageous and inspiring. When Lenny asks “who really are the monsters?” the answer is us.

I am shocked that such a mainstream artist is hitting these notes, and I commend him. Like the Kennedy brothers, or John & Yoko, it’s always extraordinary when someone rich and famous has the empathy and courage to use their power and influence to work for bettering the conditions of those less fortunate in a meaningful way. And notice how he questions “the system,” not the GOP. This ain’t no Democratic Party propaganda.

Thanks for working for the Planet, the People and for Peace, Lenny. We salute you.

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