More heartfelt observations of life and love from the multi-faceted soul-rocker.
Ian Winwood 2011
Right at the start of Black and White America, Lenny Kravitz puts himself into context. "In 1963 my [white] father married a black woman," he sings, on the album’s title-track. "And when they walked down the street they were in danger." This, then, is clearly heartfelt – and, indeed, striking – stuff. Admittedly it’s not quite as striking as the album’s original working title, Negrophilia, but it is plenty striking enough.
Had Black and White America been released in the same season as Stevie Wonder’s immense and almost untouchable 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life, then this may well be an album about which people would still be talking. Contained within are a number of expert and quite fantastic songs. Everything is a three-and-a-half minute dollop of exquisitely joyous pop music, featuring the kind of chorus that will stick in your mind from the moment it sings its first hello. Boongie Drop features the kind of funk that puts the listener in mind of the coolest corners in the busiest of cities on the hottest of nights. Elsewhere, the album’s title-track is reminiscent of the aforementioned Stevie Wonder, not just in the yearningly harmonious nature of its lyric but also in the deftness of its execution. Combining a range of styles that spans soul music, hard rock and monster-balladry, all wrapped in the kind of songwriting nous that suggests the author is a man who is very good in bed, it’s even fair to say that almost everything contained on Black and White America is most enjoyable indeed.
There is, though, the nagging sense that as proficient and occasionally delightful this album is, much of it is music about music. It may be true that when it comes to artists of his ilk there is nothing new under the sun, but even so the impression made by Black and White America is that what the listener is hearing is not much more than an expertly constructed facsimile. And while late at night, or in a club, this does little to diminish the power of the music on offer here, this nagging concern is nonetheless something that does haunt this album’s sincere and rather chic soul.