May 24, 2004 12:00 PM

Lenny Kravitz


Having gone from long dreads to a full-blown Afro to his current (questionable) straightened style, Lenny Kravitz clearly likes to change his hair. But he hasn’t altered his sound much since releasing his 1989 debut Let Love Rule, and with few sonic surprises, the retro rocker’s seventh studio disc Baptism hardly represents a creative rebirth. It’s pretty much the same as every other Lenny Kravitz record, which, after 15 years of consistently solid output, is both a good and a bad thing. There are driving guitar anthems (“Where Are We Runnin’?”), VH1-ready pop ballads (“Calling All Angels”), psychedelic funk workouts (“Sistamamalover”) and the odd acoustic turn (“Destiny”). But it’s hard to lose the feeling that you’ve heard it all before. It doesn’t help that Kravitz has always borrowed liberally from classic-rock heroes like Hendrix, Zeppelin, the Beatles and the Stones (whose “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” is lazily recycled on “Flash”). At least Kravitz tries to shake things up by bringing in Jay-Z for the hip-hop-grooving “Storm.” Although Jay-Z, who was returning the favor for Kravitz’s appearance on 2002’s The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse, seems to be coasting here, he still provides a breath of fresh air.

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