We gave it a C-
Lenny Kravitz must be the most selfless artist on earth. Instead of making records that assert a personality and style of his own, he apparently has dedicated his career to slavishly imitating others. His new album, Mama Said, like his 1989 debut, Let Love Rule, is nearly monastic in its apparent dedication to rehashing the work of his ’60s idols: John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Curtis Mayfield, and Sly and the Family Stone. Kravitz exhumes their styles with such eerie perfection that classic-rock revivalists like the Black Crowes seem like wild-eyed pioneers by comparison. But if Kravitz can ape the general sound of his gods, he seldom grasps their hooks. Apart from his catchy Mayfield impressions, his new stuff is worth no more than the most numb-brained, forgotten ’60s psychedelic band. His lyrics evoke the period, but offer a different spin on ideas of the time. While he often expresses dippy-hippie bliss, don’t invite him to any love-ins: All his songs espouse monogamy. Even when he conjures up vintage visions of heaven, his lyrics are so blandly blissed-out you’ll find yourself crying out for stinky old earth. And there’s an even more basic problem: How can we trust the brimming optimism of someone who spends so much time mired in the past?