RECORD REVIEWS


Lenny Kravitz

Album: “Raise Vibration”

Grade: B+

In these divided times, we need a musical hero to bring us together. Preferably, we need a rock ‘n’ roll swashbuckler who can carry a message of love and a whole lot of funk. We need Lenny Kravitz.

Thankfully, here he comes with the eclectic 12-track “Raise Vibration,” an album that’s both scolding and wistful. It might be uneven, but when Kravitz is in full groove mode, he’s still brilliant. He’s even managed to raise Michael Jackson from the grave.

The first half is the Kravitz we know and love, the guy standing at the intersection of ‘70s rock, soul and blues, not afraid of a horn section. It’s music that resembles its maker’s style — cool sunglasses, motorcycle boots and well-worn jeans.

He comes out of the gate with the foot-stomping, arena-ready “We Can Get It All Together” and then gets gorgeously slinky in “Low,” which loops an old Jackson “Hoo!” from a past recording session.

On the standout “It’s Enough,” Kravitz gets downright preachy in a Marvin Gaye vibe, tackling racial problems, police mortality, war and environmental problems.

—Mark Kennedy, Associated Press

Paul Simon

Album: “In the Blue Light”

Grade: B

Weeks from the end of his farewell concert tour, Paul Simon has released a disc that feels like a valedictory itself.

The concept of “In the Blue Light” is intriguing, with Simon re-recording and re-imagining 10 songs he originally released between 1973 and 2011. None were hits; they’re songs he felt were overlooked as oddities, or that he didn’t get quite right the first time. While some of this material was obscure for good reason, most of the second looks reward listeners.

The revisits speak to the musical adventurousness that has marked Simon’s later years. Many of the originals were at least grounded in the folk-rock style he was primarily known for.

Now Simon moves beyond: Wynton Marsalis’ trumpet replaces the acoustic guitar on “How the Heart Approaches What it Yearns” and the 1970s electric piano gives way to Sullivan Fortner’s real thing on “Some Folks’ Lives Roll Easy.” The jauntiness of “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor” is smoothed into a loping, jazz feel. With Dixieland jazz, Spanish-style guitar and orchestral arrangements, the music is worldly and complex.

“In the Blue Light” is neither nostalgia nor a rescue mission. It’s a challenging new work.

David Bauder, Associated Press

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