REVIEW: Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way (deluxe & vinyl editions)

It’s Epic Review Time!  The fourth review from Mike and Aaron Go to Toronto…Again!  Yet another score from Sonic Boom!  I bought this one new, for $24.99.  Warning:  image heavy!

LENNY KRAVITZ – Are You Gonna Go My Way (2013 Virgin deluxe edition, 1993 vinyl edition)

IMG_20141021_205756Man, I love this record.  This was the last legitimately great Lenny Kravitz album.  I’m pleased that with a fresh 2013 remastering job, it still sounds vital and raw.  Back in those days, Lenny was recording on vintage equipment all but exclusively.  In the included interview track, Kravitz discusses the collection that he and drummer Henry Hirsch had acquired, including gear that dated back to the 1940’s and 50’s.  The upkeep of said equipment is a nightmare, he states, as you can imagine.  The results that it yielded, especially on Are You Gonna Go My Way, justify the antique gear and maintenance costs.

I first got this sucker on (clear vinyl) LP back in ’94, which came with a stellar 8-song bonus CD.  I didn’t even have a good way of playing vinyl back then.  My turntable was pretty crap, so I never actually played the LP.  I got Are You Gonna Go My Way on CD a bit later, used, when I started working at the Record Store.  Now I can discard that old CD, because this deluxe renders it obsolete.  (But not the vinyl; more on that in a bit.)

Hopefully everyone knows the energetic title track, a massive smash hit single.  The simple repeating guitar riff is nothing but classic.  The track itself is basic blues-based classic rock, albeit with the tempo maxed out.  This track convinced that Lenny was ready, willing and able to be a rock hero, filling the shoes of his forebears such as Zeppelin and Hendrix.  Yet it was actually the second single, the organ-based ballad “Believe”, that shows what Lenny is truly capable of.  I consider this his best song, bar none.  The 2001 influenced video was so cool, but the delicate song stands on its own.  Its ending is epic in quality.

The other singles on the album included the frighteningly good soul-rock song “Is There Any Love In Your Heart.”  The guitar riff is pure rock, the falsetto vocal pure soul.  The song is deceptively angry.  Though Lenny does not sound enraged, the lyric is pretty clear:

“Babe you say I’m the only one, 
But you’re fucking all my friends,
Baby all that you care about,
Is Gucci and Mercedes Benz, 
You’re just the kind that’s up on all the latest trends.”

The last single from Are You Gonna Go My Way was the gentle love song, “Heaven Help”.  The amazing acoustic track was softer than I generally liked, but it’s hard not to.  It spawned a five-track CD single (or EP?), which we’ll get to shortly.

KRAVITZ ARE YOU GONNA GO_0006Singles aside, the album is loaded with incredible deep cuts.  One of the best is the emotional “Sister”, which really knocks you out by the end.  “Sugar” boats some cool, funky retro horns.  “Eleutheria” is reggae; I can’t think of a better way to describe it.  It’s also a standout, and probably could have been a single in its own right.  “My Love” is psychedelic, while “Just Be A Woman” is simply lovely.  There is plenty of variety on Are You Gonna Go My Way, without sounding fragmented.  It still sounds completely unified.

There’s only one tune I still don’t like, which is “Black Girl”.  It’s one of the softer numbers, but I just don’t find it catchy at all.  But it’s the only one.

KRAVITZ ARE YOU GONNA GO_0004The deluxe edition is jam packed with value.  Disc one boasts seven bonus tracks, all of astounding quality for B-sides.  These tracks had been previously issued on the aforementioned “Heaven Help” single and vinyl edition, so I am well familiar with each.  The upbeat “Ascension” should have been a hit.  “All My Life” is as strong as any of the album cuts.  “Brother” is the funkiest thing here, and maybe should have been included for that reason.  “Someone Like You” is a cool, 60’s-style droning rock song, a bit more upbeat than “My Love”.  “For the First Time” is a quiet slow dance, so for that reason, I can see why it was excluded.  On an album, it could kill momentum.  On a dance floor, it would result in many babies being conceived later in the evening.

Without a doubt, the most hilarious moment is the song “B-Side Blues”, a dirty spontaneous sounding song with spiteful lyrics.  In the words, Lenny complains that he’s been working hard, and only has six days off.  Yet the record company wants new songs!  This is what Lenny presumably gave them.  “Take this song and shove it up your ass,” croons Lenny.  Fortunately there’s enough Zeppelin-y blues here to keep the party going.  “Top 40, yeah!”

The second CD has some great hotel room acoustic recordings.  Sounds like cassette to me!  “Believe” is one I had previously, on the vinyl edition.  The rest are new to me, but every bit as raw and plaintive as the acoustic “Believe”.  Then there are some fantastic unfinished songs and demos.  I could not believe the quality of his throw-aways.  I don’t know if these tunes surfaced later on or not, but they certainly should.  “Work Like the Devil” has elements that sound like “Are You Gonna Go My Way”, but it’s definitely not the same song.  It only has about half the lyrics in place, but damn.  If it was on the album, it would have been a highlight.  Most of these demos are loud rock jams.  “Getting Out” though is a pure funk jam, sounding similar to Zeppelin’s “The Crunge”.  The best of these songs is the instrumental “Blood/Papa (A Long and Sad Goodbye)” which, once you get past the name is a 10 minute slow jam.  In my opinion, this one doesn’t need to be finished.  I think it’s perfect as-is.

KRAVITZ ARE YOU GONNA GO_0005

The last three songs are rough demos of songs written for the album Vanessa Paradis, which Lenny wrote and produced.  These are a bit soft for my tastes.  They are very unlike the rest of the material on this deluxe edition.  I know that “Lonely Rainbows” was on the album, but I don’t know if the other two were used under different names.

Finally, I want to mention two songs that I know of that are missing from this deluxe.  From the vinyl’s bonus CD is a live version of “Sister”.  This take is absolutely epic and it sends shivers up and down my spine at the end.  Just an incredible, raw live performance.  I assume somebody made a decision that live stuff wasn’t going to be on the deluxe.  That means you’re also missing the live medley of “Freedom Train/Always On the Run” from the “Heaven Help” single.  Too bad.  I think most fans would rather have those than the BBC interview.  The interview is good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also 15 minutes long.

I wholeheartedly recommend this deluxe edition of Are You Gonna Go My Way to anybody who wants to check out Lenny Kravitz on the harder side of rock.  You will not be disappointed with either the album, or the deluxe.  In the meantime, I suggest die-hard collectors find the vinyl too, just for that astounding live version of “Sister”.

4.5/5 stars

26 comments

    1. I was a Kravitz fan, and yeah that concert was a bummer. I don’t think I ever heard all of this CD either, though… Did I own it back in the day? I just don’t remember. I’m gonna say probably but I don’t remember it clearly. So I can’t really comment. I know the singles you mentioned. I would listen to the CD, who knows maybe I’d like it. But if Sarca wants it, give ‘er!!

      Like

  1. An excellent effort, Mike. You know my thoughts on this artist, cemented after an abyssmal concert experience, but I shouldn’t be too hard on the records, especially the earliest ones. I didn’t hear anything after this album, I don’t think, beyond singles on the radio. I know this record blew up and was huge, and good on him.

    I liked this write-up! I remember wondering why you were paying $25 for that when you could probably have gotten the old CD for $3, but you answered my question. Also, I should just have known Lebrain would want the deluxe haha!

    Like

        1. You know Lenny totally stole that look from me? It’s just how we hang in rural Wales. I hate the way New York hipsters were always coming to Carmarthen and ripping off our styles.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. That’s pretty interesting that you should mention that. In fact, the photo of Lenny on the front cover and on the back of the deluxe were taken on one of his many visits to Carmarthen. He would hang out there a lot – sampling the night life and trying, and ultimately failing, to be accepted by the locals.

          Like

  2. Lenny Kravitz never really rocked my world. I have heard this album on a few occasions but as with all his records, I find them really uneven. That’s why I bought his Greatest Hits record instead. That album is a killer that I’d give 10/10 without any hesitation. Because to me, Kravitz is his hits, more or less. The rest just goes in on ear and out the other for me.
    Still, the guy did always look really damn cool – and he still does.

    Like

    1. If you like the Greatest Hits (which I also have) I think you might like this even better. Yes there are lots of ballads/slow moments, but the quality is all there.

      I didn’t like Lenny when he added electronic elements on the album 5. I really do NOT like that album.

      Like

      1. My ex-girlfriend had this album and she used to put it on quite regularly. It never got to me. I think it’s uneven, too many songs that just didn’t cut it.
        I’m unually not a hit kinda guy, but in Kravitz’ case I think the hits are his best songs.

        Like

  3. Great review, Mike. Reminded me just how splendid this album is. I actually shifted all of my Kravitz albums a few years ago as I just stopped listening to him. Always sorta regretted shifting them, though. Even though the quality started to drop there was always enough there to enjoy.

    Anyway, good news is I actually picked this one up again a couple o’ months ago when I spotted the CD for £1. Haven’t listened to it yet, but reckon I’ll do so later today.

    Also, very good point about Lenny losing his way after 5. Though I have read good things about his last album …

    Like

Leave a Reply to e-tainment news reviews Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s