Lenny Kravitz – ‘Let Love Rule’

In early 1990 I was still stuck on the 1960s. I was actually constantly looking all around me, searching for the good stuff. More often than not I ended up back in a familiar era. The mid ‘60s to mid ‘70s was, and still is, where it was at. The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays were pioneering the new sound, both were certainly influenced by soul and funk in particular, and both grabbed my attention. They were cool, I listened loads and liked lots, but that’s as far as it went for me.

An album that struck more of an emotional chord, whose flower child sentiment typified my own, was the debut long-player by Leonard Albert Kravitz, Let Love Rule. The blend of rock and funky reggae, heavily hippie-infused, felt loose and spaced out, like it was recorded under a fug of herbal haze. In 1990 Lenny was a complete dude, a musical maestro playing almost everything on the album; that dudeness was totally evident when we went to see him live at Kentish Town & Country Club. To say he lived up to expectations would be ridiculous restraint, he was fucking awesome, and whilst he’s subsequently (musically at least) fallen short, Let Love Rule was a ride.

I say fallen short, but could really go further. He made some decent tunes post 1990, but fame hit and instead of blossoming like Prince, he became a pastiche of himself, which could never be a good look. That said, Sittin’ On Top Of The World, Freedom Train, I Build This Garden For Us and title track Let Love Rule all oozed a mellow, blissed out psychedelic groove, and I just dug it. Lyrically the album pushed no boundaries, but it felt sincere, real and like Lenny Kravitz was gonna chop some Hendrix sized mountains.

It turned out that Kravitz was no voodoo child and no mountains were felled, but in 1990 Let Love Rule was one of the soundtracks to a summer of sizeable fun. An adventure was imminent, an idea hatched on the Costa Del Sol and planned with amigo Simon. We were going on a trip, and the start of four life-changing years of life spent mostly overseas.

The Isley Brothers – ‘Forever Gold’

Ahh… The Isley Brothers. What a beautiful family of absolute dudes. Packed with killer singles during the early and mid ‘70s, the psychedelic funk & soul and blissed-out vocals are all perfectly captured on their ’77 release Forever Gold. Formed in the ‘50s, The Isley’s were legendary before any of these tunes were written, but that status went up a bunch of notches during the seventies.

These guys had earned their chops a hundred times over by the time That Lady was released in ’73, tutoring Jimi Hendrix from ’63-’65 who was a clear inspiration for the psychedelic guitar on many of these tracks ten years later. The absolute groove on these tunes, regardless of tempo, is impeccable, but it’s not just the groove, it’s the message and sentiment on tracks like Highways Of My Life and Harvest For The World which hit me just as hard.

Sometimes musically it’s the simpler the better that works, when just the most basic groove works best. Lennon was a master of that, and in so many songs it’s that simplicity that wins me over. Highways Of My Life got me for just that reason. Everything is beautifully simple, and just the faintest change in tempo mid-song just kills me.

Me and my amigos loved this album. In many ways it was the soundtrack to our time living together, summing up our brotherly love and sheer passion for a work of musical art. For me this was The Isley Brothers at their peak; pre-disco and groovin’ the hell out of the funk-rock. But, pinning a genre on Forever Gold is a waste of time. This ain’t no disco, R&B, funk or soul. This is The Isley Brothers.