Lenny Kravitz has had a unique place in popular music over the past 25 years, particularly in black music. When he got his contract, the idea of a black musician was almost abstract, particularly playing the types of solid classic rock, retro funk and soul sounds he’s become famous for. Kravitz has been needed over the years because ears and booties need a break from the drum machine every now and then, but the man has faced criticisms himself for being stuck in the same groove from time to time. Todays song selection, “Sex” from his upcoming album “Strut” finds him in a new bag, a monstorous funk/rock/disco tune in the tradition of The Stones “Miss You”, David Bowie’s “Golden Years”, and many other rock meets funk junctions. Kravitz adds his one of a kind vocal phrasing that mixes gospel type joy with rock and roll exuberance and the results are something much funkier than your average headbang!
The song wastes no time establishing the groove. A drum roll announces the song, leading into a washed out, high in the mix, reverberating drum track. The guitar plays a funky riff, heavily phased and eq’ed in a dominating rock and roll manner. The bass line is a real beauty of simplicity, taking in part from classic funk bass lines like Chic’s “Good Times”, “Ape is High” by Mandrill, and “Hollywood Swinging” by Kool & the Gang, announcing itself by playing the same note three times, right on top of the beat. The bass is a four bar pattern, and its both funky and rock solid. The track gives the effect of an extremely funky power rock trio playing, in which the instruments have lots of room to make an impact and the sound is filled up by adding effects to make the music sound monstorous.
Lenny sings a song of sexual gratification, and even though the song title is blatant, his lyrics are in the best tradition of soul and R&B suggestion. He tells his woman: “Breathe me, tease me/Cant control how I feel when you’re near me/I cant do nothing about it/got that feeling coming over me.” Lenny sings the verse in a basic rock shouting manner, but switches on the refrain to a gospel joy vibe much more akin to Al Green on “Take me to the River.”
Around 2:05 in to it, Lenny plays a very funky vamp, with a galloping type of disco beat and a middle eastren melody, leading back to him vamping on the refrain and the chorus. The song only has two verses, and ends, as we’ve seen a few funk songs going back to lately, with an extended instrumental playout.
“Sex” is a good song, a reminder to a time many often forget when funk, disco, and rock all converged. If one listens to it and the other song so far released from “Strut”, “The Chamber”, it sounds as if Kravitz is exploring funky disco rock, New Wave, and Dance Rock/Dance Punk styles. If that’s the direction he’s going in this album I’m happy for it, as the intersection of funk and rock has always been his natural area, and he might very well find an inspirational new sound by bringing his musical excavations up to the late ’70s on through the ’80s. But until the album does drop, my morning runs are going to be accompanied by the sounds of “Sex.”