Lenny Kravitz

Are You Gonna Go My Way [20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition]

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The cover indicates that Are You Gonna Go My Way is Lenny Kravitz's bid for rock stardom. Designed in the style of an early-'70s record, it features Kravitz in hippie clothing, apparently exposing himself to a photographer; in other words, he's a dangerously sexy counterculture rebel. That may have been true in 1970, but in 1993, he simply sounds like a weird sideshow exhibit, the man who never lived past 1973. Of course, it's easy to take such potshots, but Kravitz opens himself up to such attacks. No other artist, especially a successful one, has been quite so devoted to the past and ignorant of the present. Since he has considerable talent for songcraft and production, Kravitz isn't nearly as bad as he could be, and Are You Gonna Go My Way is just as enjoyable and more accomplished than its predecessors. This time around, Hendrix is his chief influence, as evidenced by the roaring title track, and he does expand that with his traditional Lennon, Curtis Mayfield, and Prince obsessions. Song for song, it's his most consistent album, although by the end of the record, his painstaking reproduction of classic rock sounds begins to appear a bit too studied, suggesting that Kravitz may have hit a creative wall. Nevertheless, that does nothing to diminish the enjoyment of this record. [On one of the bonus tracks on the double-disc, heavily expanded 20th Anniversary Edition of his 1993 album Are You Gonna Go My Way, Kravitz laments that he has the "B Side Blues." "I'm so tired and I'm all burned out," he wails, "They say I got to write some new songs, but I'm all tapped out," a complaint that has the air of veracity because Kravitz was operating in the golden age of the international multi-part single, with each of the singles from Are You Gonna Go My Way supported by at least two non-LP songs. This means there was a wealth of material to fill out the Anniversary Edition of Are You Gonna Go My Way: the 11-track album now runs 31 songs. There are seven B-sides on the first disc alone but the second disc goes even further, digging up perfectly fine acoustic versions of "Believe," "Sister," and "Heaven Help" before getting into the meat of things with demos and works in progress, not only for this album but for the Vanessa Paradis album he wrote and produced in 1992. Some of these tracks are a little rough, containing no more than wordless guide vocals, but that only makes them tantalizing; it's hard to figure out why he didn't flesh out the addictive glam stomp "Work Like the Devil" or the hyper-charged J.B. workout "Getting Out (Will You Marry Me)." If you need to be a devotee to listen to these incomplete songs, the sheets of psychedelic sound on "Blood" and the bossa nova of "Travelogue" showcase Kravitz's effortless gift for mimicry and fit into the vibe of the finished album, which means this is certainly a deluxe edition worth the time for the dedicated.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi