Vibration underscores music, motion, and movement. Lenny Kravitz translates this natural force into art and ultimately a call-to-action. The four-time GRAMMY® Award-winning singer, songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist elevates the union of rock ‘n’ roll, funk, blues, and soul he patented in 1989 once again on his eleventh full-length album, Raise Vibration. Receptive to youthful inspiration, but enlightened by three decades of wisdom, it represents a powerful creative rebirth and a bold, bright, and brilliant body of work befitting of his legacy and boundless spirit.
He explains. “When I said Let Love Rule on my debut, I had to live that for myself. It’s the same idea with Raise Vibration. I’m making a conscious choice to go to another place that I believe yields better results. I feel that the vibration we’re on collectively is not doing it. We need to reach higher. We need to be more thoughtful, spiritual, loving, and open. Stop thinking of borders, boxes and imaginary forms of separation. We’re all on planet Earth together. We must do better. I communicate through music best. I create to inspire myself and, if I can inspire others, then that is beautiful.”
Given the ambition of this vision, it seems apropos that Kravitz received the music in a series of dreams, following a whirlwind world tour. Joined by longtime collaborator guitarist Craig Ross, who also engineered the album, Kravitz personally produced and performed everything from guitar, bass, drums, and piano to bongos, glockenspiel, Moog, Fender Rhodes, Coral Sitar, Kalimba, and more.
“It was really handed to me,” he admits. “It was a case of being quiet and waiting. Once I put down the first idea, I felt connected. The great thing is when you get into that place, the floodgates open. It continued for months. I’d hear songs in the middle of the night, and I made the album.”
Upholding a longstanding tradition of adventurousness, each song takes on a life of its own. Sunny acoustic guitar slides towards a swooning refrain on the wistful “5 More Days Til Summer.” The wail of a wah wah pedal solo proves just as hummable as the hook does as he shares a tale overhead in a bar.
“It’s a story about an older man in his late sixties,” he explains. “He doesn’t have a wife, works the night shift, sleeps during the day, and has only seen the dark for so long. He has been saving his money and is about take his first ever vacation. I thought about the life he was living and the fantasy he was about to have. I saw him transforming into his younger self and reliving what he should’ve lived back in the day even though he was in an older body. It’s a joyous and sweet pop tune.”
On the other end of the spectrum, the seven-minute-plus “It’s Enough” stands out as one of the longest compositions in his catalog and a tense and necessary rumination on the global state of affairs. Cinematic piano and funky bass propel this journey towards a thought-provoking spoken word passage before his live horn section—Ludovic Louis, Harold Todd, and Michael Sherman—enlivens the momentum and leaves listeners with a soaring saxophone solo. Ushered ahead by this unpredictable aural pastiche, each verse urges change and the social betterment human nature certainly possesses the capability for, but seemingly lost sight of in recent days.
“People are standing up,” he elaborates. “I’ve had enough of racism and people of color being treated differently and killed. I‘ve had enough of war. I’ve had enough of the destruction of the environment. We’ve got to get back on track towards moving forward through higher understanding.”
Further smashing boundaries, the title track concludes on a live performance of Native American drums and chanting, emanating tribal unity and power. Shuddering vocals and jagged friction ignite the title question of “Who Really Are The Monsters?”
“I’m talking about every nation,” he states. “Governments seem to think the way to peace is through more war. That’s scary. The human brain is a wonderful and amazing thing that has created so much. Yet, in this day and age, we still haven’t found a way to settle a dispute without violence.”
The “spiritual opening prayer” of “We Can Get It All Together” sees Kravitz speaking out to God for personal deliverance. The closer “I’ll Always Be Inside Your Soul” juxtaposes ocean waves, 808s, and final strains of Kalimba. Elsewhere, the peace anthem “Here To Love” touts an uplifting message once again delivered as “a complete spiritual download.”
“Johnny Cash” serves an emotional centerpiece. Dusty chords resound as his voice reaches heavenly heights. In one of the most intimate moments of not only the album—but his entire career—he recounts the day of his mother’s passing.
“My mom was battling cancer,” he sighs. “I had gotten back to L.A. from tour, and I was living at producer Rick Rubin’s house. I went straight to the hospital from the airport and spent the day with my mom. Once I got to Rick’s house, somebody gave me a message that she died as I was in transit. I started to walk up the stairs, and Johnny Cash and June Carter were walking down. They asked how I was. I told them that my mother just died. The two of them grabbed me, held me and consoled me. They were the only people there; they became family for that moment. In the song, I’m asking someone to hold me like Johnny Cash and whisper in my ear like June Carter did.”
Another standout, “Low” thrives on wild riffing and backup vocals courtesy of an old friend—Michael Jackson on a previous recording for Kravitz. This proved to be the perfect complement to “Low,” completing the song and bringing everything full circle.
Kravitz adds, “It’s an honor to have him on this track. The primitive tribal shout he was known for was the perfect stamp.”
Throughout Raise Vibration, Kravitz remains a true original. Since the arrival of Let Love Rule in 1989, he has sold 40 million albums worldwide and won four consecutive GRAMMY® Awards, setting the record for “most wins ever in the ‘Best Male Rock Vocal Performance’ category.” Fellow icons from Madonna, Aerosmith, Prince, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, and Jay-Z to Drake, Avicii, and Alicia Keys have jumped at the chance to collaborate. An acclaimed actor, his on-screen output includes The Hunger Games franchise, Precious, and Lee Daniels’ The Butler. His creative firm Kravitz Design Inc, touts an impressive portfolio of noteworthy ventures, with a range that includes hotel properties, condominium projects, private residences, and high-end legendary brands like Rolex, Leica and Dom Perignon.
As he raises the bar for music once again, there’s still nobody like Kravitz. He’s on a vibration of his own. He affirms, “My message is one of unity. From Let Love Rule to Raise Vibration, if it motivates and inspires you, beautiful.”
“I AM LARGE, I CONTAIN MULTITUDES.” — WALT WHITMAN, “SONG OF MYSELF”
Simply calling Curtis Harding a “soul man” feels reductive. Yes, his music is undoubtedly soulful and his songwriting is both evocative and provocative, but there’s more to his music than the stock imagery the label conjures. Harding’s voice conveys pain, pleasure, longing, tenderness, sadness and strength—a full gamut of emotions. Yet still, “soul man” seems too simple a description for musician like Harding, a man who has lived multiple lives as a musician, participated in different scenes, and brought all those varied sounds and experiences together to carve out his own unique niche. The culmination of his experimentation is his latest masterwork, Face Your Fear.
To understand Curtis Harding, the singer-songwriter, drummer, guitarist and producer, one must first understand his musical origins. For Harding, it all began in his birthplace, Saginaw, Michigan. It was there that his church-going mother, a singer herself, first exposed him to the sound and spirit of gospel music. He sang and played drums in church with his family, and songs like Mahalia Jackson’s stirring rendition of “Elijah Rock” left an indelible mark on him. While his mom’s gospel records praised the sacred, his big sister’s rap tapes showed him the beauty in secular music. He looked up to his big sis, an amateur rapper herself in the vein of MC Lyte, and before long young Curtis Harding was writing his own rhymes. After a nomadic childhood of moving Harding put down roots in his adopted home of Atlanta — the perfect place for an intellectually curious young man to broaden his musical horizons.
Embracing his surroundings and fearless in his exploration, Curtis the rapper and rhyme writer would eventually become Curtis, the songwriter and back-up singer for ATL icon CeeLo Green. “I learned a lot from that dude,” says Harding, recounting the valuable lessons the Goodie Mob and Gnarls Barkley member taught him about singing and songwriting. “He used to say, ‘You ain’t gotta commit murder [on a track], you can do a simple assault.’” No need to overdo it to get your point across. The singer’s task is not to prove that they can sing but to get the audience to feel. For Curtis, it isn’t enough for him to be a proficient performer, his voice and his words have to serve a purpose.
Curtis Harding’s definition of “soul” is a broad one. Soul is the essence, not the form. He found soul in Atlanta’s punk scene, he found it at rap shows, he heard it on Bob Dylan records and found kinship with people who heard it the same way. Harding once found soul blaring through the speakers in an Atlanta bar where Black Lips’ Cole Alexander was spinning the same classic gospel his mother raised him on. The two bonded over their shared appreciation for the music and formed the band Night Sun.
Becoming a fixture in studios and on stages helped him develop his own unique formula: Curtis Harding’s specialty is synthesis. “I take everything that I’ve learned from these different genres and put it in a pot and come up with something new.” His well-received 2014 solo debut Soul Power was the first iteration of the formula, his new album Face Your Fear is that formula perfected. Partnering with his chief collaborator Sam Cohen and with mentorship of super producer Danger Mouse has created an album that speaks to range of emotions a man reckoning with the world and love go through. He’s reminded of a lost love on “Ghost Of You,” he seduces on “Welcome To My World,” he seeks forgiveness on “Wednesday Morning Atonement” and pledges devotion on “Need My Baby.”
As Curtis explains, “The record [Face Your Fear], to me, is all over the place because I go through moods, man. I change.” The dark title track was inspired by the feeling of a nightmare; a foreboding feeling, the spell broken by the clarity of awakening. “By the way maybe don’t worry Its OK face your fear” he croons on the chorus. Fear of the unknown, fear of the unfamiliar is a bad dream the brave among us must constantly shake ourselves out of. it’s something he’s had to practice his entire life as he moved from place to place and continues to practice as he moves forward as a musician, “Just putting myself out there and not being close-minded and just being open to different ideas and different sounds and different flavors and putting myself in situations sometimes where I didn’t know if I would make it out but you know [the mantra is], face your fuckin’ fear!
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