On April 2, 1991, Lenny Kravitz released his second album, "Mama Said".
This is the second album in the "Class Of 91" series of reviews, in which we write about the masterpiece albums that came out that amazing year.
This is Kravitz's commercial breakthrough album, which came out two years after the debut album "Let Love Rule" and marked Kravitz's transition from music influenced by the late sixties to music filled with classic rock of the early seventies, with a combination of elements of Jazz, Blues, Funk, Soul, and Hard Rock. The sound of the seventies screams from this album, not only from the music itself (Hendrix and "Zeppelin" Vs. Curtis Mayfield and "Sly Stone"), but also from Kravitz's production and even from the album cover itself.
Beyond being a very talented musician and producer, Kravitz is also a multi-instrumentalist who plays most of the instruments on the album, so much so that it could be said to be a one-man album. However, Kravitz knew how to balance his concentration when he enlisted several musicians to help him, including his high school classmate Slash and Sean Lennon (the son of ...).
"Mama Said" is full of emotions of loss and sadness and reflects the changes in Kravitz's life and the breakup of his marriage with his wife Lisa Bonet.
The album opens with the emotional "Fields Of Joy" in a caressing melody sound accompanied by a folk-acoustic guitar riff, which very quickly takes a turn with an electric power cord and with Slash's electric solo. Not many know, but this song is a cover version of a song by "New York Rock and Roll Ensemble" from their album "Roll Over", which was released in 1971. This song will return as a Reprise on the tenth track of the album, this time in a psychedelic version on Trip Acid, which includes sounds from the sixties, including the well-known technology of backward recordings and loops.
From there we continue to "Always On The Run" and another collaboration of Kravitz and Slash, who also co-wrote the song with Kravitz and gets credit for it when Kravitz shouts "Slash", just before the guitar solo begins. The song is written about Kravitz's mother, actress Roxie Roker and includes the phrase "Mama Said" (the name of the album) which is repeated throughout the song. Slash's famous Zepp-Drix-style guitar riff with Sly Stone's funky trumpets, produces an amazing and bouncy fusion. The aforementioned music was written by Slash who intended to include the song on Guns' album, but due to Slash's dissatisfaction with Steven Adler's melody (then "Guns" drummer), he decided to shelve the song and save it for another project. By the way, the song was played at a "Guns N' Roses" live performance in Paris, as part of the "Use Your Illusion Tour", when Kravitz joined the band playing the guitar and singing.
The next two songs are influenced by Kravitz's marriage failure. The first, is "Stand By My Woman" in which we hear the influences of John Lennon.
The second, "It Ain't Over 'til It's Over" with a distinct Motown sound and "Earth, Wind & Fire" style trumpets, with a clear influence of soul music. The pulsating bass line, the sitar riff, and the strings that complete the seventies sound, just cannot be ignored.
Kravitz changes the style a bit and moves to the Blues in the songs "The Difference Is Why" and "When the Morning Turns to Night". How much this genre suits him and highlights his voice, and what classic bluesy solos he plays in them, especially in the second.
And if you've longed for a little more Jimi Hendrix, then listen to the riff and the guitar sound in the song "Stop Draggin 'Around", as well as the psychedelic production a-la Eddie Kramer that takes us straight back to 1968's "Electric Ladyland".
Other notable songs on the album are: The Quiet Ballad "Flowers for Zoe", written by Kravitz for his daughter, "All I Ever Wanted" which was co-written with Sean Lennon who also plays the piano, "What Goes Around Comes Around", which is slowly built with guitars, trumpets, Strings and saxophone and could easily have been included in Curtis Mayfield's excellent "Superfly" soundtrack and The Jazzy "What the Fuck Are We Saying?" with the "Kraftwerk" keys and psychedelic effects (especially at the end).
"Mama Said" is an excellent album that did not get the status it deserved, only because it was swallowed up in a mass of masterpiece albums released that year ("Nevermind", "Ten", "Use Your Illusion", "Metallica (The Black Album)", "Achtung Baby", "Blood Sex Sugar Magik", "Out of Time" and more). At the same time, the album gave Kravitz the commercial success that was needed to allow him the freedom of creation on several successful albums, until the end of the 1990s.