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Lenny Kravitz

Baptism (Virgin)

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Any rock star worth his weight in groupies has to have a religious period. Dylan was born again on Slow Train Coming. Cat Stevens freaked out and changed his name to Usef Islam. Prince got Lovesexy with the Rainbow Children. And given that Lenny Kravitz has made a career out of imitating past greats, it's no surprise that he finally got around to getting the spirit. Too bad his revival is completely boring. Having spun his sonic wheels for more than a decade, Kravitz seems to get worse with every new release. Baptism sinks to new lows. The otherwise slinky "Storm" features a throwaway verse from Jay-Z that seems tacked on as a credibility boost. Kravitz's flowery lyrics have always been a liability, but his green thumb is really working this time around. His attempts at depth never get below the surface; he bemoans celebrity on the wretched "I Don't Want to Be a Star" by complaining about having too many girls, too many clothes and too many shoes. Mail me your next royalty check if its bothering you that much, pal. Whereas Kravitz's recent work generally has favored screeching bombast over subtlety, Baptism's only decent moments are its quietest. "Sistamamalover" is propelled by a simple, funky bass line and sparse percussion. Unfortunately, such flashes of inspiration are few and far between, and Baptism offers compelling evidence that Kravitz's retro soul can't be saved.

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