So many well-known albums turn 30 this year and Steve Taylor-Bryant and Susan Omand travel back to 1989 to revisit some of the sounds of their youth that made parents shout "Turn that noise down!" This week, Susan makes a discovery...
When I saw Lenny Kravitz come up on our list of 1989 albums, I must admit I was surprised. I mean, I’ve enjoyed his work for a long time, with his 90’s rock vocal making Are You Gonna Go My Way and Fly Away huge hits, as well as his songwriting for others – Madge’s single Justify My Love and Aerosmith’s Line Up for example - but I guess I didn’t think that he was on the go in the 80s, I always thought Mama Said from 1991 was his first album.
It turns out, though, that Let Love Rule was his first studio album and my goodness what a different sound he had back then. That’s not to say it was bad at all, just… very different. There’s a real Sergeant Pepper feel to the guitar bubbling under a vocal which had not yet started to develop his later signature style. There’s some superb sax on the title track, thanks to the stupendous Karl Denson, and amazing gospel/jazz/blues keyboards on My Precious Love from Henry Hirsch. And that’s before you get to the full string section that creeps into I Build This Garden.
The mix of musical influences in the 10 songs on Let Love Rule is myriad, from traditional gospel, blues, jazz, funk, psychedelia, prog, pop, in fact, just about anything except the rock that he came to be best known for in the next decade. The heaviest track on the album is Fear, which was actually written by his then wife, Lisa Bonet!
That’s really what marks this out as a debut album for me – the trial and error experimentation, the “still finding your feet,” the, according to some, over-reliance on his influences rather than the confidence in his own sound that would start to appear in Mama Said. But, for me, it’s also knowing what is to come next that makes this album a real joy to listen to as you can spot the germination point of a star in the making.
Image - Amazon