Lenny Kravitz - Mama Said, Are You Gonna Go My Way, Circus, and 5 [Vinyl Reissues] (Album Reviews)

Ahead of November’s 30th anniversary campaign kick-off for his 1989 debut Let Love Rule, Lenny Kravitz has reissued his four 1990s albums – Mama Said, Are You Gonna Go My Way, Circus, and 5 – as part of an extensive vinyl reissue campaign that finds the quartet of releases pressed on double LP 180-gram black vinyl (as well as limited-edition, album-specific color variants) and presented in stunningly vibrant gatefold packaging. Three of the four reissues also feature a variety of bonus tracks, many of which are making their vinyl debut. As one of rock’s most unapologetic genre-blurring, hit-making, multi-instrumentalists over the last three decades (and still going strong with the recent release of his new album Raise Vibration), Kravitz’s multi-album reissue project places some of his biggest hits and most inspired musical moments in a celebratory and well-deserved, high-quality vinyl context.
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Mama Said (1991): After sauntering onto the scene with his funk-rock “how do you do” of Let Love Rule in 1989, Kravitz’s sophomore album Mama Said (released on April 2, 1991) earned him his first dip into the Top 40 on the strength of the mid-tempo, Motown-spiked smash “It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over” going all the way to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. After producing (and co-writing) Madonna’s “Justify My Love” the year prior, Kravitz’s star was rising and he was able to secure a few amazing guest spots on the album - including Slash playing some blistering funk guitar on lead single “Always on the Run” and Sean Lennon co-writing “All I Ever Wanted.” This reissue of Mama Said marks the first time the album has been available on vinyl in the U.S. and the its robust 14-song tracklisting is beautifully laid out across two LPs with no need (and no room) for extra tracks. The limited-edition color variant of Mama Said is pressed on white/gray marbled vinyl.
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Are You Gonna Go My Way (1993): For his third album, Kravitz grew out his signature dreads, cranked the amps, and added a heavy dose of ‘70s classic rock to his eclectic sonic repertoire. Coming hot out of the gate with the insta-classic title track as the album’s lead single, Kravitz soon achieved maximum pop cultural saturation in early 1993 with a simultaneous takeover of radio and MTV via the song’s equally iconic guitar riff and music video. While follow-up singles “Believe” and “Heaven Help” also hit the charts and help bring additional buoyancy to the album’s presence, it was the chart-topping title track that helped earn Kravitz his first Top 20 album and firmly established his status as a bonafide rockstar. This notable reissue of Are You Gonna Go My Way marks the first time that the album is being made available on commercial vinyl and the entire second disc includes a whopping eight bonus tracks that are all marking their vinyl debut. The limited-edition color variant of Are You Gonna Go My Way is pressed on transparent purple/red split vinyl.
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Circus (1995): Still riding the wave of creative success that birthed Are You Gonna Go My Way, Kravitz’s follow-up album Circus took some darker turns as he was dealing with the double punch of his mother’s sickness and his encroaching music business woes. However, those outside things didn’t seem to curb Kravitz’s rise, as Circus ended up netting him his first Top 10 album ranking and two modest radio hits in the wildly misunderstood “Rock and Roll Is Dead” and the soul-drenched power ballad “Can’t Get You Off My Mind.” This reissue of Circus is the U.S. vinyl debut of the album and the second side of the second disc features three bonus tracks: “Another Life,” “Confused,” and “Is It Me, Or Is It You?” The limited-edition color variant of Circus is pressed on transparent clear/blue split vinyl.
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5 (1998): The aptly titled 5 (it was his fifth album, after all) marked a new era of commercial success for Kravitz, as his monster hit single “Fly Away” went all the way to #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock and Modern Rock charts, as well as topping a variety of international charts. The seemingly inescapable guitar riff also became a quick go-to for a bunch of TV commercials. “Fly Away” even earned Kravitz his first (of many) Grammy award, this one for Best Male Rock Vocal performance at the ’99 Grammys. This reissue of 5 marks the vinyl debut of the album and his blistering cover of The Guess Who’s “American Woman” (from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me) and “Without You” both appear as side D bonus tracks. The limited-edition color variant of 5 is pressed on solid white/orange split vinyl.
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U2 - The Best of 1990-2000 [Vinyl Reissue] (Album Review)


With the recent release of U2’s The Best of 1990-2000 double LP vinyl reissue, the iconic Irish superstars put an incredible bow on what has already been such a phenomenal year for high-quality reissues of their back catalog. Back in April, U2 reissued a trio of remastered albums – Wide Awake in America, Pop, and All That You Can’t Leave Behind – that spanned an impressively adventurous 15-year section of their career. They followed that up in July with another trio - Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and The Best of 1980-1990 – that were handled with the same care and craft as the first round to create an equal “must have” aesthetic. For their seventh vinyl reissue of the year, The Best of 1990-2000 is now available as a remastered, double 180-gram set pressed on heavyweight black vinyl and housed in a beautiful gatefold setting with sturdy black-and-white picture-printed inner sleeves for each disc.

Originally released in 2002, The Best of 1990-2000 highlights the creatively ambitious decade of U2’s career that is sandwiched between their achievements of worldwide musical domination on the back of 1987’s The Joshua Tree and their return-to-form as rock’s elder statesmen on 2004’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Between those two mainstream-minded (and pop-culturally celebrated) releases, the band threw caution and expectation to the wind to deliver some of their most adventurous (and often polarizing) work to date. They were still delivering radio hits, platinum albums, and heavy rotation music videos, but they were doing it completely on their own terms, their own timetables, and tuned to their own indulgent tastes.



Their distaste (and downright disavowal) for trend-following throughout the 1990s is welcomingly on display throughout the tracklisting of The Best of 1990-2000, where the abrupt sonic shifts of Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop contrast wonderfully against the more pop-tinged approaches of All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Sprinkle in a couple non-album tracks from the decade (“Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” from the Batman Forever soundtrack and “Miss Sarajevo” from their Passengers side project with Brian Eno) along with two brand new tracks recorded just for the album (“The Hands That Built America” from Gangs of New York and “Electrical Storm”) and you’ve got a greatest hits package that acknowledges the past while managing to feel extremely fresh – especially since seven of the previously released tracks are actually new or alternate mixes that are different from their original album versions.



For a greatest hits package that took that many extra steps to push against the staleness of the format, this vinyl reissue of The Best of 1990-2000 impressively matches that tone in sound, layout, and presentation. The music is remastered and spaciously spread out over two 180-gram discs, the packaging uses a minimal color palette to an incredible effect (I love the picture selections so much as well), and the whole piece feels weighty and intentionally presented with craft and care. Even if you already have this album on another format, this impressive reissue is worth picking up for its lush sonic upgrade and its rich high-quality aesthetics. Plus, it makes an incredible shelfmate to accompany its six sonic siblings from the rest of this year’s offerings from the band!









 

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