Though his music is often unfairly dismissed as "retro" (something he actually left behind with 1995's dark Circus), Lenny Kravitz is really -- next to Prince -- one of rock's most talented triple threats. Unfortunately, those who hope the title of this record marks a return to form after the singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist's lackluster Lenny should probably look elsewhere for sonic salvation.
Kravitz has always believed in the honest power of music. So it's no stretch that the best tracks here, including "Minister of Rock and Roll," "California" and the vapid but catchy "Where Are We Runnin'?" are rave-ups that catch fire. Too bad most of the other tracks feature plodding rhythms and trite lyrics and do little more than drag down the party.
By now even Kravitz's most loyal fans will have difficulty accepting his tired, hypocritical "anti-fame" pronouncements, as seen on the "...Runnin'" video and as heard here on "Flash," which is at least a decent piece of music, unlike the pitiful "I Don't Want to Be a Star." Much of Baptism was reportedly written while Kravitz was doing some serious self-examination, but it's hard to imagine he'd trade "drinking with Dylan," "getting high with Jagger," "so many girls" and platinum records for the wife, kids, farm life and beat-up guitar he declares are his true fantasies. Here's a thought, Lenny: Just do it. Just say no to the supermodel girlfriends, constant clubbing, high-fashion/big pout/indoor- sunglasses photo shoots, and all those videos where you play a rock and roll star, and we might actually believe your desperate pleas for the simple life.
Baptism is not the salvation of Lenny Kravitz. But if organized religion (and music) teach us anything, it's that you can always come back to the altar of rock and roll for forgiveness. Bathe in the cleansing waters, Lenny, your flock is waiting.
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