A collision of ‘60s-birthed psychedelia and ‘70s-inspired soul, the self-produced sophomore set by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lenny Kravitz breathed the last gasp of rock and roll glory just before its untimely death — a real rock record, from the music down to its Jimi-meets-Janis cover. In fact, it was so authentic, you actually could feel a pair of skin-tight, velvet thrift store bell bottoms snugging all up around your junk as the distinctive fragrance of Nag Champa billowed from your hi-fi. And 30 years following its April 2nd, 1991 release, Mama Said remains a vital snapshot of the groovy, pre-grunge era.
An appealing palette possessing an array of colors, the 14-track collection was (and still is) a significant record for the very reasons many critics dismissed it — Lenny hopped all about, while rarely straying far from his retro comfort zone.
Transporting the listener from a place of serenity to a clash of brash guitars (and back), “Fields of Joy” served as an engaging “Sybil”-style opener, while “Always on the Run” stunk from the funk-fueled riffs of guest Guns N’ Roses guitarist and co-songwriter, Slash.
Almost at the point of desperation, the record’s narrative often seemed like an apologetic letter to a lover from a lover who seemingly had f’d up the relationship, an observation validated by the Lennon-goes-to-church feel of “Stand by My Woman,” the nostalgic soft pop flavour of “It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over,” and the droning “More Than Anything in This World.”
Kravitz’s lo-fi approach to production helped to further amplify the record’s street cred — his often raw-sounding vocals and meat-and-potatoes drum work that teetered frequently on the brink of distortion.
The Superfly-inspired vibe of “What Goes Around Comes Around” made for just one of the record’s many authentic standouts, along with the down and dirty “Stop Draggin’ Around,” the delicate tribute to his (then) two-year-old daughter, “Flowers for Zoë” and the psychedelic “reprise” version of “Fields of Joy.”
It was the record that established Kravitz as a world-class creative force. Although subsequent records would chart higher and his acting endeavors soon would elevate him to superstar status, it can still be argued that Mama Said remains Kravitz’s most compelling work.
Mama Said Track Listing:
01. Fields of Joy (3:57)
02. Always on the Run (Featuring Slash) (3:53)
03. Stand by My Woman (4:19)
04. It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over (3:55)
05. More Than Anything in This World (3:43)
06. What Goes Around Comes Around (4:40)
07. The Difference Is Why (4:48)
08. Stop Draggin’ Around (2:37)
09. Flowers for Zoë (2:45)
10. Fields of Joy (Reprise) (3:59)
11. All I Ever Wanted (4:04)
12. When the Morning Turns to Night (2:58)
13. What the Fuck Are We Saying? (5:13)
14. Butterfly (1:50)
Running Time: 52:38
Release Date: April 2, 1991
Record Label: Virgin Records