He’s still technically a one-man band, but was wise enough to get real drummers to play real parts, and better guitarists that surpassed his limitations as an upside-down leftie. Nonetheless, “Is It Too Late?” sounds very much like an enhanced demo, from the programmed percussion to the slow addition and reduction of instruments. “Way Down Now” was the first single, an uptempo rocker fading out with “woo-hoo” accents that will remind anyone of “Sympathy For The Devil”. It’s another fade-in for the catchy “When The Rainbow Comes”, similar in feel to “Put The Message In The Box”, which is even better constructed with a well-designed bridge. “Ain’t Gonna Come Till I’m Ready” is a dark R&B piece with a falsetto lead that doesn’t explain the title at all. Even more impressive is “And I Fell Back Alone”, an exquisite heartbreaker for acoustic guitar, piano and fake strings.
The second half of the album is just as solid, at first, anyway. “Take It Up” is in a now-familiar tempo, full of layered keyboard parts and featuring a clever nod to “Here Comes The Sun” at the end of the instrumental break. “God On My Side” manages to cram influences from Beatles to Stones and Dylan into a single track, and doing a good job of fitting the vocals together. Though hinted at on side one, “Show Me To The Top” is a full-fledged Prince tribute, from the drums and synth effects to the sped-up vocal and spelling of “L-O-V-E”. (Interestingly, the liner notes list Prince’s former managers as World Party’s current managers.) A train rattles down the tracks towards a tantalizing snippet of a White Album-style strum, which pulls over on “Love Street”. This inscrutable gem builds from a lilting waltz to an urgent bridge, with those jungle synths from the last track, into a screaming guitar solo and an impeccably soft ending. “Sweet Soul Dream” is something of a trifle after all that setup, though it does feature Sinead O’Connor, again, then doing well with her second album. “Thank You World” crashes in for a noisy finale. (This was also the album’s third and least successful single, despite being available as a maxi-single with various unreleased tracks, including a note-for-note cover of “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”.)
These days there are more blatant appropriators of psychedelic rock and funk, but Lenny Kravitz was just starting out. Goodbye Jumbo’s influences move seamlessly, but more reverent without stealing, mostly. It remains a solid album, and one of that year’s best.
World Party Goodbye Jumbo (1990)—4