CD Review: Patti Smith

Patti Smith
Outside Society
Arista/Columbia/Legacy
By David Chiu

Had  Patti Smith had made her debut album Horses in 2011 rather in 1975, there is hardly a chance it would have been released on a major label. That’s how different and groundbreaking that album was and 36 years later, it’s still remains a timeless work. Since that album, Smith’s music has always drawn on the avant-garde, the influence of the Beat poetry, and rip-roaring rock and roll. Her legendary career is celebrated on this new single-disc compilation spanning from Horses through 2007’s 12 Songs. Not surprisingly, Outside Society opens with “Gloria,” with its immortal lines “Jesus died for somebody’s sin but not mine.” From there, it’s one incendiary track after another, especially during the period of the Patti Smith Band from the mid to late 70s’ with tracks such as “Ain’t it Strange” and the popular hit “Because the Night.” (The brilliant “Dancing Barefoot” and “Frederick,” off of the 1979 Wave album, are tracks that should have bigger hits at the time). Smith went on hiatus for most of the ’80s until 1988’s Dream of Life album that yielded the uplifting rocker anthem “People Have the Power.” Then she entered another period of inactivity—marked by the death of her husband, guitarist Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith—before she returned in with 1996’s Gone Again, whose tracks included the wonderful folkish ballad “Beneath the Southern Cross.” From there, Smith had a second wind of creativity that recalls the fiery spirit of her ‘70s work but yet still pushing forward her vision and expanding on her sound in a contemporary context (i.e., the rockers “Glitter in their Eyes” and “1959”). She turns in an  almost jazzy-folk cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Trampin’” is like listening to a blues spiritual disguised as a piano ballad to close this compilation. One doesn’t do justice to Smith’s legacy by only owning this compilation, but by seeking out the individual albums, especially Horses. Given the track selection here, however, Outside Society is a wonderful set.

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One thought on “CD Review: Patti Smith

  1. patti smith is such a legend. writer, poet, singer, songwriter, and godmother of punk… she has literally become a staple in modern society. I’m so happy to see that she has a new album coming out that features her life’s greatest work.. because kids that have no idea who she is (absurd, i know!) will have the chance to discover her the way we all did in previous years!

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