Monday, August 29, 2011

Patti Smith - Outside Society (Sony Legacy, 2011)

Vocalist and poet Patti Smith’s role as the “Godmother of Punk Rock" really too confining, as is any one disc collection that tries to rein in the best work from this mercurial artist. But as an introduction to her work it does an excellent job of providing insight into the depth and breadth of her music. More of an art-rocker than a punk, Smith combined her poetry and love of the visual arts to a rock 'n' roll beat and cleared the way for women to fully enter the rock and roll arena. Her most well known songs are here in roughly chronological order beginning with her cover of Them’s “Gloria” with its long original introduction and the scalding “Free Money” from her seminal debut album Horses. As the Patti Smith Group developed and grew into its own identity, she became even more risk taking with the mind-blowing and controversial “Rock ‘n’ Roll Ni**er” live performance from the Radio Ethiopia album included in this collection, along with the in-your-face “Pissing in the River.” She never strayed too far from pop music forms, as displayed by the hit “Because the Night,” co-composed with fellow New Jerseyian Bruce Springsteen. Smith took several years off from the music scene to raise a family, but after the death of several close family and friends she returned to recording, sounding stronger than ever. Examples of her post sabbatical recordings on this collection include the gripping “Summer Cannibals” and the powerful pro-Tibet song “1959.” Also included are some interesting covers, a full out electric band cover of The Byrds “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” and a fascinating acoustic cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” As much as a one disc compilation can capture the essence of an artist as complicated as Patti Smith, this one does and succeeds quite well. A prime introduction to neophytes coming to her music and a potent reminder of her power to longtime fans, this album is highly recommended. Outside Society -

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