Monday, April 16, 2007

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Song: Everybody Wants to Rule the World
Artist: Patti Smith
Album: Twelve

Patti Smith is a rock legend. 1975 saw the release of “Horses,” her debut masterpiece and what some consider the first “art-punk” album. Smith was at the forefront of the New York CBGB’s punk scene and was one of the first to score a record deal, even beating The Ramones.

I won’t bother trying to write a synopsis if her career as I won’t do her justice, but the interested might start with the two-disc retrospective “Land (1975-2002)” which will give you the key tracks in her career. Rock purest will differ though, and I will say that I am thankful I was given “The Patti Smith Masters: The Collective Works,” a box set that includes re-mastered versions of her first five complete albums, the recently released “Gone Again,” as well as a single disc of “hits” that is comprised of about half of the first disc of “Land.” What is important about these albums as wholes are Smith’s fusion of punk and poetry and the more “arty” side of her music, which is not represented in any collection.

The box set came only after Smith’s full on return to the rock world with the release of 1996’s “Gone Again” (included) after the death of her husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith. (Prior album “Dream of Life” in 1988 was a one-off, making the true gap in her career from 1979’s “Wave” to 1996.) After getting the box set, I was a bit obsessed with Patti and was excited when she released another new album in 1997, “Peace and Noise.” I never connected with that album, but absolutely LOVED the follow up, 2000’s “Gung Ho.”

This year will see the release of “Twelve” a collection of (yes!) twelve covers from all over the musical map. It contains touchstones from Smith’s influences like Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, and Jimmi Hendrix, as well as odd choices from Nirvana and Tears for Fears. The inclusion of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” makes sense as Smith found some connection with Kurt Cobain and even wrote a song about him following his death called “About a Boy” which was on “Gone Again.” I am stuck by her take on “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” as it does seem to be such an odd choice for her, though it has quickly become my favorite from the collection which is a bit to flaccid all around in my opinion.

With Patti Smith you will never get something straight forward, she is an artist through and through and I was very pleased to hear that this year she was finally being inducted in to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. (Along with friends R.E.M. whom she guested with on “E-Bow the Letter,” from “New Adventures in Hi-Fi” which may go down as the strangest first single from a popular rock band ever. Remember it? Probably not.) “Twelve” is definitely a hold-over as we wait for the next true piece of the Patti Smith legacy.


A performance of one of my favorite songs of Patti’s “Ask the Angels”

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