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Patti Smith - Horses (Cover Artwork)

Patti Smith

Patti Smith: HorsesHorses (1975)
Sony Music Entertainment

Reviewer Rating: 5
User Rating:


Contributed by: greg0rbgreg0rb
(others by this writer | submit your own)

So while I wait for a package from Scott bursting at the seams with more CDs to review, I decided to try my hand at reviewing a classic album, specifically the 1996 reissue of a classic album. I decided upon this album after I searched around Punknews. I found reviews of essential early punk album.
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So while I wait for a package from Scott bursting at the seams with more CDs to review, I decided to try my hand at reviewing a classic album, specifically the 1996 reissue of a classic album. I decided upon this album after I searched around Punknews. I found reviews of essential early punk albums from the Ramones, The Clash and the Sex Pistols (although the last was quite poorly reviewed), as well as important lesser-known albums from Richard Hell and Television. We even have some reviews of important "proto-punk" albums by the Velvet Underground, the New York Dolls and the Stooges. But we do not have a single Patti Smith review. Blasphemy! So maybe her more recent records haven't seemed quite so punk, but this album is a classic: a raw yet poetic slice of the CBGB's scene from a woman who beat the Ramones in releasing the first "punk" record.

Patti Smith had an equal love for poetry and 60's garage rock. She drew from both, showcased in her amazing lyrics (the best of any artist from the early punk days; compared to Bob Dylan's) and teamed them up with a three-chord rock and roll backing. The music shows the most dynamic range of the newborn genre, from songs with lengthy quiet sections with expressive spoken word vocals, to pounding rock and roll with Smith snarling, jabbering and yelping overtop. Smith shows intelligence and raw energy throughout, a deserving inspiration to generations of female rockers through her songwriting, performance, and by remaining androgynous, never relying on her gender to gain appeal (shown by the cover photo, taken by Robert Mapplethorpe). She was the first person to write a punk song with movements (no it wasn't Green Day) and the first female rocker- I believe- to fall off a stage while rocking out (no it wasn't Karen O).

Every track is great and it's inevitable that this review will be long, but I'll try my best. "Gloria" the opener pulls the chorus from the song of the same name made popular by Them, an early band of Van Morrison, and the rest is by Smith. It starts with the incredible opening line, "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine". "Redondo Beach" is a song mourning a girl who committed suicide, masked by the happy reggae tune supporting it. "Free Money" would be one of my favorites for being one of the most catchy and straight-forward rockers on the album. It starts with a quiet intro of twinkling piano with gentle bass and vocals, which soon takes off into a toe-tapper with a great ending full of back-up vocals and the title repeated rapid-fire.

"Land" is the focus of the album for sure, a 9 1/2 minute song with three connected movements. It starts with a powerful beat poetry section about a boy being attacked who, in terror, imagines as if he's surrounded by horses, and "Horses" also being the name of this first movement. The tempo builds up steam and then bursts into the second movement, another nod to Smith's love for old rock and roll with her take on "Land of a Thousand Dances." It seems like an odd transition, but it just seems to make sense here moving from chants of "Horses! Horses! Horses! Horses!" to "Do ya know how to pony like Bony Maroni? Do you know how to twist? Well it goes like this, it goes like this." By this mood change the song is in full swing and you will stomp your foot and sing along every time. The song winds down and returns to a possibly violated Johnny ("his sperm coffin") in the final movement "La Mer (De)" with dances reappearing occasionally ("Do the Watusi!"). It all ends with the word slowing to a halt, preaching what it seems Smith is all about: "There was a man… dancing… around… to the simple… rock & roll… song."

The original album ends with the subdued piano-based "Elegie", but this release adds one more track. No it's not a waste-of-space demo version of a song on the album like on so many re-released classics, it's a worthy track - The Patti Smith group live in Cleveland in 1976. They perform a punk-as-hell version of The Who's "My Generation" complete with added profanity by Smith (rather than "Things they do look awful cold, Hope I die before I get old", she screams "I don't need that fuckin' shit, Hope I die because of it!" It ends with Smith chanting over top of the feedback, "I'm so young, I'm so goddamn young!" which later reappears as a lyric from "Privilege" on 1978's Easter. Also, it seems that John Cale from VU (also the producer of this album) is playing with them, because she yells "John Cale!" right before the bass solo. The song is a worthy addition and also works well to end the disc. As far as the album as a whole in reissued form, it looks great and sounds great so I have no complaints other than I wish the lyrics were included since they're so fantastic. Lyrics can be found easily online however.

Whew! That was quite a mouthful, and if you made it all the way you either already have this amazing album or you were hopefully convinced to go get it immediately. It takes a little patience to warm up to, but you will be paid back tenfold. It may be disputed, but I say punk started here, and I also say that very little punk music has been this ambitious since. Easiest score I've ever had to give.

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground and NicoThe Clash - London CallingTelevision - Marquee MoonRamones - Rocket to RussiaThe Soviettes - LP IIDinosaur Jr. - You're Living All Over MeNirvana - NevermindDescendents - Milo Goes To CollegeBad Brains - Bad BrainsRichard Hell and The Voidoids - Blank Generation

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Let_Yourself_Be_Heard (November 8, 2012)

This record is beautiful, incredible and a true representation of rock n' roll art.

loggerhd (October 17, 2004)

cool album and more creative than most bands will ever be

greg0rb (October 12, 2004)

Thanks for the info and for not putting it in a rude manner like most people on this site. Yeah, I figured he was being raped in "Land", that's what I was hinting at with "a possibly violated Johnny". And Yeah, maybe PSG didnt call themselves a punk band but neither did the Ramones, so whatever. it's great, I know that for sure. Thanks again for the info.
-Greg

dumdumboy (October 12, 2004)

First off, Johnny is raped at the beginning of the song "Land."

Secondly, the live version of "My Generation" was originally released as the b-side of the "Gloria" single. John Cale was listed as a guest musician on the label of the single, I believe.

Third, you seem to have overlooked the main connection to "punk" at the end of "My Generation." It comes when Patti mutters off-handedly that "we created it, let's take it over." She is speaking of rock'n'roll, that the common people created it, now it's time to take it back from the corporations and create it ourselves. She expanded on this theme on a show called "Kids Are People Too" in 1979 or 1980, on which she sang the song "Tommorrow" with it's composer playing piano. In introducing her, the show's host asked her whether she was "punk rock."
"No."
"Well, we think you're punk rock, right, kids?"
(Applause light goes on.)
""Well, I always thought that punk rock was just taking the music and giving it back to the people."
"Well, I guess we agree with that, right, kids?"
(Applause light goes on.)

She has also said, in an interview back then that, yes, PSG were a garage band, but that they were the best garage band.

My favorite studio album of hers is "Radio Ethiopia." My favorite album overall, however, was never officially released. It was a bootleg of a show in Sweden in the fall of 1976 and has, besides a stuff off of the first two albums, covers such as "Pale Blue Eyes" and "We're Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together" by The Velvet Underground.

Anyway, thanks for the review. It's good to see that younger kids are still listening to it. And, by the way, Patti was the first of the CBGB's crowd to make a record, which was the first thing that me and all of my friends heard from that scene. Not everyone liked it, of course...

Anonymous (October 11, 2004)

"I'm taking more of a stand against the "Can't fuck with Patti Smith!" crowd. Even though I think the ovewhelming majority of what you review is undeniably crap,"

i dont keep up with what you listen to. and considering that the majority of what people listen to is shit, it was an assumption that you were one of those kids who think brand new is genious and would then talk shit on patti smith.

greg0rb (October 10, 2004)

BSD, the majority of what I review is crap because Scott gets it sent to him and gives it to me. My three 5 star reviews were all reviewed by choice however.
-Greg

Anonymous (October 9, 2004)

Hahaha. Okay, how are you supposed to defend yourself in instances like this?

Hey, random internet guy, come over to my house and we can rock out to the Seeds!

-BSD

Anonymous (October 9, 2004)

Wow, BSD is up on his AllMusic.com research. you should actually listen to all the shit you name drop instead of just ripping it out of the AMG database.

Anonymous (October 9, 2004)

No, I admit that these albums were good. I'm taking more of a stand against the "Can't fuck with Patti Smith!" crowd. Even though I think the ovewhelming majority of what you review is undeniably crap, I think this is a pretty well written critique of a record that is still relevant.

-BSD

greg0rb (October 9, 2004)

I knew BSD would be all over this one. Sure, there were a handful of bands that came earlier who foreshadowed punk to come, but Smith came from the first real punk "scene". A bunch of great groups came out of that NYC scene: Ramones, Television, the Voidoids, Blondie, the Talking Heads, but Smith was the first of them. Plus, punk wasnt about just being fast, it was about taking rock back to its roots of simplicity. Patti Smith did that amazingly. I don't care that she's not your favorite and you can go ahead and criticize her, I wont make fun of yo' momma for it. You're entitled to your opinion. But my opinion is that this and Easter are essential in any record collection, punk or not.
-Greg

Anonymous (October 8, 2004)

Also, to say she "beat the Ramones to releasing the first punk album" is pointless, because the music is not nearly as hard or fast as other proto-punks like the NY Dolls and Dictators. And what about the Sonics and other 60's garage groups? They sang rebellious songs with a fast-paced, fuzzy background beat. Or Mott the fucking Hoople for that matter...

A lot of people beat the Ramones to releasing the first punk record, but few were as good.

-BSD

Anonymous (October 8, 2004)

What? Do you subscribe to the whole rock star worship ethic? I think it's only logical to challenge hyperbole on this level. If you're well informed on the music, you should state your opinion if you think it's overrated. Patti Smith is not some divine entity beyond the level of being criticsized.

The people who think Patti Smith is something special are usually the ones who think "Metal Machine Music" has some sort of underlying meaning (outside of Lou wanting out of his record contract).

-BSD

Anonymous (October 8, 2004)

wow. people talking shit on patti smith. that's just fucking ridiculous. some people are so stupid.

Anonymous (October 8, 2004)

this shit sucks. give me master p.

Anonymous (October 8, 2004)

Eh... She's a bitch and really fucking overrated. Good first two albums, but the P. Smith Group has nothing on the Velvets lyric-wise or musically.

-BSD

CrankWillDestroy (October 8, 2004)

Up the punx!

gladimnotemo (October 8, 2004)

This should be at the top of the reviews, next to the Social Distortion.

Great stuff, much more important than people give it credit for being.

Anonymous (October 8, 2004)

this album is fucking amazing, but you're a little late on reviewing it

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