REVIEW: LAND Patti Smith
An Anthology (1975-2002)
ARTISTA © 2002
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LAND is the remarkable CD Compilation of a great American/Internationalist Artist.
On one level poet-musician Patti Smith was the quintessential punk, before punk became just another commercial, neo-conformist fashion.
When she first hit the pop charts in the 1970’s some fans (particularly women) called her a female Bob Dylan; while detractors claimed she was merely self-indulgent. To compare Patti Smith with Dylan is unfair; it’s like contrasting apples with oranges. Dylan is one-of-a-kind, as is Patti Smith. As for the charge of self-indulgence, Patti Smith’s poetic vision is highly personal, however, both the words and music are totally accessible, exciting and intoxicating to fans of gutsy, liberated Rock;
During the 70’s, Patti Smith was perceived by the Bourgeoisie as a sort of socio-political preview version of 1980’s & 90’s gender-bending-vampire-iconoclast Marilyn Manson.
Like MM, PS was forced to cancel performances—not because of “drug problems,” but due to the fact that the extraordinarily Simple Minded Parental Anal Retentive “Responsible Citizens” set up vigilante committees (in the form of quickly passing new ordinance laws) to prevent both artists from “corrupting” (i.e. performing) in their Sacred Communities—and thereby depriving their Hungry Offspring of a Creative Feast from the Table of 2 very interesting and unusual Artists. The major difference between Smith and Manson is that Patti Smith is relevant to the aims of social revolution and Manson is an egotistical distraction.
[As preparation for this article, we viewed several Marilyn Manson websites, including the “official” one. For the most part the cyber experience was both disagreeable and disappointing. Manson’s visuals on video seemed to have roots in a traditional form of Japanese dance-theatre and, far from being the satanic images feared by the Bourgeoisie, were rather stunning and artistically evocative—particularly in comparison to the lyrics and music that have a sophomoric and generic tendency. Other artists have copied the visuals, the music mercifully ignored. The MM websites, however, are consistently childish with neo-Nazi overtones.]
The JUST SAY “NO” TO EVERYTHING Citizen’s Committee attitude that found Patti Smith such a threat was to prove culturally devastating—not to mention HYPOCRITICAL. Being politically relevant in American Society (i.e. posing any REAL challenge to the Capitalist status quo) was—and still is—considered OUT. However, young women dressing and acting like prostitutes (remember Jon-Benet Ramsey?) is just peachy. And we’re not putting down prostitutes, but most women who are really trapped in that particular business as a way to make a living would be the first to prevent their daughters from walking that same path. The Music Industry is a travesty today, not because of drugs, but because of the way it depicts women. It’s as if women’s liberation only equated to the right of female artists to be portrayed as tramps and to act as morally decrepit as their male counterparts. We’ve come along way, baby—culturally back to the Stone Age.
[Incidentally, it’s ironic to hear such veteran bright lights in the Music Biz as Joni Mitchell and Tom Petty complaining about the gross commercialism in the Industry—while at the same time racking in the obscene wealth of being active participants in said Industry. Capitalism has obviously corrupted and shut up the real spiritual potential of these artists. They withdraw behind the iron curtains of Malibu retreats and Ivory Castles of Reaction—leaving the fans to feel like suckers for believing in their pampered “message.” To say that pop actors and musicians have an exaggerated and corrupting influence in Capitalist Society is putting it mildly.]
Patti Smith never sold out to the phantoms of Pop(vularity) or Fashion.
That’s just one of the reasons why she’ll be remembered when lesser artists who merely follow the commercial and sexist signs of the times will be long forgotten.
When Patti Smith sang, “People Have the Power” in the recent (January 2003) Peace March in Washington, D.C. she didn’t need to do it to up her ratings.
SHE MADE A STATEMENT.
LAND is not just another “Best Of” CD.
In addition to many “best of” recordings, there is a previously unreleased song (WHEN DOVES CRY), as well as some interesting “demos” of popular tunes (REDONDO BEACH, etc.) and material too hot and/or complex for the radio (PISS FACTORY, BOY CRIED WOLF, etc.) The two CD set includes archival photos (including a beautifully sensitive portrait of Patti Smith and William Burroughs by Allen Ginsberg and two photos by controversial artist Robert Mapplethorpe; as well as various other reproductions of letters, notes, posters and poems.)
Some Selections from LAND
DANCING BAREFOOT (Patti Smith, Ivan Kral, 1979, from WAVE). A sort of contemporary celebration of the love between Shakti and Shiva with a mellow beat.)
She is a benediction,
she is addicted to he.
she is the root connection,
she is connecting with he.
BABELOGUE (Smith, 1979, from EASTER).
i don’t fuck much with the past
but I fuck plenty with the future…
i have not sold myself to god.
GLORIA (Van Morrison, Patti Smith intro, In Excelis Deo, 1975, from HORSES).
Jesus died for somebody’s sins,
but not mine…
FREE MONEY (Smith, Lenny Kaye, 1975, from HORSES).
every night before I go to sleep
find that ticket, win the lottery
scoop the pearls up from the sea
cash them in & buy you all the things
every night before I rest my head
see those dollar bills go swirlin’ ‘round my bed
i know their stolen but I don’t feel bad
i’ll take that money & buy all the things
you never had.
PEOPLE HAVE THE POWER (Smith, Fred Smith, 1988, from DREAM OF LIFE). A fantastic New Aeon Anthem with a catchy tune to replace that Old Aeon, Nationalistic one.
People have the Power
to redeem the work of fools.
BECAUSE THE NIGHT (Smith, Bruce Springsteen, 1978, from EASTER). A big commercial hit made even more popular by Natalie Merchant & 10,000 Maniacs.
love is a ring on the telephone
love is the angel disguised as lust
here in our bedroom ‘til the morning comes.
FREDERICK (Smith, 1979, from WAVE). Probably one of Smith’s smoothest sounding songs, it could have made the Top 10 if recorded by someone like, say Dionne Warwick.
SUMMER CANNIBALS (Smith, Smith, 1996, from GONE AGAIN). Classic Patti with Grace Slick-like lyrics.
GHOST DANCE (Smith, Kaye, from EASTER). A genuine & heartfelt adaptation from traditional spiritual sources and the late 19° Native American Ghost Dance Movement that expressed the longing for deliverance.
We shall live again
we shall live…
what is it children that falls from the sky?
Manna from the Most High
food from the Father
WHEN DOVES CRY (Prince, 2002, debut LAND). This sensitive song by Prince could have been written by Patti Smith, it is so close to her own style. She certainly makes it her own this rendition.
maybe i’m just like my mother
she’s never satisfied
why do we scream at each other
this is what it sounds like when doves cry.
PISS FACTORY (Smith, Richard Sohl, 1974; Produced by Lenny Kaye for Robert Mapplethorpe). A story about a 16-year-old Working Class girl who gets a job on an assembly line. Even though she knows it’s a rotten job for rotten pay under rotten conditions, she still wants to do her best work if only out of self-respect. This brings down the wrath of the Shop Steward who tells the girl that she’s working too fast and needs to under-achieve like everybody else. The girl basically tells the Steward to fuck-off. The lyrics reflect Patti the often-complex political iconoclast. Piss Factory ridicules Union bureaucracy and moral corruption within a pro-Worker context. A recent example of the reactionary depths of Organized Labor in the U.S. was the repulsive April 2003 “mobilization” at the Twin Towers site in “celebration” of the War Against Iraq.
REDONDO BEACH (Smith, Sohl, Kaye, demo 1975). This demo of possibly Smith’s most successful single has a Jamaican flare not evident on the commercially released version—which is too bad in a way, because the reggae sounds really good. At the time of the original release politically correct types accused Smith of anti-gay bias because the song deals with suicide and (possibly) Lesbian adultery. NUTS!
25th FLOOR (Smith, Kral, 1978). An exciting “live” version demonstrating Patti’s ability to perform a highly structured composition in a way that seems totally spontaneous.
the disposal of waste…
the disposal of waste…
the disposal of waste is practically the oldest
preoccupation of man;
man must learn to eat his shit…
BOY CRIED WOLF (Smith, 2001, live in Paris). A complex tale with multiple interpretations; concludes with Smith howling like a wolf. This could have been corny, except Smith’s howl is both realistic and spine tingling. Similarly in other performances she at times seems to “channel” a male persona. Her daemon???
BIRDLAND (Smith, Sohl, Kaye, Kral). A “rush” describes the music & delivery—with some of Patti’s finest poetry.
The insert booklet of LAND concludes with a photo of Patti Smith standing next to a car and waving goodbye.
These words accompany the picture:
We enter a new year facing an emptied sky, for, like the
Prince of Aquitaine, our towers have fallen. Yet in their wake we
trace the tails of comets, the bows of ships and chariots of the
turbaned corps dragging their chandeliers. We navigate the sea
of human history. Of a time before god and a time when men
walked with angels. We tread the earth. We sift through a
delirium of debris. We comb the conscience and tresses
shimmer their worth.
When Brian Jones died, doves spiraled above Hyde Park.
When we buried Sadat, a legion of doves flew over Cairo.
Whereto shall they now fly? Shall they shed their pure feathers
over the rubble of Kabul, of Liberty Street? Or shall they light
upon the shoulder of Abdul Hamid and coo peacefully into his
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