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Patti Smith iTunes Original
and, 2008, The Year of The Rat

By Tanene Allison

January 15, 2008

Patti Smith generally rings in the New Year with an indictment of President Bush and a reminder to us all to "drink plenty of water." This year was no different. Sandwiched between a rock interpretation of The Declaration of Independence and a raging version of People Have The Power, Patti called out the year, 2008, as the Chinese Zodiac's Year of the Rat, and called her fans back into continued political vigilance.

iTunes Originals

A week after her public welcoming in of the New Year, Smith sent her work back to the masses with her latest release, an iTunes Originals collection. The collection is a rare 90-minute mix of classic recordings, new performances, and a series of insightful interviews about the included tracks.

Smith, as a self-trained historian, puts her various songs into perspective in the interviews. Ranging from simple background information - "Frederick" being about her late husband, Fred "Sonic" Smith, sleeping late, during their newly blossoming romance - to rare gems of music history - her telling of Jeff Buckley's emotional response after recording his one line in "Beneath The Southern Cross" - the interviews provide information to engage both the Smith novice and her most committed fans.

The album bends and folds into various shades of Smith's musical personality. The recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee shows the whimsy behind her decision to cover The Door's "Soul Kitchen," and her evolved political relevance of "Peaceable Kingdom," expanded to include reference to the recent Virginia Tech shootings. ("The dear don't do that!")

The album steadily leads the listener through the emotional roller coast Smith well intends her music to be. Representing two levels of the roller coast are the highlights of a live recording of Smith's "Gloria," taped in London in 2005 - which reminds the listener that the song is always best heard live, and turned up as loud as possible - and the almost bluegrass cover of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which includes both the sounds of a banjo and of Steve Earle.

It's rare in today's pop age that a musician can manage to be iTunes-level mainstream, unapologetically political and incredibly talented. Anyone relentlessly welcoming each New Year espousing that "People Have The Power," until the year where that phase might actually seem to be true, deserves pause. And any artist that can have the longevity of creative evolution that Smith has, deserves downloading and some serious appreciation.

Patti Smith People Have The Power + 2008 New Year Countdown

The Year of The Rat - 2008

From her standard location of New York's Bowery Ballroom, Smith counted down to 2008, sharing the bill with the fierce Joan Osborne. If you know Osborne only as that one-hit-wonder, pay another look her way; you are missing a lot. Check her here, with Smith, dueting on St. Teresa. And check her live, any chance you get.

In addition to ringing in the New Year with her regular call for political change, Smith highlighted for the audience the fact that 2008 is the Year of the Rat, in the Chinese Zodiac. Starting officially on February 7th, The Year of The Rat is heralded to be a year of "hard work and renewal" - an auspicious combination for a Presidential election year where "Change" is the battled over campaign slogan of the day.

To give Smith the closing word, here's her send off into the Year of The Rat:

We are counseled to reclaim and magnify our sense of humor. We will need these attributes as we move through 2008. An election year is always a time of change, of vigilance and self examination. We have to be as sturdy and resilient as a rodent.

Those that have rat problems can always get a cat. Or consider that in the Indian city of Deshnoke rats are revered. Those hanging about the ancient temple Karni Mata are destined to be holy men. Eating rice that has been nibbled by such a rat is considered a blessing.

Happy Year of The Rat everyone! Now go turn your Patti Smith up loud…





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