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.
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
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
Happy Year of The Rat everyone! Now go turn your Patti Smith