Take me now baby here as I am....
Released March 1978
Patti Smith had not released anything for two years after suffering a stage fall and subsequent injury. This was her third album and is the most well-known, largely because of the huge hit single it contained. It was released into the whirlpool of punk/new wave and further cemented her annointance as the "high priestess of punk" - spiritual Godmother to all the Siouxsies, Slits, Poly Styrenes, Gaye Adverts, Runaways and Toyahs out there. At the time, the album was hailed a bit like that - "you like Siouxsie?", now here's the real thing..." and so on. Personally I always found Smith to be more of a rock artist with a rebellious, don't give a .... punky attitude, as opposed to a bona fide punk. This album probably backs that up. It is a rock album, really, with clear punky and post-punk overtones.
Patti liked to make a statement, usually through her lyrics/poetry. Here, she did it by sporting unshaved armpits on the cover. Although to bother about it might be seen as shallow, she knew exactly what she was doing by her pose.
1. Till Victory
2. Space Monkey
3. Because The Night
4. Ghost Dance
6. Rock 'n' Roll N......
7. Privilege (Set Me Free)
8. We Three
9. 25th Floor
10. High On Rebellion
The album kicks off with the punky, riffy Till Victory which laid down the markers the album. This sort of thing fitted right in with the milieu of early 1978. Space Monkey combines a delicious post-punk sound with a genuine Stones influence and distinct echoes of Dancing With Mr. D. Patti found time in it to narrate a bit of her avant-garde poetry, briefly, too.
The big hit, of course, was the cover of Bruce Springsteen's Because The Night. Springsteen, at the time, was still a relatively "cult" artist, particularly in the UK, so it made little impact that this was one of his songs. It was taken in isolation, appreciated for the great rock song it is, and duly charted. It remains Smith's only chart hit. The producer of this album, incidentally, was Jimmy Iovine, who also produced Springsteen's classic Darkness On The Edge Of Town in the same year.
Ghost Dance is a mysterious, semi-chanted song featuring Native American lyrics in places. It owes a lot to David Bowie, for me, just in its feel, somehow. There was nothing "punk" about it, that's for sure. Babelogue is an f-word strewn narration of a stream of consciousness poem, recorded live. Bizarrely, the crowd clap hysterically along to her rabid, rapid-fire utterances, as if to give it a rhythm. The poem morphs dramatically into the magnificent riffs of Rock 'n' Roll N...... which was actually a pretty good representation of punk, in both delivery and ethos. It is one of the album's high points. "Outside of society...." the song proclaims. If that wasn't punk, then what was, I guess.
Up next is the album's other classic, the Gothic rock of Privilege (Set Me Free) which builds up with a churchy organ backing before the riffs and Patti's soaring voice kick in. It is full of religious references and a delightfully rebellious vocal. Great stuff. We Three is a beautifully deep, torch song-style mournful but deliciously bassy rock ballad. Smith's vocal is once again superb, as is the atmosphere. 25th Floor is another great, riffy rock song with a punky undertone and ambience. High On Rebellion is a forerunner of grunge, an assault of guitars, drums and angry vocals. The album ends with the grandoise Easter, featuring Smith's plaintive vocal over a single beat and some superb guitar. Once more, it is full of religious imagery. Smith was eaten up with religious confusion long before Madonna. As for "Girl Power", this was it, nearly twenty years earlier.