56 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2001
I remember when this album came out, it was a critical disaster. Thinking that it would be impossible to follow-up the revolutionary "Horses" lp, critics seemed to had buried "Radio Ethiopia" in the pit of sophmore slump before they even listened to it. When they did listen to it, they said things to the effect of how erratic the music was, how vulgar and uninspired the lyrics were, and how Patti's band was pulling her artistic vision down the toilet. The truth of the matter is, "Radio Ethiopia" is on of Patti Smith's most experimental pieces of music she has ever produced in her ingenious career. What this album does is take the complexity and experimentation of the vocal poetry of "Horses" and infuses it into the sound. While the first track "Ask the Angels" starts of amazingly enough, the heart of "RE" kicks in with the furious "Aint It Strange" which blatently challenges god to fight the energy of rock n roll (side note: Patti Smith broke her neck spinning off a stage while singing this song). "Poppies" rolls in slick and cool, but then comes "Pissing In A River", which remains a rock classic (and one of my favorite songs ever). "Pumping..." like "Ask the Angels" is an awesome piece of work, but not as inspired as the rest of the album. "Distant Fingers" is fantastic, and "Radio Ethiopia"/"Abbyssinia" is an out of body experienc in itself. While this album has nothing on "Horses", it still is a classic piece of work. Get "Horses" first, then this one, then Easter, and you'll have three of the greatest albums ever made.
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 1999
This album is so underrated that I actually feel a little protective of it, like it was a wounded bird, or the short kid who everyone picked on in third grade.
While "Ask the Angels" and "Pumping (My Heart)" are straight-ahead rock'n'roll songs (brilliant ones, at that), I don't understand how anyone can conceive of the rest of the songs as 'commercial': The opiated explorations of "Poppies" and "Ain't It Strange" move me like no other music I know; "Pissing in the River" rips my heart out everytime I hear it; "Distant Fingers" is improbably delicate and lovely for a song about UFOs; and on the assaultive "Radio Ethiopia/Abyssinia," she uses her voice like a free jazz soloist. (The dreamy, seductive "Chicklet" makes a great bonus track.)
It's not as cohesive an album as "Horses", but "Radio Ethiopia" expanded the band's sonic palette and remains a profoundly trippy, noisy and sexy record.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2003
I have always considered this to be the BEST Patti Smith album of them all, rocking, wild, raw energy and rebellious spirit, decidedly uncommercial and I still go crazy when she does these tunes live.
This is one AWESOME cd.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 1998
Rock historians will inevitably dismiss Smith's turbulent "Radio Ethiopia" in favor of her simplier "Horses" or more punk rocking "Easter". But it's a grand tragedy to close an ear to Patti's highly relevent diatribes, which form the bulk of her material and are in best form here. More than a document of a time, "Ethiopia" breaks down the barriers between musician and listener just as early 70's avant-garde theater experiments tried (less successfully). The best work of a superior artist.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 1999
This can also be my favourite Patti Smith record. Although it was judged as a "egocentric debacle" i think that it just as wonderful as Horses. Although i do agree that it wasn't the right decision to try to make the group sound comercial. Patti here tries to experiment with the sound. It is very powerful, and it takes all that Patti Smith charisma down into your room. My favourite song is Ain't it strange. It really captures her suggestivness. Patti invites:"come explore me".
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2008
Patti Smith Group-Radio Ethiopia *****
Nestled comfortably between the Patti Smith Groups emphamous debut album Horses and their third and most commercial and best selling third album Easter you find Radio Ethiopia. Radio Ethiopia is Patti's most honest and adventerious album to date.
For one reason or another Radio Ethiopia has been forgotten and labeled a failure and place in the delete bin next to Goats Head Soup from The Rolling Stones (which is another great album) but this is not the case. Once you can understand that Patti and the band are always trying new and different things then you can understand and appreciate this better. Yes I will say the album is often irratic but thats part of it's charm. Jumping from guitar and drum heavy rockers like 'Ask The Angels' the albums opener into a more mellow track such as 'Aint It Strange' may be a shock for some but it was only natural to keep things new and make the listener guess. Also this album gave Smith a chance to experiment with vocals and layering them in the recording making for an interesting listen each time.
My only complaint with this album is the title track, 'Radio Ethiopia.' as on the debut 'Horses' and the next release 'Easter' were all epic title tracks. Here Patti tried and almost nailed it but the poem and song seem to fall apart at the end of the song almost totally ruining the song. Starting of fantastic and only gaining power to ultametly crash and burn. If that was Patti and Lenny Kaye's plan then they succeeded but the point stands that what she was trying to achieve here was what she did acheive on Horses with 'Land' and she did not here.
True blue Smith fans almost always love this album but occasionaly this is concidered a blunder. Someone said to stay away from Radio Ethiopia when first getting into the group and I must dissagree, I think any of the groups first three albums are the best places to start, Horses, Radio Ethiopia, and Easter are all legendary and are the albums that made Patti the giant she is today.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2004
Smart, elegant, raw, pure, energy, power, shining, depth, grace, spirit, body, flesh, bones, earth, race, agonizing, despair, heartbreaking, squeak, elegy, life, ground, roots, leaves, perfection, high, languid, beauty.
All these words come through my mind while I think about "Radio Ethiopia". They might be excessive. Undoubtedly, they are not enough.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2000
late one night, two maybe three years ago, watching late night t.v. i soon heard a voice that would change the way i saw music for ever. it was patti smith singing "pissing in a river." as i felt a chilling heart breaking frenzy run up my spine i thought to myself "iv got to get this" i now own every patti smith album but think of radio ethiopia as my jewell, it is completely uncommercial rock and roll something 70s rock and roll radio lacked it is a fusion of rock poetry and emotion. if your looking for commercial rock and roll by patti smith try "easter" the one the critics loved
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The Patti Smith Group's second album is less "poetic" and more "heavy metal" than the spectacular debut Horses or the commercially successful follow-up Easter.
The compelling mid-tempo rocker Ask The Angels is followed by Aint It Strange, a slow number with intense vocals and hints of reggae in the rhythm. Poppies resembles Aint It Strange in tempo, beat and vocals although it contains some quite subdued segments with tender spoken moments. Thematically it recalls the Velvet Underground's Heroin on their legendary debut album.
The slow rock ballad Vrinating In A River recaptures some of the first album's poetic qualities in both structure and imagery. The band's power and passion explodes in full fury on the uptempo Pumping (My Heart) whilst Distant Fingers stands out. A melodious ballad, Distant Fingers ranks among Smith's most memorable love songs like Looking For You, Farewell Reel and Frederick.
However, the title track and Abyssinia are somewhat unstructured and messy, no doubt very avant garde but I prefer songs to be tuneful and accessible. In retrospect, this album reminds me a lot of Peace and Noise. There are gorgeous "anarchic" pics and stream-of-consciousness liner notes.
24 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Smith's debut album HORSES made an incredibly powerful statement; Smith's third album EASTER made an equally powerful statement and proved a breakout success. Between the two lies RADIO ETHIOPIA, a recording many describe as a true failure.
I have always felt this designation is really comparative rather than factual. There is much to admire in RADIO ETHIOPIA. Like HORSES it leaps from screaming guitars and pounding drums in such tracks as "Ask The Angels" to the languidly complex in the likes of "Ain't It Strange," and on no other album has Smith so fully explored her interest in multiple and overlapping vocals. The result, particularly in "Poppies," is at once rawly beautiful, disturbing, and fascinating.
But there is a big problem with RADIO ETHIOPIA. On HORSES, Smith did not so much push the envelope as she ripped it open, and here she seems to suffer from a lack of new barriers to crash. Perhaps more to the point, Smith--always a risk taker--gambles a big chunk of this album's success on the very long title cut and then fails to pull it off, allowing the complexity of the piece to collapse into mere confusion and tonal chaos.
Most Smith fans will find much to appreciate here, but it is an appreciation perhaps best enjoyed from an over-all knowledge of her body of work to date. Listeners with limited exposure would do well to postpone RADIO ETHIOPIA until they are well settled in with Smith's unique idiom.