New release from Patti Smith and the first ever cover album from the artist! Scheduled to include guest performances from Tom Verlaine of Television, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Rich Robinson from the Black Crowes.
Both a stopgap release until Patti Smith writes another album's worth of material and a way to keep her name in front of the public after her highly publicized 2007 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this set of a dozen covers finds the singer/poet in an unusually reflective mode. Some of the sources are obvious for those familiar with Smith's influences (the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan), some less so (Paul Simon, Nirvana, Jefferson Airplane, Neil Young), and a few come out of left field (the Allman Brothers Band, Stevie Wonder, Tears for Fears). Smith's innate class and approach guarantees there's nothing awful here, but there also isn't much that stamps these versions with her own vision. She does little more than deliver the words in her unique spoken/sung voice and--except for adding a banjo and her own poetry to an acoustic "Smells Like Teen Spirit"--keeps the arrangements close to the originals. At times she seems distant from the material, running through the Doors' "Soul Kitchen" and Young's "Helpless" with an oddly soulless detachment. Likewise, her band seems to be on autopilot, playing with little emotional involvement or attempts to bring fresh interpretations to tunes that are, with the exception of Dylan's "Changing of the Guard," surprisingly unimaginative choices. Considering the raging and extreme overhaul Smith did on Van Morrison's "Gloria" and the Who's "My Generation" in her younger days, this quieter, gentler approach seems flaccid, even bland in comparison. --Hal Horowitz