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4.1 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 24, 2007
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Product Description

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
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 24, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sony
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,513 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Patti's always had a way with cover songs. In the early days, she'd begin her gigs with the Velvet Underground's "We're Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together." She's always had a tendency towards wacky - I've seen her cover "Tomorrow" from Annie and "You Light Up My Life" in concerts. She's always paid homage to her musical influences - the Who's "My Generation", Manfred Mann's "5,4,3,2,1". Even Prince's "When Doves Cry". Not every cover song can be deconstructed & reinvented like "Gloria." That she pulled that off at all is a feat few would dare, little less succeed at.

I was looking forward to this set of cover songs just to see what was going on in Patti's mind. Her appreciation of rock music, heroes, and history is comprehensive. With Lenny Kaye at her side, a musical encyclopedia, it proves to be quite a collection.

Most of the criticism seems to center around the fact that she doesn't take the bait and tear the songs apart to reinvent them. While that critique is correct, in my opinion, it misses the point. There is a warmth, almost a reverence, to the collection of songs. There is true affection, and a personal connection, to each of these songs that makes Twelve unique in her canon. Never has Patti & Company sounded so relaxed, confident, and warm. There is none of her trademark urgency or stridence.

Instead, her voice shows a new maturity. When did Patti learn to sing? She practically croons Everybody Wants to Rule the World. Personally, I never much cared for the song, but find myself hitting replay for her version. Soul Kitchen has the same relaxed vibe - somehow it's much, much sexier with her singing the song than Jim Morrison's version. I also like the garbage truck story in the booklet about how it came to be included.
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Format: Audio CD
It is almost impossible to understand what tempted the original rock poetess, an icon, a heroine to put her reputation under the microscope with this album of twelve cover versions, with tracks by Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, the Stones and the Beatles among others.
If you love the sound of her voice, it is impossible to find the album entirely without merit, and on the plus side there are laid-back, rocky versions of the Doors' "Soul Kitchen" and the Allman Brothers' "Midnight Rider".
But does the world need to hear her take on Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"?
The interpretations make Smith's distinctive delivery sound like a parody of itself. Because her essence is missing, the album feels like a waste of her considerable talent.
Patti Smith doing old chestnuts from Tears For Fears and Paul Simon holds out no promise of magic.
However, there are joyful surprises here.
"Gimme Shelter is definitive Stones, "White Rabbit" the essence of psychedelia, and "Pastime Paradise" gorgeous beyond words.
With the help of that wonderful voice, still maturing, and a set of imaginative arrangements, Smith has reinvented all three and given us versions good enough to set beside the originals.
Best of all is a banjo and fiddle-driven romp through "Smells Like Teen Spirit" which reveals the splendour of that song in a different light. Seizing the moment, the rock poetess adds some sizzling words that Kurt Cobain would have been proud to call his own.
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Format: Audio CD
Fresh on the heels of her Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction and perplexing as ever (in her case a good thing), Patti Smith has released "Twelve," a collection of a dozen cover songs. The woman Rolling Stone dubbed "punk's priestess and poet laureate" finds a way to cite her influences, take advantage of her recent publicity and also toss listeners a bone until she releases the self-penned follow up to 2004's critically embraced "Trampin'."

In keeping with her defiantly androgynous image, Smith covers songs exclusively written by male songwriters (with the lone exception of Grace Slick's "White Rabbit"), never failing to put her own signature stamp on each. She is not the conventional singer, having gained acclaim for a performance style that lies somewhere in-between singing and shouting, but the selections she has chosen lend themselves to it extremely well.

For instance, she injects a welcome shot of momentum into the Rolling Stones' spirited "Gimme Shelter," while accenting Neil Young's "Helpless" with beauty, grace and intensity. She event tips her hat to Bob Dylan in covering his underrated "Changing of the Guards," a single from his 1978 LP "Street Legal" that failed to make the Billboard charts. Her spirited, toned down delivery invokes a whole new level of appreciation of Dylan's words while also showcasing her astute empathy of them - this is not just any old cover.

The most surprising aspect of "Twelve," though, is Smith's more contemporary choices. Her flavorful reading of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," which hit #1 on the pop charts for Tears For Fears back in 1985, trades in the pathos of the original for a more factual delivery in which the meaning of the lyrics emerges more clearly.
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Format: Audio CD
This is not really a review of Patti's new album, which I admit must sound strange. I agree with the reviewers who say that the album is somewhat flat. I agree that the choice of songs she chose to cover is puzzling. But then I saw Patti in concert. Everything became clear as light. In performance, the relevance of songs like "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and "Gimmee Shelter" was obvious. Patti doesn't see or hear like the average music fan. The lyrics and tone of a song take on different meanings in her world. In concert, at least, she communicates her interpretation perfectly. This should have been a live album. In concert you can hear and see Patti transform "Are you Experienced?" into a true psychedelic event that recalls Jimi's original intent. "Gimme Shelter" howls with menace. She didn't perform every song from 12 in concert, but the selections she did perform bristled with relevance. A lot of thought went into this album. Too bad the effort seems a little flat. Like I said, it should have been a live album.
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washed up geriatric scag
I guess ol' T.G. didn't see Patti Smith's performance when she was inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame recently. "Cut it"?! She f*ckin' SCULPTED it! But T.G.'s clearly not a fan and never was, not having paid attention to her art or life. She was never "drug-addled,"... Read More
Apr 11, 2007 by The Boot Knife of Reasoned Discussion |  See all 22 posts
It's a little like talking about great athletes.
I share your feelings about Patti. I, too, was fortunate enough to see her twice in concert, though I never met her "in person" as you did.

I did meet one of her old band members, a guy named Ivan Kral, who opened a video shop in New Brunswick NJ years back and we discussed the... Read More
Apr 26, 2007 by E. Casagrande |  See all 3 posts
Pissing In The River With White Rabbitt and Patti Smith
You found HORSES in 1970?

Wow...a full FIVE YEARS (stuck on my eyes) before the rest of us.

Can anybody join this club?
Apr 10, 2007 by S. Kurtz |  See all 3 posts
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