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Customer Review

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars She's Good Under the Covers, June 5, 2007
This review is from: Twelve (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. She even adds some of her own poetry to her understated but effective take on Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

Elsewhere, Jefferson Airplane's classic "White Rabbit" and "Within You, Without You" by The Beatles work fine for Smith, although different covers from those bands might have proved more interesting. Still, other covers from the likes of Paul Simon, Jimi Hendrix and The Doors are effervescent, rewarding listens. The closing duo of "Midnight Rider" (The Allman Brothers Band) and "Pastime Paradise" (Stevie Wonder) concludes the album on a high note.

It may be a stopgap release, but Smith has never been one to release music that wasn't worth a second glance, and this time is no different. With an interesting mix of substantial, lyric-driven material she can sink her teeth into, she delivers another fine record and reminds listeners why she deserves her recent accolade.

An exclusive cover of R.E.M's "Everybody Hurts" is available at Target.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 13, 2007 5:39:52 AM PDT
Very good, thoughtful review. However, Grace Slick is not male, and she wrote "White Rabbit." I absolutely agree with your comment about choosing a different song from Jefferson Airplane would've been more interesting. I've always been fond of Slick's "Greasy Heart" myself. Or "Two Heads". But "White Rabbit" is iconic. More importantly, Grace Slick is the role model for the next generation, and the generation after that one, of female rock vocalists. She had riot grrrl stamped all over her back in the flower power '60's. Patti gets major points for acknowledging the debt.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 15, 2007 10:34:28 PM PDT
Rudy Palma says:
I was very careful in trying to verify my suspicion that all songs on the album were by men, but apparently one slipped by me or the information I found was simply inaccurate. Thanks for the clear-up.
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