Patti Smith-Twelve (Columbia)
Where was this album when I was a student radio deejay for KBSU and producing my show called, Back 2 Back, a show where I would play the original version of a song and follow it up with a cover(s) of said song (I once did two whole shows featuring covers of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven). Yes, Virginia, this is a covers album, no new tunes, no original material and at times no new horizons crossed, but that does not make this a bad album.
Patti Smith is no newcomer to the world of covers. In the past, she has done fine renditions of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe,” so it does not bother me that I’m opting to expose the negatives before the positive attributes of this latest recording by the quintessential queen of the underground; it is merely because there are only a few.
To begin with, I have never really liked the music of The Doors and the only redeeming value I find in their line-up is the fact that Ray Manzarek discovered and produced X. So why, out of all the crappy catalog of miserable tunes by The Doors, did she choose to revisit the song “Soul Kitchen,” especially when X had already done a bang up job of covering it and making it palatable to discerning ears. My other bone of contention comes from her cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Come on, Patti, everybody and their mother has done this song and outside of Pansy Division’s “Smells Like Queer Spirit,” everyone of them have successfully made a mockery of the most perfect rock song ever written, including you—couldn’t you could have picked “Negative Creep”?
So, negatives aside, let’s move on to ten songs of sheer bliss and heartfelt renditions. Opening with Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced” is both a call to arms and a call from heaven. Even after multiple listens, I still get goose bumps and become an excitable boy every time I hear this song. Its haunting and ethereal underpinnings not only put me on the edge of my seat anxiously awaiting the next tune, it gives me hope that the rest of the CD is just as good, which up until tracks nine and ten, it is. With the Hendrix tune setting the pace, the following track, a cover of Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” is a goliath of a follow up to the opening track.
The style and mood of the first two songs set the pace for an even more endearing adventure through covers of Neil Young, The Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane and Paul Simon, to mention a few whose works set a pace for a well-rounded and damn near perfect recording. After “The Boy In The Bubble,” the CD takes a turn for the worse, and we get into the earlier mentioned negatives. But, surprisingly enough, Patti bounces back after two stinkers and presents us with adoring versions of “Midnight Rider” and “Pastime Paradise,” two songs that successfully end the CD exactly where it began—with the superlative spookiness and elusive eeriness that can be found on tracks one through eight.