Friday, May 30, 2008

Patti Smith Group – Easter

Coming after a record produced by Jack Douglas (producer of such 70’s bands as Areosmith), Jimmy Iovine produces Easter and this is the Patti Smith Group’s rawk album with much less poetic preaching (as good as it was) from Patti and more of a straight r’n’r record.

Opening with “Til Victory”, Easter becomes a manifesto of Patti’s intent on becoming a r’n’r star and not simply a cult hero. A rockin’, super catchy tune that leads into “Space Monkey”. This is a super cool groove and another great number.

The hit of the album is, of course, “Because the Night”, her collaboration with Bruce Springsteen. As odd as that coupling seems, it totally works as both parties retain their personality and create an amazing pop/rock classic. Somehow each seems to cancel out the other’s pretentiousness and just work together.

One of my fave songs off of this record is the acoustic “Ghost Dance”. This has an almost American Indian feel (I’m sure that was the intent) and so is a cross between the Doors and a group chant. I’m probably describing it poorly, but it is a sing-along that just feels real, if y’know what I mean…

“Rock’n’Roll Nigger” never did quite accomplish what it wanted to – to desensitize the word so that it was no longer offensive and was just another word. But, goddam, it is a high-energy, 3 chord r’n’r masterpiece that has been referenced by more bands than I can count. I know people who hate this and think the concept was childish, but I appreciate it and still think it is superbly rockin’! I do remember having a button with this title on it at the time and truly offending my black friends – to the point where one said “what would you think if I had a button that said h’n’h honky”, which I thought was pretty hilarious, though she was serious!
Following this is the title song from the ultra-cool 60’s movie “Privilege”. A great song and a damn clever cover tune!

It seems to me that “We Three” is Patti’s answer to David Crosby’s “Triad”, which was obviously about a ménage a trois, though I’m not so sure about this one. It does appear to be on the same wavelength – just a little more oblique.

“25th Floor” is a heavy guitar/organ hard rock rocker that sucks you in and that does give Patti some room to explore her poetic side as it merges into “High on Rebellion”, but it never lets up. I don’t mind her explorations and this is a good one!

The vinyl album closed with the title track, a keyboard ballad that allowed Patti to concentrate more on her words, once again.

The CD contains a bonus track of “godspeed”, previously a B-side to a single. This is a slow, ethereal exploration that uses occasional finger snaps as the only percussion, other than the piano chords. Nice and moody with sporadic, almost Tom Verlaine-esque guitar figures and an interesting closer to this set.

Easter was definitely a more commercial outing, especially coming after the noise-drenched Radio Ethiopia. It still shows off the strengths of Patti and the band and has some damn fine, rockin’ tunes as well as poetic monologues.