Patti Smith

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 May, 2007, 12:00am

Patti Smith



Patti Smith announced herself in 1975 by transforming Van Morrison's Gloria into what would soon be known as punk. Three decades later, she has devoted an album to making rock staples her own while reminding us of what made them vital.

Smith has always been more garage rock than punk. Other than putting women in the spotlight, she's not about subverting or reinventing rock.

All she seems to want is to remind us of the simple power of guitars and drums and to keep music free of corporate and political pollution. That garage ethos allows her fearlessly to take on the rock canon. She may be the first 60-year-old woman to record Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced? and rock is better for it.

Smith rips the melodrama out of the Rolling Stones' Gimme Shelter but gives the Vietnam war song new power in the era of the Iraq war.

The highlight is the angry, frightened mother of two growling: 'War, children, is just a shot away/Rape, murder is just a shot away'. Close behind is a slower, restive Pastime Paradise by Stevie Wonder.

The antiwar message continues on Tears for Fears' Everybody Wants to Rule the World. Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit opens beautifully with double bass and moves into acoustic guitars, banjos and Smith's free-form poetry.

The sitars are stripped from the Beatles' Within You Without You but not the spirituality. Straighter arrangements are given to Neil Young's Helpless, Bob Dylan's Changing of the Guard, the Doors' Soul Kitchen, the Allman Brothers' Midnight Rider, Paul Simon's The Boy in the Bubble, the REM hit Everybody Hurts and White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane.

Playwright Sam Shepard brings his banjo, joining Smith's son and daughter and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers on an album that should provide at least a couple of tracks for the next personal playlist.