Saturday, March 3, 2018

Desire And Hunger

Patti Smith Group : Because the Night

On March 3, 1978 Patti Smith released Easter, her first album since that terrifying 12 foot tumble from a Florida stage which put her in a neck brace for three months. With Jimmy Iovine producing, and a hit single written by Bruce Springsteen, Patti scored a her first Top 20 album. It was the first album of hers that I owned and I can't say I enjoyed it at first. The poet priestess seems to emerge in every other song, spouting out some kind of babelogue ( her word). At other times, the band seemed to rock by numbers, with a kind of mainstream sheen.  And what's with a song called "Rock and Roll Nigger"?

  Horses is the great Patti Smith album. Easter is that difficult third album. Flashes of brilliance. But not sustained the way it is on Horses.

Over time, the album has gained more fans than detractors which makes Dave Marsh's five star Rolling Stone review a much more interesting read:

Easter makes good on Patti Smith's biggest boast — that she is one of the great figures of Seventies rock and  roll. More importantly perhaps, it focuses her mystical and musical visions in a way that makes her the most profoundly religious American popular performer since Jim Morrison. Clearly, there are bothersome contradictions between Smith's arrogance and her preachings, between her utter belief in the power of her own will and her absolute certainty that society's only salvation lies in a return to ecstatic ritual surrender. But Easter, like the rite on which it is based, can't be apprehended rationally: you either take it on faith or not at all.

The magic of Easter is undeniable. It is transcendent and fulfilled, and its radiance must be honored. No one else could have made this record — something that can't be said of most LPs — and for a special reason: no one else in rock and roll would have the nerve to connect Lou Reed, the Bible, Rim-baud, the Paiutes, Jim Morrison, Bruce Springsteen and the MC5. I don't suppose Patti Smith can walk on water. But I'd like to see her try.

Robert Christgau was another fan, giving Easter an A-:

As basic as ever in its instrumentation and rhythmic thrust, but grander, more martial. That's what she gets for starting an army and hanging out with Bruce Springsteen (not to mention lusting after Ronnie Spector), and she could have done a lot worse: the miracle is that most of these songs are rousing in the way they're meant to be. Meanwhile, for bullshit--would it be a Patti Smith album without bullshit?--there's the stuff about "niggers" and "transformation of waste," and as if to exemplify the latter there's a great song from Privilege, a movie I've always considered one of the worst ever. Guess I'll have to look at it again.

  Easter would finish #14 in the Village Voice Pazz and Jop critics poll and #9 in the Sounds Magazine. The single "Because The Night" topped the latter's singles poll and was a runner up in both Rolling Stone's critics and readers poll.

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