Although Banga, Patti Smith’s last album from 2012, charted in a lot of different places, this collection reached Number 2 in Sweden, Number 58 in France and nowhere anywhere else. Bearing in mind she doesn’t sing in French or Swedish it seems quite remarkable. The Swedish chart position is reflected in her winning the Polar Music Prize in 2011 and the French one in her being awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2005 and how these countries honour depth in art. What do their establishments hear that the English speaking establishment doesn’t? It tells a story of one of the great living poetic pop icons of this century and how she is perceived in her own land. Patti Smith was 67 yesterday, December 30th 2013 and she continues to make captivating music and play live concerts paying no real attention to commerciality or her public persona.
The last career overview Land came out in 20o2 and this album covers similar ground but Land included demo recordings and rarities whereas what you have here is an eighty minute general overview of all her albums up to Trampin’ and including the covers album Twelve, (but not Banga as that came out in 2012). So it’s a straight career retrospective from 1975 till 2011. It’s hard to imagine who would want this unless you are making a concerted effort to rediscover her through this collection. For me, it’s beauty as an item and the fact that Patti Smith is one of those artists that every album seems important, even if it’s covers, even if it’s a collection is reason enough. Just hearing the songs in another order is exciting, holding a different sleeve, reading new sleeve notes.
But her force as an artist has been so influential to some that her mid seventies followers have trapped her in their pasts and left her as an adolescent memory. Wave came out in 1979 and in the next 17 years, she only made one album, 1988’s Dream Of Life. But in the last 16 years she has made 6 albums that deserve attention. This may be your chance to get a taste of Patti Smith’s art after the age of 50. She has continued with her poetic vision and her voice has maintained its commanding presence. It’s time for you to catch up and if you were one of the first to hear her like I was, then be glad that in recent years she has returned with something worthy.