I type this with astounded, happy tears in my eyes. I never expected to see legendary, iconic Poet/Punk Singer Patti Smith in person. But she was just announced as one of the presenters at the WV Music Hall of Fame on February 10, 2018 at the WV Culture Center. Smith will induct Fred “Sonic” Smith into the WVMHOF. The other inductees are Hasil Adkins, Ann Magnuson, Frank Hutchison, The Morris Brothers, and Michael W. Smith.
Field recordings of Ibiza melt into an ambient, swirling melody layered beneath Patti Smith’s trippy spoken word vocal. Smith is joined by Soundwalk Collective and Jesse Paris Smith in this Nico cover, the last song Nico performed with sounds from the city in which she died. The result is mesmeric. The track is featured on the trio’s upcoming Nico tribute album, Killer Road.
Punk legend Patti Smith just released her eleventh studio album, Banga. It’s her first release of original material since 2004’s exquisite Trampin’, so to say I was excited would be a ridiculous understatement. Largely inspired by Patti’s travels and companions, Banga is an album of quiet exploration rather than the growling defiance that marked Patti’s earlier releases.
The gentle, semi-spoken word opener, “Amerigo,” reimagines Amerigo Vespucci’s 1497 journey to the New World.
It’s the stunning ode to post-tsunami Japan “Fuji-san” and the album’s swirling title track that let you know without question that this is indeed a Patti Smith album. You can hear the two tracks at NPR and Rolling Stone respectively and watch the official videos for the tracks below.
Other standouts are the mournful ballad “Maria” and the atmospheric “Seneca.”
“This Is The Girl” is a retro-pop tribute to Amy Winehouse, while “Nine” was written for actor Johnny Depp. Both songs are an ill-fit for Patti’s voice and for the overall album, but it’s the thought that counts?
I, like most Patti Smith fans, hold her in such reverence that it pains me to say anything negative about her art. If I’m to be honest, however, I must admit Banga doesn’t enthrall me nearly as much as classic albums like Horses or even the more recent and astounding Trampin’. That being said, it’s a bit like comparing a lesser Van Gogh sketch to Starry Night – it’s still Van Gogh. Banga may not be a Patti Smith masterpiece, but it’s still Patti Smith.
Patti Smith’s Twelve was released today. The album is a collection of cover songs by one of my top three artists (the other two are Nina & Billie). I hope to review the new CD soon, but I’m having some difficulty tracking it down in local music stores so it may be a while. Until then, here is a Patti original inspired by the release of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner who had been detained for over four years.
Marian Anderson was the first African American to perform with the Metropolitan Opera. Born in Philadelphia in 1897, she started singing with a church choir when she was just 6 years old.
Marian faced rejection throughout her life and career, simply because of the colour of her skin. The most famous example of this discrimination was in 1939 when she was barred from performing at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). DAR had the practice of the time of banning African American performers from the venue. Eleanor Roosevelt championed Anderson by resigning from DAR in protest, and organizing a performance for her before an audience of approximately 75,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial on April 9, 1939.
Marian retired in 1965, after a celebrated career that broke many of the barriers that previously existed for African-American performers in the U.S. She died in 1993 at the age of 96.
Historical relevance aside, Marian Anderson had a truly exceptional voice. Whether singing classical music or traditional hymns (such as featured on her excellent album Spirituals), her voice had a soaring, operatic quality that transformed even the most simple of songs into a haunting aria. “City Called Heaven”, for example, could rival Maria Callas’ “La Momma Morta” in its chills production.
It’s interesting to compare Marian’s recording of “Trampin'” to the version on Patti Smith’s album Trampin’. Though Anderson’s version is definitely truer to the mournful sorrow of the original spiritual, Smith’s gravely voice adds a weary tone of age and experience to it. Such as Johnny Cash’s voice did when he covered Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt. And to me, that’s a very good thing.
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