This record still sounds fresh 35 years on. Patti Smith here channels some obvious influences - Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed and Jim & Van Morrison - and manages to make a better record than any of them. The secret is that despite being a poet Patti here manages to subjugate the words to the singing and the music. If her early single track Piss Factory sounded like going to a poetry reading, this just sounds like a great record lifted by her gift for language. The playing here is raw and impassioned, but never amateurish. The real revelation is Patti's singing, not technically great but capable of great power and tenderness, it sounds like a real person trying to communicate with the listener, the ultimate hallmark of all great singing. All the tracks here are very good to great, but of particular note are the brilliant reimagination of Gloria that opens and the wrenching Break It Up with superb guitar from Tom Verlaine. Never afraid to be pretentious (both a huge strength and potential weakness) this also includes 2 long tracks Land and Birdland. Land, which appears to be about a rape, is a little suite including extensive quotes from Land Of A Thousand Dances and is quite stunning. Birdland, apparently inspired by Peter Reich's A Book Of Dreams (though given the rarity of the book you would never guess) is the knottiest track here with Lenny Kaye's guitar venturing into free-jazz territory; give it a chance though and it is actually quite beautiful.
Of huge historical significance in the way that it offered a way forward for women to escape the usual roles assigned to them in rock ie the polite singer songwriter or the rock chick ( a position she shares with Joni Mitchell who almost contemporaneously released the adventurous Hissing Of The Summer Lawns). More significant is that regardless of gender this is a great record and one of the greatest debuts ever.