on 25 January 2005
I first came across Patti Smith on the B.B.C. 2 music show "The Old Grey Whistle Test", I can't remember the year but I think it was round the middle of the 70's.
I remember she was strangely dressed for being on stage, wearing a big black coat and black hat on stage, I thought strange what's all this about and then she proceeded to perform the track "Land" which is in 3 parts, horses, land of a 1,000 dances and La mer (de) nothing could have prepared me for the all out assault on the senses that Ms Smith performed.
The performance that I witnessed was incredible; she was jumping up and down, throwing herself around the floor and this was for the full length of the song and runs at nearly 10 minutes long.
After watching this on TV. I thought to myself I must get a copy of this album, the next day I preceded to my nearest "music emporium", I asked the shop assistant if they had this title in stock, to my great delight they did. I handed my money post haste rushed home and slapped it on my turntable.
As the record played I inspected the cover more closely, the black and white photograph on the front was very intriguing, the image was very androgynous, the sleeve credit was to Robert Mapplethorpe, if you look very carefully you will notice a very small badge of a horse on the lapel of the jacket draped over her shoulder.
The opening track to the album was a hybrid version of "Gloria" by Van Morrison this song had as much passion in it as had the live performance on TV. The following track "Redondo Beach" was a change of pace more reggae in nature than rock with its rock steady guitar sound and off beat hi- hat sound.
As the song "Free Money" started I thought to myself this is more like a 3 chord rock work-out, but nothing previous to this on the album had given any indication of the contents of the track "Birdland" this track clocks in at just over 9 minutes long, what an audio attack she really lets fly, very similar to the emotional displays that made Janis Joplin famous.
Most of the songs on the album were written by Patti Smith and her long time guitarist Lenny Kaye, but the following "Break it up" was co-written by Tom Verlaine of Television fame; the song also contains some excellent guitar work by Mr Verlaine.
Then you get to the studio version of "Land" this is even more of a Rolla coaster ride than "the test" performance.
As the album closes with the song "Elegie" the understated piano sound is welcome rest bite from intenseness of the rest of the album.
When this album was re-issued on C.D. in 1988 the sound of the album was very disappointing, but this 1996 version is a 20 bit re-master with a bonus live track with the producer of the album John Cale from the Velvet Underground playing bass on it which after the bass solo from Mr Cale soon becomes a howling mess of feedback and swearing, and Patti Smith shouting "We created it, lets control it".
This is a collection not for the faint - hearted but for music fans that like their music full on....
on 5 February 2011
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.
on 11 May 2006
I was a little apprehensive about the 2nd album in this set but fear not it is a genuine re-creation of the brilliant Horses and not something sounding like it was made by a tribute band. Like a true artist Patti has lived in these songs and like Dylan is not afraid to present her audience with a 'new' version. Sometimes the memory of the past is too great for the new to be entirely successful but there is so much that makes amends for this. My main quibble would be with the audience during Elergy as, while I believe that lives should be celebrated, they seem to be cheering inappropriately at the names of the 'friends who can't be with us today' and the powerful heartfelt beauty of the song and its strong feelings/sentiments are lost. This is a major mixing error.
However what energy she has let alone the band. Buy it, put the volume up to something reasonable like 9 - remember the neighbours - and be prepared for an urgent need to dance round the room!
on 2 April 2009
(This comes from an extremely poor review-writer)
I first gave this album a listen after seeing Morrissey saying once that this was his favourite album. When I first heard it, I admit, I wasn't crazy about it. After giving it another spin I liked it. Third time I LOVED it. I think it's amazing.
Some people say that to appreciate this album you'd have to live in the time it was released. Whilst I agree it must have been a whole new experience then I can still say, that although I'm only 18 years old, even today, I really enjoyed it. :-)
This was my first encounter with rock as poetry (well, perhaps barring some Rolling Stones songs) and it opened a new universe. The ominous Gloria, the lilting reggae of the sad Redondo Beach, the evocative surrealism of Kimberly and the violently erotic title track were like nothing else in rock music, and they're still unique and special. I'm not crazy about each & every track but they all have great worth and Horses will forever stand as a monument to the best in music. Excepting Horses (title track), the three I have mentioned are quite accessible and hummable to the mainstream (as opposed to Art Rock) fan. Aaah and Patti looks so sexy on the cover.
on 30 December 2005
The magnificent 'Horses' superbly remastered in crisp, clear sound... just as nature intended.
Plus.... The live 30th Anniversary Meltdown performance, not only historical but even better than the original.
As Patti would say 'Transcend, Transcend'!!
P.S. We know you were filming this concert. When do we get to see the DVD?
Along with the debut albums by The Ramones and The Clash, and Television's epic Marquee Moon, Patti Smith's 1975 album Horses is, for me, one of the seminal recordings of the punk/new wave era of the late 1970s. Featuring a mix of semi-spoken, snarling and screaming vocals, and peppered with Smith's poetic lyrics, Horses is my favourite album by this most eccentric and inspired of female artists, despite the obvious qualities of follow-up album Radio Ethiopia, and the smattering of quality songs included on the album Easter.
The album's showcase songs are the extended epics Birdland and Land. The former is a haunting, jazz-inflected and improvised poetic rant by Smith over a backing of beautiful piano playing by band keyboardist Richard Sohl, and culminating in the most melancholic, chanted (and, some would say, out of place) 'do wap' ending ever recorded. Land is quite simply a brilliantly constructed and innovative masterpiece, comprising a spoken, echoing introduction, followed by Smith's outrageous version of Chris Kenner's Land Of A Thousand Dances ('do the Watusi'),gradually morphing into an impassioned Smith diatribe (featuring a dedication to French poet Arthur Rimbaud), and including the now frequently referenced lyric 'the boy looked at Johnny' (Libertines song, Burchill/Parsons book), all with the backing of guitarist Lenny Kaye's Velvets-inspired playing.
For any 'normal' album, two such epics would be sufficient. But, of course, Smith has only just got started. The album's first side (in old vinyl parlance) is bookended by a brilliant cover of Van Morrison's (with Them) song Gloria and the exquisitely melodic Free Money, which features some wonderful piano from Sohl, a song that incidentally was given an early tribute via a 1978 cover on Geordie band Penetration's debut album. Kimberly is another piece of pure musical poetry, dedicated to Smith's then 18-year old sister, the song features another astonishing vocal performance from Smith, and concludes with the magical, repeated vocal refrain, 'as long as I can gaze deep into your starry eyes, baby'. Two of the album's songs are specific dedications - Break It Up, co-written with, and featuring some sterling guitar playing by, Television's Tom Verlaine, was apparently inspired by a dream Smith had which featured Jim Morrison, and Elegie, co-written with Smith's long-time partner, Blue Oyster Cult keyboard player Allen Lanier, is a tribute to one of Smith's all-time musical heroes Jimi Hendrix, and features one of the more conventional, but still heartfelt, Smith vocal performances.
The final song included on the initial vinyl album release is the relatively insubstantial (particularly in comparison with the other weighty compositions here), but catchy, ditty Redondo Beach. Despite its light tone, Redondo Beach tells the tale of a girl's seaside suicide (poetry's quite easy really) - this is a song that has frequently featured in Morrissey's live set list, and you can see why when reading the lyrics. On the CD version of the album, we are treated, as an album closer, to a magnificent live version of The Who's My Generation, on which Smith really 'punkifies' the song (expletive lyrics included). The rendition features a great bass solo interlude from album producer John Cale, and concludes with Smith's appropriate 'cry for action' or maybe punk maxim, 'we created it, let's take it over'.
A fitting conclusion to one of the most important and influential records of the late 20th century.
on 11 February 2014
I still remember the impact this album made on me when it was first released, (I was about 17), and time certainly hasn't diminished it. The live recording of the same songs in the same order some thirty years later only enhances this legacy edition. The original era certainly had its share of classic debut albums - the New York Dolls, Television and the Ramones spring to mind - but this must be my favourite of all. Incidentally, for my money it also has the greatest opening line of all time - Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine. Patti went on to make any number of superb albums and does so to this day but none quite topped this or even equalled it for my taste. Back in 1976 I thought Patti was a complete original - which she is - but she made this unique record by fusing any number of influences as all the best artists do. She's not even subtle about it and whether it's Wilson Picket or William Burroughs she wears her heart on her sleeve. It's the fact that she is first and foremost a fan that's had the chance to do her own thing that is a big part of her enduring appeal. I've heard people knock her for not being much of a musician but she's never claimed to be. She can sing rather well, she surrounds herself with great musicians and her literary abilities are real and second to none in the music world. The whole concoction being delivered with such passion and enthusiasm that it's simply a joy to witness.
on 31 May 2007
Wow it's been over thirty years since I first heard this album (yes I'm that old now!) and yet listening to this again makes me feel like telling you, the reader, that this is perfection. My father had diverse tastes and this was one of the treats for a pre-teen to hear something that was full of soul, emotion and took the listener on a journey. A story is told to the listener in each song through the poetic lyrics and the distinctive voice of one of the greats.
Patti Smith went on to write other good albums, but this one couldn't truly be bettered. Let me just tell you about my favourite tracks.
* Gloria opens soulfully and builds to a gallop you can't resist singing "G, L, ORIA, Gloria". And with the opening lyrics "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine" you realise that this isn't someone who just throws together their lyrics but instead they want them to mean something. That line is just so memorable in itself.
* Birdland is an amazing song, well more a story that meanders along and enthralls the ear and the mind. The story takes you on a journey for over nine minutes and yet you won't notice the time. It'll seem like twenty minutes and 2 minutes at the same time. At this point you'll think things cannot get better, but oh they do.
* We move onto another haunting intro. in Free Money. But don't get to comfortable because the beat will start your toes tapping in no time at all.
*Land: Horses/Land of a thousand Dances/La Mer (de) - if someone asks which Patti Smith song to listen to to get a real feel for what Patti Smith is about then it's got to be Land which consists of three sections which includes the title "track" Horses. This combines the poetry, the story telling, the emotion and soul, the toe tapping rhythms, the raw energy of Patti at her best. This combo of tracks weave images through one's head, this is "art" but not in any negative way as some might use the term, it's accessible to the listener. It's indulgent, but you feel that you are part of the indulgence. It's like reading a good enthralling book where at the end your head is filled with memories from the story as if you were part of it.
This IS Patti Smith, no one else could do this. Without doubt Patti demonstrates "a sea of possibilities".
I'm listening to this album again as I write this review and it doesn't seem dated in any way or form in fact it still feels like it's on the edge of what's normal in music. It is haunting and intelligent.
on 10 October 2011
This is a truly beautiful album and is a great introduction to the work of Patti Smith. On first listening you are surprised by the depth and level of emotion of the lyrics and also what a voice Patti has! The artwork is also a bonus, and it really has become a source album for me as you can really tell how many other artists have found inspiration from Horses.
So pleased I purchased it!