Patti's early noughties output has always been overtly political, but few of her latter-day records have the power, the scope, the vision or the FIRE of this magnificent album.
"Trampin" is the sound of Patti trying to "make heaven her home," a message she explicitly preaches throughout the album, which can be interpreted as her heartfelt reaction to the Iraq War & 9/11, and her attempt to make sense of the world as a poet.
"Jubilee" begins the album in a typically beatific fashion. The violins resound over stirring, uplifting guitars as she beats of the message "freedom ring" over this powerful rock beat. This sets the elegiac but hopeful tone for the rest of the record.
Songs such as the haunting "Mother Rose" and the ballsy rocker "Stride of the Mind" are instantly emotional, powerful, engaging, melancholy and impassioned. Patti never lost her Muse, but she appears to have several operating at once on this album.
"Cartwheels" and "Trespasses" are longer, slower songs that explore a darker territory. They can be read as a metaphor for a "shift" in the world, a time when exclusion, danger and terror are playing a greater role in our lives. My one criticism is that they perhaps slow down the pace of the album (esp. "Trespasses") but they are beautiful songs in their own right.
"Gandhi" is an improvised rave-up in the style of "Birdland" but is political and devoid of bothersome jazzy piano. Over an incredible nine-minute build-up, citing Dr. King and taking a pop at the wise one himself (umm... Gandhi), this is a stunningly powerful piece of music. Smith's free-association lyrics have never been as strong as she begs her pardon in the sacred garden.
"My Blakean Year" is written entirely by Smith and has an infectiously hip-hop tang to it. "Cash" has a staggering set of lyrics and "Peaceable Kingdom" is a moving elegy either about a broken relationship or the Middle East. Or both.
"Radio Baghdad" is a towering anti-war rant with a frightening build-up. Around nine minutes in, the music hushes down and Smith whispers over smoky flutes and guitars "go to sleep my child" before the guitars come in, designed to attack like a bomb dropped from the sky. This is the most powerful anti-war song I have ever heard.
"Trampin" (title track) is a gorgeous piano traditional, powerful enough to make you weep. I certainly did.
Magnificent. Essential Patti Smith.