by: Patti Smith

Patti Smith was not the first poet to turn to rock music as a medium for their verse, but few seemed as attuned to the possibilities of the music as Smith, and her eagerness to throw off the stylistic gingerbread that had been weighing down rock music in the '70s made her a powerful ally to the punk rock movement, even if her music was wordier and more ambitious than her CBGB colleagues the Ramones. Two of Smith's most important albums are included in full on this special two-disc set. 1975's Horses was one of the most audacious and accomplished debut albums of the decade; from the opening number that reworked Van Morrison's "Gloria" into a fearless declaration of lesbian love (after proclaiming "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine") to the striking title cut that fused danger and desire while the band explored the outer edges of their music, Smith's lyrics were literate but as tough and sinewy as the best rock & roll, and she sang with the fierce assurance of a born star. Smith was no dilettante play-acting at being a rock & roller, and Horses confirms her work was even more powerful on vinyl than on the printed page. 1978's Easter, meanwhile, was an audacious and remarkably successful effort to make Smith's music more accessible to mainstream listeners without blurring her creative vision; producer Jimmy Iovine gave the songs greater polish and punch, and her re-written version of Bruce Springsteen's "Because the Night" gave her a well-deserved hit single. But "Babelogue" and "Rock 'n' Roll Nigger" made it clear she wasn't compromising with anyone, and "Ghost Dance" was a brave statement of spiritual and creative purpose. With Easter, Smith became a genuine rock star, but still sounded like no one else in popular music, and the results were revelatory. Horses and Easter are the two best albums of Smith's first era in the '70s, and if you're looking for an introduction to her formative period, this set is an excellent place to start. ~ Mark Deming

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