Review: Patti Smith - Horses
It took the distance of many years and a love of other bands that followed in their wake to fully appreciate the importance and greatness of Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye on Horses. I give Kaye equal credit as a guide, songwriter and musician. He put together the original Nuggets LP and for that alone he deserves his own monument on Punker Hill. Allmusic provides a great overview on Patti's career so I won't rehash it.
Gilda Radner on SNL did a take on Smith as Candy Slice. In this transcript of her most famous bit she sings "I'm sexless - I sing loud/ Know that always gets a crowd/ I talk dirty - and I'm proud/ No dry cleanin' is allowed/ I am funky - I don't bathe/ I am rock and roll's new slave/ I am punky - to the graveI can't sing but I can raaaaaaaaave". That summed it up for me for a long time. She was a self-involved lower Manhattan Beatnik hippie poet. She opened Horses with "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine". What else did I need to know.
Until I put this on again recently I didn't realize how much Patti Smith influenced The Styrenes, Life Without Buildings, Sleater-Kinney, PJ Harvey and even maybe NoMeansNo. Patti's voice is masterful, moving from street babble to torch song to holding notes the way Debbie Harry does. I see some Janis Joplin in her delivery, and the band is influenced by The Doors, The Rolling Stones and the Velvet Underground. Kaye and the band work especially well providing intricate backdrops to Patti's singing.
Every track's a winner. Two run close to ten minutes each and are only for when you have the time and attention span. "Gloria" and "Redondo Beach" stand out, the latter set to a reggae beat.
If you have time to burn here's an article on the making of the album's cover, shot by Robert Mapplethorpe.