Patti Smith – Outside Society (Sony)

It’s been seven years since Patti’s most recent album of original material (Trampin’) and nine years since her double-disc career retrospective Land was released. So, without any new material to work with, Sony has just issued Outside Society, Patti Smith’s first single-disc retrospective. Of course, most fans will already own all the music contained here, so one can only assume that this release is aimed at the newcomer who may have been recently made aware of Patti’s music via her 2008 documentary Dream Of Life, last year’s book, Just Kids or the mention in the 2007 film Juno or her 2007 covers set, Twelve.

Outside Society features at least one track from each of Smith’s 10 albums. All of Patti’s 70s album are represented by two tracks except Wave (1979) which gets three. Strange, really, as it’s the weakest of the four. Both Horses and Radio Ethiopia deserve more. I especially would have included Ask The Angels, one of Patti’s most commercial, and rockin’ tunes from Radio Ethiopia instead of the cover of The Byrds’ So You Want To Be A Rock & Roll Star. I would have also included Patti’s live version of My Generation and Piss Factory, her 1974 indie single.

But these are minor complaints from a major fan. I suppose what I and other die-hard fans would like to see is a full-blown live album from the 1970s. Maybe that’s in the cards for later. In the meantime, younger fans have this to wet their appetites. After taking in what is on offer here, they should immediately purchase Horses, Radio Ethiopia and Easter. These are essential album for anyone seriously into rock & roll. Patti and her band (Lenny Kaye, J.D. Daugherty, Ivan Kral, Richard Sohl) perfectly combined poetry and rock, the beat/hippie and punk aesthetic into some of the most sublime music ever created. If you are just getting into Patti, start here but don’t stop. If you are already a fan, just slap on a copy of Horses and immerse yourself in the music.

Marty Duda

“Rock & roll is what I’m born to be” (Ask The Angels)

Click here to listen to Free Money from Outside Society: