Aural Fixations - Patti Smith’s heralded debut disc celebrates 30 years - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Aural Fixations - Patti Smith’s heralded debut disc celebrates 30 years

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Posted: Sunday, December 25, 2005 6:19 am | Updated: 8:06 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Some landmark albums just confuse the hell out of people on first listen.

Take, for example, The Beatles’ 1967 masterwork "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band," which was met with near universal praise critically.

The exception was Richard Goldstein, writing in The New York Times, who summed up his album review with the scathing "like an overattended child, this album is spoiled" and deemed it "ultimately fraudulent."

Almost 40 years later, "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band" is at or near the top of most lists of the greatest albums of all time.

When I was a teenager I kept reading about how great Patti Smith’s 1975 record "Horses" was, how it changed rock ’n’ roll and preceded punk by a year or two, opening the floodgates for other New York City bands — whom I loved — like The Ramones, Television and Blondie.

I bought "Horses," gave it a spin, and boy, did it suck.

It was nothing like the humorous blasts of bubblegum punk The Ramones pounded out, nothing like the free-form, progressive explorations of Television and certainly nothing like the new wave dance grooves of Blondie.

"Horses" was sloppy, as if the musicians recorded it before really learning how to play. Patti Smith’s voice grated. There was no rhyme or reason to the arrangements of the tunes — they plodded along as if trying to find the scent of where to go, like a bloodhound with a stuffy nose.

I listened to it once through and vowed that would be the last time I ever listened to that junk again.

I broke my vow when the "Legacy Edition" to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of "Horses" landed on my desk last week. This edition includes the original album and a live rerecording of it from June 2005 at London’s Royal Festival Hall.

I was still digging the 30th-anniversary edition of Bruce Springsteen’s "Born to Run" and was stunned that "Horses" was now being similarly lauded with a hullabaloo of fanfare and nice packaging.

Thirty years have done nothing to diminish the stature of "Horses" in the eyes of critics — the album came in at an impressive No. 44 on Rolling Stone’s recent list of the 500 greatest albums of all time — and if anything, the record is seen as even more important now than it was in 1975.

With that in mind, I popped "Horses" into the disc player.

As the opening track, "Gloria (In Excelsis Deo)," chugged along, I was sort of grooving to it — it was kind of like The Stooges, only sloppier, which is like saying the Cardinals play football like the Colts, only worse — and then "Redondo Beach" came on with its choppy reggae beat and surreal lyrics about a girl’s suicide and I paid real hard attention as the rest of the tracks went by.

I can see why people like "Horses," and I can see how it would prove influential to musicians who know only three chords and can’t really carry a tune. As for Smith’s lyrics, I enjoyed reading them off the CD insert — she is a poet of rare talent, and there’s certainly nothing else like her as a writer in the annals of rock music.

But I honestly still don’t get it.

Maybe Richard Goldstein, wherever he is, and I can commiserate on missing the mark.

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