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Music Review: Patti Smith – Twelve

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It’s hard to believe that Patti Smith is now 60 years-old, but she is, and she’s just released a new album titled Twelve in reference to the 12 cover songs that appear on the disc.  This album is a playlist unto itself.

Anyone familiar with Patti Smith knows that she can do wonders with the music of others. And although she’s had only one certified “hit” in her long career, she is one of the most influential women in rock history as her induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last month testifies.

The song “Because The Night“, from her 1978 album Easter reached number 13 on the Hot 100 Billboard chart.  Many people think this is a Bruce Springsteen cover, but it was actually composed by both Springsteen and Smith. They collaborated while Bruce was recording Darkness On The Edge Of Town in the studio next door.

Smith has also left an impression with classic re-workings of Van Morrisson’s “Gloria” and Chris Kenner’s “Land of A Thousand Dances”, so it’s no surprise that she return with an album’s worth of remakes  in 2007.

Did she succeed? Well, the answer to that question is, “partially.”

First off, her song selection is excellent, it’s diverse across genre, but is tied together by a simple fact; every single track holds the distinction of being a legendary song.
Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?”, The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter (mp3)”, Tears For Fears “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”,  Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”, Paul Simon’s “Boy In The Bubble”, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” are all included, plus  6 more equally important songs.

For the most part, each song is reproduced to include all of the elements that made the original a hit, but with stripped-down instrumentation. The unifying factor is Smith’s voice. It’s as strong as ever. 

You won’t find any second-career launching moments, but the album, as a whole, is solid and a pleasant listen, even for those not familiar with Smith’s work.

Listen to this album for free in full through your browser by clicking here.


1. Are You Experienced?
2. Everybody Wants To Rule The World
3. Helpless
4. Gimme Shelter
5. Within You Without You
6. White Rabbit
7. Changing Of The Guards
8. The Boy In The Bubble
9. Soul Kitchen
10. Smells Like Teen Spirit
11. Midnight Rider
12. Pastime Paradise 


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About Robert of the Radish

  • John

    Well.. it is a Springsteen cover.. to some degree. He wrote it, she borrowed it, tweaked it a bit and that’s how we have the song as it stands today.

  • Sorry John, it’s not a cover. It was co-writte by both as I described.

    You can check the credits on your record or at All Music Guide if you don’t believe me.

  • Well John, you’re wrong according to both the story and the publishing credits.

    Check the credits on the record or at All Music Guide.

  • It is co-written, but I think “Because the Night” is more Springsteen than Smith.

    I think he originally intended to use it for Darkness on the Edge of Town and just decided against it. It very clearly fits into the mood of that album, with him in his working-class mode, with lyrics about working all day in the hot sun and coming home to his girl and so forth. It has his same operatic (or if you prefer, bombastic) heft. You can hear all this when you hear him do it in concert (on his massive live album, for example.)

    Smith changed the gender and turned it into an impassioned hymn to desire. But I think the music and lyrics were mostly set in place by the time it got around to her.

    I love both versions — and I routinely hate any others, such as Natalie Merchant’s, which is abysmal.

    Interestingly, Springsteen also co-wrote a song with Warren Zevon, but in that case all Springsteen supplied was a title.

  • John

    lol.. yes.. the “credits” list both, you’re right.

    They were both in the same studio working on albums. Springsteen wrote it, gave it to Smith to use. She changed some of they lyrics (as Rodney stated) in a gender sense (as well as the beat, to some extent).

    Springsteen’s original was more Latin-flavored.