By Tansy Bensusan
Patti Smith epitomises the rebellious, energetic voice of youth. She gazes out from the Horses album cover, a genderless waif, with bold defiance and electric sadness. The revolutionary godmother of punk, Patti Smith was the archetypal essence of the counter-culture genre before it even existed. On its release in 1975, Horses, her first album, was radical and groundbreaking. Today, it preserves its intoxicating power. The fearless opening lines of Gloria, the first song on the album, Jesus died for somebody?s sins but not mine, still reach right to the core of the angry, romantic tumult of youth, with an anachronistic resonance that can only belong to a rock and roll poet. The band, a haphazard and chaotic mix of musicians, with Lenny Kaye on lead guitar, Ivan Kral on rhythm guitar and bass, Jay Dee Daugherty on drums and Richard Sohl on piano, make graceful transitions from melancholic ballads to wild rage and ferocious energy. The limelight is always on Patti Smith, though, as she steals the show, along with your heart and your breath. Deep, raw and immediate, her voice snarls in anarchic spirit, melding effortlessly with the profound poetry and visceral emotion of her lyrics and the original, primal energy of rock and roll. The album is a euphoric blur. Redondo Beach blends reggae and punk in an undulating dream of loss and death, while Free Money is partly a reverie of freedom and partly an ecstatic claiming of it in true rock and roll style. Kimberly is an exploration of sisterly love, expressed in the haunting rhythm of poetic chanting. Bizarre and dramatic, Break It Up urges you to rise up and go beyond your allotted place in life, through the pure, pulsing desire for something more and better and further still. The spoken, rhythmic words of Land and Birdland are poems against a backdrop of guitar, and Elegie closes the album in a final exhalation of nostalgia and remembrance, at once encapsulating rock and roll history and speaking to the faraway future. After decades, Patti Smith remains a riotous, world-shattering rock and roll pioneer, whose voice has proved able to transcend time and penetrate the eternal essence of revolution with raw determination. Patti Smith, anarchic heroine to the lost and bewildered, is as effortlessly cool as she was thirty years ago.