Patti Smith

Passionate prose is old hat for Patti Smith.

Covering Jimi Hendrix is ill-advised for just about any artist. And those who've taken the material on have seldom added anything of value. Patti Smith, however, is a completely different story. A rock icon, poet and punk princess, Smith, who is often covered herself, adds a new twist to "Are You Experienced" on her latest album of cover songs, turning the number into a menagerie of beat poetry and psychedelic imagery. Mixing poetry with music was not a new idea when Smith began turning her poems into song, but she made it a respectable and powerful art form, despite her gritty and often politicized beginnings. From her earliest days in the mid-'70s CBGB scene, where she conceptualized anthemic albums like Horses and Radio Ethiopia, to her haunting, stripped-down '90s "comeback" albums, Smith's self-determination and passion have paved the way for new generations of punkers and girl-rockers. Smith still walks to her own beat — always slightly out of step with popular culture and opinion — while perhaps unknowingly shaping it from an underground perspective. It's unlikely she'd want it any other way.

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