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Punk deity still Trampin'

Patti Smith

Patti Smith - Trampin'
(Columbia Records)
4 stars (out of 5)
Reviewed: July 26, 2004

Review by Tony Bonyata

Most artists that are still around after thirty years in the music business are long past the end of their creative ropes. But as poet-turned-punk rock deity Patti Smith proves on her eighth full-length studio release Trampin' - you just can't keep a bad girl down.
With an explosive band - including longtime guitarist Lenny Kaye, bassist Tony Shanahan, drummer Jay Dee Daugherty and guitarist Oliver Ray - Smith carefully balances clobbering troglodytean rockers ("Jubilee," and the swaggering Zeppelin-esque riff that stomps through "Stride Of The Mind") with introspective numbers that she decadently drapes her harrowing vocals over ("Cartwheels" and "Trespasses").
"Embrace all that you fear, for joy shall conquer all despair in my Blakean year," Smith sings, and its this optimistic outlook in a world fraught with pain and fear that makes this album shine. Likewise, on the ballsy track "Jubilee" Patti cries with further hope, "We are love and the future / We stand in the midst of fury and weariness / Who dreams of joy and radiance? / Who dreams of war and sacrifice? / Recruit the dreams that sing to thee / Let freedom ring."
While the simple piano-driven title track is both fragile and beautiful, the only misfire on the album is another one of the mellower numbers. Despite the admirable intentions on "Mother Rose," a song written for her late mother, the end result is a song that comes off more like Madonna in a somber mood than the hardened priestess of punk. But it's the two songs that recall the New York rocker's volatile past that prove to be the most engaging on the album. Both "Gandhi" and "Radio Baghdad" are sprawling, epic creepers which start out as hallucinogenic readings and later mutate into gargantuan rockers with enough power to lay the Brooklyn Bridge to waste.
"Boots that tramped from track to track, worn down to the sole. One road was paved with gold; one road was just a road," Smith sings on "My Blakean Year." While she may have built her career on her journeys wearing down that "plain road," it's also the same one that she's still turning to gold for her admirers.

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