Horses – Patti Smith ★★★

1975HorsesPatti Smith★★★63RockPunk RockArt Rock

Horses is a nice dose of classic rock a la the Rolling Stones or The Who, mixed with some punk energy and enthusiasm without the blaring distortion. Patti Smith is definitely a good frontman for a band, and brings with her some raw emotion, and a pretty varied vocal range with a recognizable voice, which stands out even more so when looking around the male-dominat landscape of the 70s. 

I don’t like everything on Horses , but there is a lot of good. “Gloria” starts things off right, from its softer, more melodic introduction to the loud, fast-paced outro that displays perfectly the kind of range you’ll find throughout the record. I tend to prefer the more high-energy songs — “Gloria,” “Free Money,” “Land: Horses” — than the soft ones. Her guitar work and vocal ad libs on those songs clearly influenced a lot of bands to come later on in the 80s and 90s, from R.E.M. to U2 to PJ Harvey. 

The softer tracks also have piano work and slow builds that are quite lovely when they pay off as well. It’s really strong for a debut album.  

Patti’s voice can, however, get a little tiring, especially with some of the over-to-top inflections on phrases and the repetitive nature of some of the lyrics, particularly in song bridges and fadeouts. 

I also don’t like the song order all that much, specifically tracks 2 and 3. “Redondo Beach” doesn’t fit in with the rest of the album, and “Birdland” is way too long, with vocals that don’t do it for me, although I do like it as an instrumental track. I think those songs kind of really drag you down before the album picks up again energy wise, and maybe would have been better separated or elsewhere.

A last note, nothing on the album blows me away. I like the songs and the sound, and I probably would have been blown away hearing it in the 70s, but now, with all the rock music that’s come since, like a lot of pioneering stuff from the era it feels a little bland at times.

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