Radio Ethiopia - Patti Smith Group

Track Listing:

  1. Ask The Angels (Kral/Smith)
  2. Ain't It Strange (Kral/Smith)
  3. Poppies (Smith/Sohl)
  4. Pissing In A River (Kral/Smith)
  5. Distant Fingers (Lanier/Smith)
  6. Pumping (My Heart) (Daugherty/Kral/Smith)
  7. Radio Ethiopia (Kaye/Sohl/Smith)
  8. Abissynia (Kaye/Sohl/Smith)

Bonus Track: (on the "Patti Smith Remasters" release)


The Album:

Radio Ethiopia was originally released in 1976; it was Patti Smith's second album, and the first credited to the Patti Smith Group. The remastered version was released in 1997.

On release, Radio Ethiopia was absolutely panned by the critics. Which was, perhaps, understandable, as Radio Ethiopia wasn't much of a progression from her groundbreaking d├ębut album Horses; the main difference was that the music was closer to hard rock. Like The Clash's second album (Give 'Em Enough Rope), Radio Ethiopia was accused of being "heavy metal". Granted, some of the songs were a lot harder (Ask The Angels and Pumping (My Heart) rock particularly hard), but the spirit of the whole album was similar to Horses, and even slightly more experimental, especially in the epic title track. Patti Smith sort of followed in the Doors' tradition of having a long freak-out song on each album; The Doors first album had The End and Horses had the epic Land medley; The Doors' second album, Strange Days had When The Music's Over, and so Radio Ethiopia has its title track. It's not as listenable as Land, or most of the rest of the album, but it's still pretty effective, and, I'd imagine, quite thrilling to hear live. Some of the guitar-work is pure white noise; a lot of the album sounds like the group were trying to get as much out of a studio production as possible, especially the layered vocals of Poppies.

After Radio Ethiopia, Patti didn't release another album for two years (1978's Easter). One night, touring to support Radio Ethiopia, Patti was dancing around the stage like a dervish, singing Ain't It Strange, when she fell off the stage. She fell about ten feet, landing on solid concrete. Several journalists rushed forward to help her. Amazingly, she survived, although the fall broke her neck. If you listen to Easter, it's very different to Radio Ethiopia; a lot more mellow, less angry, and sound-wise, more like conventional rock. I just wonder what it would've sounded like if Patti hadn't broken her neck, and recorded it sooner...

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