Saturday, 14 June 2014

50 albums to take to my grave #8: Horses

One of the greatest records ever released, no argument!

That's pretty much all that needs be written about 'Horses' as far as I'm concerned, I shouldn't have to justify it. If you've heard it, you'll know I'm right. If you've never heard it, I don't have time for you.

OK, look, it's not just me. It is pretty much universally accepted that 'Horses' represents a significant landmark in popular music. Patti Smith was at the helm of the big ship punk in New York when she released her debut album. She was already known as a poet and had slowly incorporated musical accompaniment into her act. By 1975, she had full band behind her.

It all starts with an ingenious interpretation of Van Morrison's Gloria into which she weaves her own lyrics and messages, including the immortal line "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine." The songs on 'Horses' sound loose - the rudimentary, often improvisatory nature of the music coupled with Smith's free verse (at its very best on Land) and the sympathetic production of John Cale, himself once a member of one of the great influential art bands - yet it all makes perfect sense, gelling in ways it really shouldn't, especially on a debut record.

That 'Horses' has influenced the likes of Morrissey, Siouxsie Sioux, Courtney Love and Michael Stipe, and continues to be held up as one of the finest examples of modern music, even nearly 40 years after its release, really says everything that needs to be said. As for me, it thrills me to the core whenever I hear it. No one could make this record today; it opened doors into a new world, a world that would culturally destroy the one we were living in in the mid 1970s. But if it were to come out today, I don't think it would be held in any less regard, and we'd still be raving about it 40 years from now.

Well, I will be...

And here's a breathtaking live performance on the Old Grey Whistle Test.

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