But you can easily imagine Smith swaying back and forth for three and a half minutes, plinking on a grand piano Elton John-style, her voice trembling for the punishment shes soon to inflict with the songs grand finale. In the liner notes of her forthcoming greatest hits compilation, the songwriter reflects that the track is still one of her favorites to sing, though. Sometimes we love what hurts us, rock supposes.
Due out Aug. 23, Outside Society is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees first single-CD collection spanning her careers entirety, expertly remastered by engineer Greg Calbi and longtime bandmate Tony Shanahan. The title, cribbed from her own seminal 1978 song Rock N Roll Nigger, connects the dots of her songwriting with the very powerful, career-spanning theme of disenfranchisement, which leaked into virtually every important punk album ever recorded. Any sweaty, mohawked guitar player whos grunted about being different has Smith to thank.
Its a careful selection representative of Smiths entire catalogue. Each track pulses harder (and seemingly faster) thanks to Calbi and Shanahans commanding engineering work, from the fearless, fist-pumping opener Gloria, to the dewy-eyed John Lennon-style anthem People Have the Power. Pop songs like the Todd Rundgren-produced Dancing Barefoot, and the timeless Bruce Springsteen-assisted Because the Night seem to glide as soulfully and skillfully as anything these collaborators ever did. Late-career brilliance like Lo and Beholden settles in nicely with the rest as well, a taut, sensual story of power struggle and confusion.
Smiths been due for a best-of album for some time now, and its hard to imagine a better compilation than this one. Of course, any aspiring songwriter would be better-served to just purchase Smiths 1975 debut Horses, which is probably the finest first offering a singer-songwriters ever produced. Outside Society though, does well to capture a once-in-a-generation lyrical talent as its matured into the world-weary character in the final track, the spiritual Trampin, first sung by Marion Anderson. On it, Smith sounds like somebody who after a lifetime singing for her freedom has finally achieved it.Matt Carney