Patti Smith Gung Ho

Although everyone had reasons to be excited about the comeback of pre-punk pioneer Patti Smith, it was hard to fawn over her first two post-retirement records, Gone Again and Peace And Noise. It's heartening to find Smith find her focus on Gung Ho, with an album's worth of inspiring performances, if not necessarily great songs. "Lo and Beholden" and "Glitter In Their Eyes" are perhaps two of her finest moments, while "Libbie's Song" is an uncharacteristically straightforward country-folk love song. The 11-minute title track dips into the pretentiousness of one of her idols, Jim Morrison, while the lyrics to the equally epic "Strange Messengers" occasionally delve into bland preaching, Smith's delivery and the power of her band make the time fly like nobody's business. It's wrong to expect the youthful abandon of Smith's earlier work, but Gung Ho is a fine example of how we'd always hoped she'd age. It probably kicks proper ass live. (Arista)