Patti Smith Land (1975-2002)

For almost any other artist, asking fans to suggest the song list for a greatest hits collection would seem hopelessly contrived. But such a gesture from Patti Smith is perfectly in keeping with someone who can sing a song as idealistic as "People Have the Power” and not only keep a straight face, but make you believe she’s telling the truth. This double-CD release (greatest hits on one disc, demos, outtakes and live tracks on the other) is welcome because it’s high time after eight records and a quarter century that her remarkable career was put into perspective. The mere fact that her unfailing idealism has withstood personal tragedies, the music industry and the uncompromising eye she turns to the world is itself worth acknowledging. Add to that the fact that you’d be hard pressed to find more than a couple of throwaway tracks, let alone a weak album, in her entire oeuvre and you begin to realise just how rare a performer she is. The second disc is the treasure, of course. Listening to the handful of live cuts (especially the punishing versions of "25th Floor” and "Dead City,” and a performance of the poem "Notes to the Future”), you can’t help but wonder why she, of all people, has never released a full-length live record. Until she does, just look for the legendary Teenage Perversity bootleg if you’re ever in Greenwich Village, and hope that one day she’ll give us the real thing. (Arista)