The second disc of Patti Smith’s 2002 compilation, Land (1975-2002), is comprised mostly of live recordings and a handful of outtakes. However, sitting side by side are two beautiful demos – both of which are a must-hear for Patti enthusiasts, or really anyone interested in her saga-oriented, meticulously crafted, art-rock.
First up is a demo of “Redondo Beach,” found on Smith’s masterpiece 1975 debut, Horses. The demo differs most noticeably from the studio version in that the drums are absent, allowing the reggae inspired organ and bass-line to really shine through as Patti recites the tragic and hypnotic story of a lover’s suicide. The near-tropical party vibes of the instrumentation, coupled with Patti’s vocal delivery, somehow both deadpan and heartfelt, play off the grave nature of the lyrics in a way that is mesmerizing and, in the best possible way, unsettling.
The second demo is of “Distant Fingers”, a track originally found on Smith’s 1976 lp, Radio Ethiopia. A bewitching plea of desperation, the narrator longs to be taken away from a dream-shattering Earth, and into her lover’s space-bound ship — arguably one of the more affecting alien metaphors ever committed to tape. Whereas the demo possesses a similar cadence to that of “Redondo Beach”, the studio version emits an industrial, almost dubby bass groove, with bursts of shimmering electric guitar, not unlike something you’d hear on an Eno or Gary Numan record of the era…though Lenny Kaye’s guitar lines ascend into something entirely more ablaze. The demo is heavier on the organ, a deep, resounding reggae groove. The bass-line, here, while still dub-oriented, intertwines with the organ into an almost hypnotic drone. As guitar tweaks and shrieks, Smith delivers her spoken word poetry over this sonic wave of energy, while we, the listener, feel as though we are floating out into the orbit while Patti despairs, restlessly, on Earth. words / c depasquale