The big difference between Patti Smith's four 1970s albums and this return to action after nine years lies in the choice of collaborator. Where Smith's main associate earlier had been Lenny Kaye, a deliberately simple guitarist, here her co-writer and co-producer (with Jimmy Iovine) was her husband, Fred "Sonic" Smith, formerly of the MC5, who played guitar with a conventional rock competence and who lent his talents to each of the tracks, giving them a mainstream flavor. In a sense, however, these polished love songs, lullabies, and political statements are not to be compared to the poetic ramblings of Smith's first decade of music-making -- she's so much...calmer this time out. But you can't help it. Where the Patti Smith of Horses inspired a generation of female rockers, the Patti Smith of Dream of Life sounds like she's been listening to later Pretenders albums and taking tips from Chrissie Hynde, one of her spiritual daughters. Dream of Life is the record of someone who is simply showing the flag, trying to keep her hand in, rather than announcing her comeback. Not surprisingly, having made it, Smith retreated from the public eye again until the '90s.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann