Patti Smith won the National Book Award in the nonfiction category for Just Kids, her best-selling memoir about her years in the New York of the 1960s and '70s, and her long intimate and collaborative relationship with her best friend, the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The book was released in paperback earlier in 2011, and is currently being developed for a feature film with Smith working on the screenplay. Sony Legacy, in its turn, is focusing anew on her musical career: Outside Society is the first single-disc collection of her work to span both her Arista and Columbia years from 1975 through 2007. While Smith fans no doubt have everything contained here -- of the 18 tracks collected , each album is represented -- this disc serves as an excellent introduction to Smith's ever evolving, non-compromising art which combines high-stakes poetry with rock & roll. While her two most familiar songs -- "Because the Night" (written in collaboration with Bruce Springsteen) and her version of the Byrds' So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star," are here; so are other singles: "People Have the Power," "Up There Down There," "Dancing Barefoot," and "Frederick." In addition, her own signature version of Van Morrison's "Gloria" is included, as are more unlikely selections like "Ain't It Strange" and "Pissing in a River" from the highly controversial and enduringly visionary Radio Ethiopia album. Smith, however, is not an artist who can merely be relegated to the dustbin of rock's gloried past, as more recent additions, such as "1959," "Summer Cannibals," the radio edit of "Lo and Beholden," and the title track from Trampin' attest. A nice addition to the set is the radio edit of her version of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," recorded as a tribute to Kurt Cobain, which appeared on the album Twelve. The liner notes offer Smith's own reflection on her songs.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek