Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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***1/2

PATTI SMITH
Twelve
Columbia

Three decades after Smith made the transition from poet to rock & roller, we still don't think of her as a singer, exactly -- more a reciter who can carry a tune, kind of. So a covers album showcasing her interpretive gifts is a questionable vehicle. And like most such albums -- there are dozens by now -- it's somewhat hit-or-miss. But when Smith hits, it isn't just a bull's-eye -- the arrow splits the apple and then brings down the bad guy hiding behind the tree. It takes a poet to extract the lyricism of Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced?" from its guitaristics and an avant-gardist to validate a middlebrow tour de force like Paul Simon's "The Boy in the Bubble." And though other winners are more obvious, you'll be convinced that this woman felt "Gimme Shelter" very deeply -- and many years later, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," too.

Rolling Stone, May 3-17, 2007