If you thought the pairing of Mark Lanegan with Isobel Campbell or Loretta Lynn with Jack White was a odd, then you are in for a treat with the spectacular coupling of Patti Smith and Kevin Shields. These two music giants from different generations have laid claim to legendary status in their respective generations. Smith took the mantle from the New York City punk movement and added a layer of poetic brilliance that lifted the rock scene into a rhythmic form of artistic expressionism. Shields created his Wall of Sound with feedback in one of the most influential albums of the last twenty years, 1991’s Loveless.
While Smith’s form of the spoken word is her voice of creation, Shields wields his axe by layering instrument over others to create a landscape of sound that reflect a multi-dimensional reality through the foundation of songs. The combinations of both highlight each of their own musical strengths and, together, are simply simpatico. Their collaboration fits perfectly with Smith’s first public performance of the prose poem The Coral Sea, her ode to former collaborator Robert Mapplethrope.
There are two complete performances of The Coral Sea. One was recorded on June 22, 2005 and the other more than a year later on September 12, 2006. The 2005 performance on Disc One is more of a eulogized homage to Mapplethrope. Starting off with Shields’ somber organ keys into Patti’s voice through the first passages entitled “The Passenger M.” It isn’t until 5:45 into Part One when Shields picks up his trademark guitar. And this is where the spark happens.
Disc Two is more of a lyrical celebration. The second performance in 2006 is a more solid and seamless effort. On Part Three, “The Herculean Moth” reflects the fingered brilliance being created by Kevin Shields. You hear the familiar feedback and dense chords Kevin has been creating since Loveless. Those riffs mold eloquently with Smith’s elegant prose especially on the finale “The Pedestal” as Shields presses on his atmospheric pedals. You can feel the wondrous alliance in the opening passages when Smith recites. “I will create mysteries…I will break apart new mysteries. I am here. ”
They were there and with every selection you are pulled in to this tribute turned sonic exhibit with Smith and Shields joining forces with admiration and collaboration of splendor and truth. This is more than another live recording; The Coral Sea is a historical document that you must experience. Turn down the lights, light a candle, roll a smoke, pour a glass, lay back, close your eyes and let go by listening to Smith and Shields pay tribute to the late, great Robert Mapplethorpe. Two generations of creative outlaws come together to honor one of the most controversial artists of the 20th Century—a collaboration of music and sound that will move you within the power of The Coral Sea‘s graceful beauty and beyond.
Kurt Cobain and William S. Burroughs – The Priest They Called Him
Sonic Youth – Goodbye 20th Century
Charles Bukowski – Solid Citizen