Basically a mainstream pop/rock band with hard rock and soul-influenced arrangements, Smith hit the Top Ten in 1969 with their drastically revised cover of the Shirelles' "Baby It's You." Featuring three lead singers and a B-3 Hammond organ, their strongest asset was their most frequent vocalist, Gayle McCormick, an accomplished female blue-eyed soul belter. The 1995 CD reissue on the Varese Saranbande label of their 1969 debut album (LP Dunhill 50056) A Group Called Smith, adds five significant bonus tracks: the singles "Take A Look Around" and "What Am I Gonna Do," Gayle McCormick's solo singles "Gonna Be Alright Now" and "It's A Cryin' Shame," and Smith's version of "The Weight," which orginally was included on the Easy Rider 1969 soundtrack album, even though the Band's original version was the one used in the film.
After the success of Horses, Patti Smith had something to prove to reviewers and to the industry, and Radio Ethiopia aimed at both. Producer Jack Douglas gave "the Patti Smith Group," as it was now billed, a hard rock sound, notably on the side-opening "Ask the Angels" and "Pumping (My Heart)," songs that seemed aimed at album-oriented rock radio.
The Patti Smith Group's most conventional album, Wave was given a bright pop/rock sound by producer Todd Rundgren.
The Patti Smith Group's most conventional album, Wave was given a bright pop/rock sound by producer Todd Rundgren. It was the last album Smith made before marrying and retiring from record-making for nine years, and it can be heard as a farewell to the music business, from "Frederick," the love song to her husband-to-be, Fred "Sonic" Smith, that leads it off, to the version of "So You Want to Be (A Rock 'n' Roll Star)," among the most bitter accounts of fame on record. But Smith also achieves a sense of charm and sincerity on Wave that she hadn't even attempted on her earlier albums, even to the point of her imagined small-talk encounter with the late Pope John Paul I on the title track. Still, the overall mediocre quality of the material makes this the slightest of Smith's efforts.