Radio Ethiopia is a 1976 album by The Patti Smith Group.
Radio Ethiopia was the followup record to Smith's widely acclaimed debut Horses. In interviews surrounding the album's release, Smith often said that she wanted "Radio Ethiopia" to be a hit and chose Jack Douglas as a producer accordingly. The music was noticably different from Horses in that songs such as "Ask The Angels" and "Pumping (My Heart)" sounded and were structured like mainstream rock music at the time (both songs have been likened to The Rolling Stones, one of Smith's favorite bands. However, while various songs such as the aforementioned two seemed accessible, songs such as "Ain't It Strange" and "Poppies" were less conventional, with Smith declaring the latter as the predecessor to "Land".
The title track on "Radio Ethiopia" is one of Smith's most notorious songs, almost legendary for appearing to be "10 minutes of noise". Critics often described live renditions of the song as very negative moments of Smith's concerts. Smith herself spoke highly of the track, speaking of how the lyrics refer to Rimbaud's dying wishes. Arguments both for and against the song have been developed by critics, fans and music listeners over whether the song truly is an extension of the Patti Smith Group's boundary-pushing or merely self-indulgence; similar arguments have always surrounded Yoko Ono's early work, which the song and Smith herself have been said to resemble at times.
The album was universally panned by music critics, who claimed that the band (who were criticized as being uninspired) overrode Smith herself and that the music lacked structure. In the greater scheme of things, it was a failure both commercially and critically, though The Distillers covered "Ask The Angels" for their 2000 album. Interestingly enough though, in articles about Smith in more recent times, the album has been called one of her "classic 70's albums".
Radio Ethiopia seems to have been forgotten in favor of its predecessor and the followup Easter, though some fans regard it as a truly inspiring, experimental and ambitious piece of work.
- "Ask the Angels" – 3:05
- "Ain't It Strange" – 6:33
- "Poppies" (Smith, Richard Sohl) – 7:03
- "Pissing in a River" – 4:39
- "Pumping (My Heart)" (Smith, Kral, Jay Dee Daugherty) – 3:20
- "Distant Fingers" – 4:17
- "Radio Ethiopia" (Smith, Lenny Kaye) – 9:58
- "Abyssinia" (Smith, Kaye, Sohl) – 2:10