While Twelve is Patti Smith's first all-covers album, she's remodeled the works of others many times over her lengthy career - her rendition of Van Morrison's 'Gloria' on 1975's Horses is a prime example of Smith turning her skills as a teller of tunes to great effect, treating the song to her peculiar punk-poetess re-visioning and artfully making it her own.
In her current position as thoughtful elder stateswoman of rock 'n roll (her recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame came as a surprise to none, but was only accepted after Smith considered at great length the musical morality of joining that institution's ranks) Smith has let herself be influenced by fate as much as by a desire to acknowledge those that have influenced her musically: The Doors' song 'Soul Kitchen' came to her in a dream and via a coincidence, but the Allman Brothers' 'Midnight Rider' was a song that she just wanted to sing. The over-riding link between Smith and her band of regulars (Lenny Kaye, Jay Dee Daugherty, Tom Verlaine), friends (Flea, Sam Shepard and son) and family(Smith's son and daughter), and the songs included in this collection, however, is that of Patti's belief in celebrating a vision of "three chord rock merged with the power of the word". Accordingly, it's the lyrics and sentiment of each track that Twelve explores most thoroughly, working out the proto-grunge-aesthetic of Cobain via banjos and a spoken-word breakdown, stripping back the guitar-heroics of Hendrix only to follow it up with a politically-charged take on the '80s MTV triumph that was Tears for Fears.
An inspiring reshaping of classic source materials, and a satisfying change from the myriad of others that have attempted to do the same with much less success or smarts. Recommended.