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Then, after a fourth album that sounded atypically tranquil, she disappeared, without ceremony or fanfare. She moved to Michigan, became a wife and mother, and archly avoided the spotlight in a way few celebrities ever willingly do.

But then she risked marring her perfect attack-and-retreat by staging a tentative comeback. Her late '80s return, Dream of Life, found her grown up and mature but lacking the immediate potency of her early work. She withdrew again, until the 1994 death of her husband, Fred "Sonic" Smith, prodded her into a re-assessment that led her back into the studio and onto the stage. The resulting albums-- the moving but uneven Gone Again and the glorious reconciliation of Peace and Noise--found the ragged heroine presenting a surprisingly reflective, meditative look at life and what it means.

With Gung Ho, Smith moves out of herself and takes on the world again. In fact, she's taking on human history and the most primal motivations of people. With subjects ranging from her father to Salome to Vietnam leader Ho Chi Minh to the wife of General Custer to the legacy of African-American slaves. Her dynamic rock arrangements are similarly adult and ambitious. Gung Ho may not be as primal as her 1975 classic, Horses, or as deeply moving as Peace and Noise. But it does suggest that passion can burn in middle age. It may not be as fiery, but it is just as distinctive and memorable. / Issue 8 - September 5183
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