The first album released since Smith had suffered a neck injury while touring for Radio Ethiopia, Easter has been called the most commercially accessible of the Patti Smith Group's catalogue. Unlike its two predecessors, Easter incorporated a diversity of musical styles, though still including classic rock and roll ("25th Floor/High on Rebellion", "Rock N Roll Nigger"), folk ("Ghost Dance"), spoken word ("Babelogue") and pop music ("Because the Night"). Easter is the only 1970s album of Smith's that does not feature Richard Sohl as part of the Patti Smith Group; in one interview at the time, Smith stated that Sohl was sick and this prevented him from participating in recording the album. Bruce Brody is credited as the keyboard player, Richard Sohl makes a guest appearance contributing keyboards to "Space Monkey", along with Blue Öyster Cult keyboardist Allen Lanier. The cover photograph is by Lynn Goldsmith and liner notes photography by Cindy Black and Robert Mapplethorpe.
Easter was highly acclaimed upon its release. Writing in Rolling Stone, Dave Marsh called the album "transcendent and fulfilled." In Creem, Nick Tosches described it as "an album of Christian obsessions, especially those of death and resurrection", and called it Smith's "best work."Robert Christgau of The Village Voice wrote that "the miracle is that most of these songs are rousing in the way they're meant to be."Lester Bangs, on the other hand, began his review of the album, "Dear Patti, start the revolution without me", and contended that while Horses had changed his life, Easter "is just a very good album."Easter ranked at number 14 in The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics' poll of the best albums of 1978, while NME magazine ranked the album 46th best of the year.