Joan Armatrading

I am not in love
But I’m open to persuasion
East or West
Where’s the best
For romancing

With a friend
I can smile
But with a lover
I could hold my head back
I could really laugh
Really laugh

Joan Armatrading is a Caribbean-born British singer/songwriter who was a popular mainstay of album-oriented radio largely in the ’70’s and 80’s. On the one hand she fit in so well with the variety of creative, funky music of the era and on the other, she was totally unique. And that voice!

Her third solo album, Joan Armatrading, is so good I could put just about every cut in this post. A reviewer in the Guardian said, that the album “showed that we now have a black artist in Britain with the same sort of vocal range, originality (in fact even greater originality in terms of musical influences) and lyrical sensitivity” as Joni Mitchell.

Here is the great “Love and Affection”:

My wife (a huge fan) and I saw her a couple of times in small venues in the greater Boston area. She is a very intimate performer who has a special relationship with the audience. They love her and they love her music.

“Down to Zero” is a song, I think, about a woman stealing another woman’s man. It is, like so much of her music, uncategorizable but at the same time, familiar:

“Show Some Emotion” is a supercool, jazzy tune. This is what I like about her sound – jazzy, bluesy, sexy – unpredictable. Nothing quite sounded like this on her previous album and it was a nice, unexpected surprise:

Come on try learn to bleed
When you get a bad fall
Light up, light up, light up if it’s nice
But if it’s bad then let those tears roll down

I said, “Show some emotion
Put expression in your eyes
Light up if you’re feeling happy
But if it’s bad then let those tears roll down”

I read an interview with Armatrading wherein she said she won’t be doing major tours any more. Understandable, because as rockers age, they want to jump on a plane and stay in hotel rooms about as much as you and I do.

Of Joan Armatrading, MBE, Wikipedia says: “As a three-time Grammy Award-nominee, Armatrading was nominated twice for BRIT Awards as Best Female Artist. She also received an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contemporary Song Collection in 1996.”

My guess is that if you want to see her live, your best bet might be in the UK. But failing that, suggest picking up or downloading a couple of albums from this era or even her greatest hits compilation. If you liked what you heard here, you won’t be disappointed.

2 thoughts on “Joan Armatrading

  1. Great stuff. I already knew the song ‘Water with the Wine’, but you’ve persuaded me to buy that 3rd album. Never gave her as much attention as I now know I should have ;).

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  2. Yeah, she’s done some great stuff that’s for sure. She also has a couple of greatest hits collections, one of which I’m pretty sure I have on CD. I’m glad you picked up on this post. It does my heart good when we can celebrate artists who are still around and not necessarily getting their due. Thanks for your comment.

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