BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd
I saw Joan Armatrading live three times – always good, often great, sometimes transcendent. I grew up with her records, they were everywhere, particularly as CDs replaced vinyl for a time and whole collections were surrendered to second-hand stores. You are never far from hearing Me Myself I or Drop The Pilot on a commercial radio station – to this day. And yet, always, Armatrading made music that was regularly unconventional and just as likely to be folk as blues as rock; a guitarist that loved singing into synths, nearly Germanic at times. It’s a broad church. And I remain devoted.
She stopped touring a half-decade ago or so but the albums continue to appear.
Consequences is another intriguing, delightful, beautiful, brilliant album from an outsider that made her way right in – hit the charts – and then tunneled back, always in retention of her soul.
At 70, Armatrading’s voice remains. She is still the main trader on her albums, across many instruments – both playing and programming, they songs are hers, all arranged and produced by her too. She is a safe set of hands always – whether making ebullient pop music (Natural Rhythm, Better Life) or creating tender ballads that twist and turn musically but avoid twee sentiment (To Be Loved).
I’d say she sounds more contemporary here than any of her peers – but who are her peers? I saw her on the bill with Bryan Ferry one time, another time with Taj Mahal, she held her own with both, and it seemed like a fit. Who else could bridge that sort of divide? And of course the very best time I saw her was on the victory lap, no opener, no double-bill, just two sets by Joan solo – sometimes at the piano, often with her guitar. It was beautiful.
I listen to this new album and can hear moments (Glorious Madness, the title track) that get close to Willow, Love and Affection and some of the songs from her mercurial debut. Yet never does it sound like she’s repeating herself.
Final track, To Anyone Who Will Listen, calls for us to turn off our judgment. That’s all Armatrading has ever been asking. That’s what she’s been seeking – someone to listen. To those that have found her there’s been the reward of philosophy, poetry and love songs. Consequences tells us there’s plenty left in the tank. And that’s a lovely thing to know. An even better thing to hear.