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Rock - Released June 18, 2021 | BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd

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R&B - Released April 1, 2003 | A&M

Gold is a solid, top to bottom look at Joan Armatrading's ambitious, iconoclastic if often under-noticed career between the years 1975 and 1983. The two discs are literally packed, with 43 cuts, and all the hits and fan expectations are included in wonderfully remastered sound. From "Cool Blues Stole My Heart," to "Love and Affection," and "Show Some Emotion," to "Drop the Pilot," "(I Love It When You) Call Me Names," and even lesser known tunes like "Feelin In My Heart for You," and "Heaven," which closes the set. There is little that's left out, making this one of the most glorious "Best Of's" to come out in the Chronicles series. If there was a true introduction to Armatrading, this one serves the role far better than a mere ten-cut greatest hits. Her depth and breadth across genres and styles and even instrumentation and vocal phrasing are dizzying in their scope. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Pop - Released September 1, 1976 | A&M

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Joan Armatrading's eponymous third album is a charmer, almost single-handedly elevating her into the ranks of rock's leading female artists. Up to this point, Armatrading had shown that she had a lovely voice and an ear for interesting arrangements, but her work had been steeped in the folk idiom of the early '70s. Her third album changed all that, with producer Glyn Johns bringing in members of Gallagher & Lyle, Fairport Convention, and the Faces to punch up her folksy sound with elements of rock, country, and disco. The result is her most muscular music to date, with Armatrading adopting a swagger that showed her tales of unluckiness in love didn't have to have dire consequences ("Tall in the Saddle," "Water With the Wine"). Of course, it helped that the record featured her best material delivered in a wonderfully expressive voice that can capture the shades between song and speech like a sweeter version of Ian Anderson. "Down to Zero" (which features pedal steel guitarist B.J. Cole) and "Love and Affection" are the album's most memorable tracks, the latter breaking into the U.K.'s Top Ten (the album itself made the U.K. Top 20). But what endears this record to fans is the quality of each song; it wouldn't be fair to call anything here filler. The artsy and eclectic "Like Fire," the beautiful ballad "Save Me," and the ingratiating melodies of "Somebody Who Loves You" are just as likely to strike a chord with listeners as the better-known cuts. While Glyn Johns deserves credit for bringing Joan Armatrading's songs into a more flattering setting -- it's not coincidental that the record feels like a polished version of The Who by Numbers -- his real stroke of genius was letting the artist flower to her full potential. For many, this album remains the high point in her catalog. © Dave Connolly /TiVo
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Pop - Released September 1, 1976 | A&M

Joan Armatrading's eponymous third album is a charmer, almost single-handedly elevating her into the ranks of rock's leading female artists. Up to this point, Armatrading had shown that she had a lovely voice and an ear for interesting arrangements, but her work had been steeped in the folk idiom of the early '70s. Her third album changed all that, with producer Glyn Johns bringing in members of Gallagher & Lyle, Fairport Convention, and the Faces to punch up her folksy sound with elements of rock, country, and disco. The result is her most muscular music to date, with Armatrading adopting a swagger that showed her tales of unluckiness in love didn't have to have dire consequences ("Tall in the Saddle," "Water With the Wine"). Of course, it helped that the record featured her best material delivered in a wonderfully expressive voice that can capture the shades between song and speech like a sweeter version of Ian Anderson. "Down to Zero" (which features pedal steel guitarist B.J. Cole) and "Love and Affection" are the album's most memorable tracks, the latter breaking into the U.K.'s Top Ten (the album itself made the U.K. Top 20). But what endears this record to fans is the quality of each song; it wouldn't be fair to call anything here filler. The artsy and eclectic "Like Fire," the beautiful ballad "Save Me," and the ingratiating melodies of "Somebody Who Loves You" are just as likely to strike a chord with listeners as the better-known cuts. While Glyn Johns deserves credit for bringing Joan Armatrading's songs into a more flattering setting -- it's not coincidental that the record feels like a polished version of The Who by Numbers -- his real stroke of genius was letting the artist flower to her full potential. For many, this album remains the high point in her catalog. © Dave Connolly /TiVo
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Pop - Released May 1, 1980 | A&M

On the trio of albums that made her reputation in 1976-1978, Joan Armatrading, Show Some Emotion, and To the Limit, Armatrading relied on the pristine production of Glyn Johns to underscore the sensitivity of her folk-based confessional songs. Here, on her first full-length album in two years, she turned to rock producer Richard Gottehrer and a session band that included Anton Fig, Chris Spedding, and members of the E Street Band, making her case for being a mainstream rocker. The songs were less serious, too, notably the title track, a U.K. hit. (The album's other British chart single was the ballad "All the Way from America," which was more in the style of her earlier work.) The result was the best-selling album Armatrading has ever had in either the U.S. or U.K. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop - Released March 1, 1983 | A&M

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Many of the same musicians from Walk Under Ladders return for The Key, but gone are that album's warm island airs. Instead, producer Steve Lillywhite wraps -- some might say smothers -- Armatrading's voice in sophisticated synthesizers (courtesy of Larry Fast) and punchy rock arrangements that are enervating but less inviting than her earlier work. That more aggressive sound didn't come at the cost of commercial success, however, and both "(I Love It When You) Call Me Names" and "Drop the Pilot" (the latter produced by Val Garay) helped push The Key into the U.S. Top 40. Armatrading has always been an excellent communicator, and when given the spotlight -- as on the otherworldly "I Love My Baby" or the sinister "The Dealer" -- she is one of rock's more compelling female artists. Yet the decision to bring Tony Levin's bass up in the mix and find time for Adrian Belew's frenetic solos sells Armatrading's estimable talents short on some tracks. Thankfully, her humor and humanity rise above the arrangements at welcome intervals, notably with "Everybody Gotta Know," "What Do Boys Dream," and "Foolish Pride." Fans of her acoustic music may find The Key a little too aggressive for their tastes, but anyone open to modern rock should enjoy this album. © Dave Connolly /TiVo
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Blues - Released May 1, 2007 | Savoy

Recording Into the Blues, writes Joan Armatrading on the back sleeve of her first-ever blues album, "has given me so much pleasure," and that pleasure is evident in the grooves. But that doesn't make it a particularly good blues album, or even one of the more notable entries in a discography that stretches back more than 30 years. Her enthusiasm aside, it's ultimately a fairly erratic and mostly tepid affair, jumping around from the autobiographical "Mama Papa," one of the more poignant tracks, to the throwaway "Deep Down," which consists almost entirely of the title phrase repeated ad infinitum over an equally repetitive riff. While no one would claim that a successful blues tune requires profundity in its lyrical content, the problem with too many of Armatrading's compositions here, as well as her production, is that they are not worthy of her proven talent. She's at her most viable as a writer when she covers ground she's already displayed she can handle with panache, as in the naked emotions of "Liza," "Empty Highway" and "Baby Blue Eyes." But when she turns in a marginal track like "My Baby's Gone (Come Back Baby)," it doesn't become her: Lightnin' Hopkins singing "Come Back Baby" is one thing, but on Armatrading, lines as sophomoric as "Don't you know I can't live without you" and "My baby's gone/My baby's gone away" sound disingenuous. Perhaps someone of Armatrading's caliber might have gotten away with faux blues lyrics if they were placed within meatier contexts, but all too often Armatrading's melodies and guitar riffs -- she plays all instruments on the record except for drums and percussion -- are out of the "Blues 101 Songbook," uninspired mimics of Muddy Waters, B.B. King and the like. Some of the most successful tracks here are, in fact, the least bluesy; for example, the ironically gospelized "Secular Songs" and the countrified, mandolin-driven "Baby Blue Eyes." Armatrading is an important singer/songwriter with a soulful touch, but as much as she might have enjoyed cutting a blues album, Into the Blues only proves that the genre is not her forte. This CD was nominated for a Grammy award in 2007 for Best Contemporary Blues Album. © Jeff Tamarkin /TiVo
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Pop - Released April 1, 2003 | A&M

Gold is a solid, top to bottom look at Joan Armatrading's ambitious, iconoclastic if often under-noticed career between the years 1975 and 1983. The two discs are literally packed, with 43 cuts, and all the hits and fan expectations are included in wonderfully remastered sound. From "Cool Blues Stole My Heart," to "Love and Affection," and "Show Some Emotion," to "Drop the Pilot," "(I Love It When You) Call Me Names," and even lesser known tunes like "Feelin In My Heart for You," and "Heaven," which closes the set. There is little that's left out, making this one of the most glorious "Best Of's" to come out in the Chronicles series. If there was a true introduction to Armatrading, this one serves the role far better than a mere ten-cut greatest hits. Her depth and breadth across genres and styles and even instrumentation and vocal phrasing are dizzying in their scope. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released October 1, 1978 | A&M

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To the Limit is a more fitting follow-up to the self-titled Joan Armatrading, as it returns to that album's catchy melodies and fully fleshed-out arrangements. Again, the backing band is almost entirely new to Armatrading, retaining only the rhythm section of Dave Markee and Henry Spinetti from past efforts, but instead of sounding tentative, the band infuses the material with bright and natural music. Although the record doesn't contain any hits -- "Barefoot and Pregnant" and "Bottom to the Top" were the singles -- it doesn't suffer from the dips in mood and quality that made Show Some Emotion less than satisfying. Nothing on To the Limit is obvious filler, and the intelligent track placement -- alternating ballads and rockers -- gives the songs a chance to develop their own identities. Picking the best tracks on this album is sure to be a matter of taste; fans of Armatrading's ballads will enjoy "Your Letter" and "Baby I," those enamored of her island melodies will find them on "Barefoot and Pregnant" and the reggae-styled "Bottom to the Top," and anyone looking for crossovers into blues and jazz can turn to "Am I Blue for You" and "You Rope You Tie Me." The only knock on this album is that it lacks a real standout song like a "Willow" or "Love and Affection" -- nothing on To the Limit is great, but nearly everything is good. One could make a case for something as contagiously catchy as "Taking My Baby up Town," but even that falls shy of her most enduring singles. For this reason, To the Limit is rarely represented come compilation time. Ironically, it's one of her better albums, a good bet for fans who enjoyed her eponymous effort and aren't ready to jump into the rock sound of subsequent albums. © Dave Connolly /TiVo
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Rock - Released October 10, 1995 | Savoy

Joan Armatrading's abandonment of A&M Records after two decades makes sense when you consider that the long-time independent has been swallowed by PolyGram. What doesn't make sense is where she went, the virtually moribund RCA, which managed to release this label debut as though it were a state secret. The album itself is an interesting mixture of the styles Armatrading has employed at various times in her career, from the spare, intimate approach associated with her "Love And Affection" phase to the pop-rock of "Me Myself I." (The coulda-been-a-hit is "Can't Stop Loving You.") Many of the tracks are augmented by strings courtesy of the London Metropolitan Orchestra, though the Kronos Quartet checks in for one track. Romance is the subject, as usual, and, as usual, it is treated in sometimes quirky ways, such as in "Shapes And Sizes," which advises that you express your love while you can because "Obituary columns are full of love." Hmm. This is an album for the cult, which is appropriate, since they're the only ones liable to know of its existence. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop - Released May 11, 2018 | BMG Rights Management (UK) Limited

For an artist well into her fifth decade of writing and recording music, Joan Armatrading has remained more energized and prolific than singers half her age. Following a trilogy of albums devoted entirely to specific genres -- 2007's Into the Blues (blues), 2011 This Charming Life (rock), and 2013's Starlight (jazz) -- a collection of songs composed for a production of William Shakespeare's The Tempest, and a live album documenting her 18-month solo Me Myself I world tour, the British songwriting icon returns with Not Too Far Away, her first un-themed studio album since 2003's career highlight Lovers Speak. Like that album and a good portion of her canon before it, Not Too Far Away is chiefly concerned with various aspects of love and affection as Armatrading unburdens her soul's contents with the frank and approachable candor that is one her hallmarks. Her reliability not only as a writer but as a singer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist, has become a key part of her narrative -- especially in the second half of her career -- and she once again applies these talents, not only producing the album, but playing and programming every instrument and arranging the strings for her only guest artist, the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Opening cut "I Like It When We're Together" is classic Armatrading, pairing heartfelt melodies with smartly crafted rhythmic pop. Likewise, the strident "Any Place" and effervescent "This Is Not That" both recall the bright hooks of her early-'80s new wave output, albeit with a softer edge. That said, Not Too Far Away is by no means a throwback to any earlier phase of her career, but rather a continuation of her shockingly consistent creative expression that has been ongoing since her 1970 debut. That Armatrading is still writing quality songs in 2018 is no surprise, but the single-mindedness of her vision and her doggedness to continue maintaining all aspects of are genuinely impressive. © Timothy Monger /TiVo
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Pop - Released August 29, 2000 | A&M

The Joan Armatrading entry in Universal's discount-priced compilation series 20th Century Masters -- The Millennium Collection is a reduction of the 1996 Greatest Hits set, containing 12 of its predecessor's 19 tracks. Concentrating on the 1975-1983 period of the singer/songwriter's career and culling tracks from six of her 13 studio albums for A&M Records (plus one song from an EP), the retrospective is faced with the challenge of integrating Armatrading's stylistic shifts during the period. Her '70s albums, produced by Gus Dudgeon and Glyn Johns, were folk-pop efforts that brought her a fervent cult following, but in the '80s she turned to more rock-oriented producers Richard Gottehrer and Steve Lillywhite, and made records that reflected the influence of new wave music. Compilation producer Mike Ragogna deals with this by sequencing the material in roughly reverse chronological order, so that it begins with the hard-rocking numbers "Drop the Pilot" and "Me Myself I" and ends with the folkie ballads like "Willow" and "Love and Affection." In either style, Armatrading proves to be a versatile alto singer and an original, affecting songwriter, equally accomplished at sensitive tales of romantic conflict like "The Weakness in Me" and tongue-in-cheek satires like "I Love It When You Call Me Names," which starts out sounding like a first-person account of female masochism, only to turn out to be the ardent plea of a "short, short man" to his favorite dominatrix. ("It's their way of loving, not mine," the songwriter finally pipes up.) Although it contains some of Armatrading's best-known songs, the album is only a sampler. It may serve as a modestly priced way for neophytes to get a sense of her work, but those who are already fans will find it an inadequate summing up of her recording career. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 1, 1977 | A&M

Retaining producer Glyn Johns and some of the same session players from her last record, Show Some Emotion repeated that album's chart success and included two more terrific singles in the same vein: "Show Some Emotion" and "Willow." However, the rest of the album sounds like outtakes from that effort. Gone is the smooth, honeyfied flow of Joan Armatrading; the lyrics seem to lack a sense of meter, the songs occasionally rely on pedestrian R&B arrangements to move them along, and the buoyant melodies are few and far between. Part of the problem stems from poor track placement; the vulnerable "Woncha Come on Home," which would have worked well at the end of side one or two, is an awful choice as the opening track. Placing the similar-sounding "Mama Mercy" and "Get in the Sun" next to each other suggests that Armatrading even had trouble coming up with filler, and waiting until the end of the album to unleash the energetic "Kissin' and a Huggin'" leaves the listener all charged up for nothing. While the title track and "Willow" are good enough to justify the album purchase alone, they're available on any number of compilations. Without them, Show Some Emotion lacks any must-own material, although the aptly titled "Warm Love," "Kissin' and a Huggin'," and the compelling "Opportunity" are worth hearing. Overall, this feels like a step back after her last effort. The fine voice and smattering of rock, jazz, and island melodies place it as vintage Joan Armatrading, but the material is a cut below her better work. © Dave Connolly /TiVo
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Pop - Released November 1, 1972 | Fly Records

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Folk/Americana - Released October 1, 1978 | A&M

To the Limit is a more fitting follow-up to the self-titled Joan Armatrading, as it returns to that album's catchy melodies and fully fleshed-out arrangements. Again, the backing band is almost entirely new to Armatrading, retaining only the rhythm section of Dave Markee and Henry Spinetti from past efforts, but instead of sounding tentative, the band infuses the material with bright and natural music. Although the record doesn't contain any hits -- "Barefoot and Pregnant" and "Bottom to the Top" were the singles -- it doesn't suffer from the dips in mood and quality that made Show Some Emotion less than satisfying. Nothing on To the Limit is obvious filler, and the intelligent track placement -- alternating ballads and rockers -- gives the songs a chance to develop their own identities. Picking the best tracks on this album is sure to be a matter of taste; fans of Armatrading's ballads will enjoy "Your Letter" and "Baby I," those enamored of her island melodies will find them on "Barefoot and Pregnant" and the reggae-styled "Bottom to the Top," and anyone looking for crossovers into blues and jazz can turn to "Am I Blue for You" and "You Rope You Tie Me." The only knock on this album is that it lacks a real standout song like a "Willow" or "Love and Affection" -- nothing on To the Limit is great, but nearly everything is good. One could make a case for something as contagiously catchy as "Taking My Baby up Town," but even that falls shy of her most enduring singles. For this reason, To the Limit is rarely represented come compilation time. Ironically, it's one of her better albums, a good bet for fans who enjoyed her eponymous effort and aren't ready to jump into the rock sound of subsequent albums. © Dave Connolly /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1983 | A&M

Track Record was A&M's initial attempt to present Joan Armatrading's best music on a single disc. The label has since released several more compilations that expand the field slightly by adding material that appeared before and after the vintage years of 1976 to 1983, diluting rather than enhancing Track Record's original selection. Compilations by their very nature can only do a few things well: draw neophytes in with unflinchingly good music, provide fans with the kind of selection they'd put on a homemade tape, and collect unreleased or hard-to-find tracks on an easy-to-obtain album. Track Record hits the trifecta, distilling the best moments from her most popular albums and adding two nonalbum tracks recorded with Steve Lillywhite: "Frustration" and "Heaven" (which did appear together on a single in 1983). The songs are presented in a kind of reverse chronology, beginning with the two singles from her album The Key and following with selections from Walk Under Ladders (three selections, which is warranted) and Me Myself I. The remaining tracks are warmer in tone, as they draw from Armatrading's pre-rock catalog: the eponymous Joan Armatrading and Show Some Emotion. Track Record excels by omission; corporate logic often demands an offering from every album, but this album fights the temptation to play "senate selection" with her catalog, and it's better for it. The addition of "Rosie" from the How Cruel EP over anything from To the Limit isn't the easy choice, but it is the right choice. For both fans and neophytes, Track Record is a runaway recommendation, since a better selection of Joan Armatrading's songs won't be found anywhere. © Dave Connolly /TiVo
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Blues - Released February 22, 2011 | Savoy

Joan Armatrading's 2010 album, This Charming Life, was a critical triumph, as the mercurial singer/songwriter dove head on into rock & roll territory. It was a first. That’s said, it was only one of the stellar studio albums she issued in the 21st century. The largely unheard masterpiece Lover’s Speak, issued on Denon, was her first self-produced, self-performed effort that created the template followed on This Charming Life. That album is among the most searing meditations on love from all sides we have in the pop music canon. 2009’s Into the Blues was just that; her first-ever foray into the genre. She proved not only familiar with it, but that she could flourish in it, as well. Which brings us to Live at Royal Albert Hall, a double-disc CD/DVD package recorded at the prestigious London venue as part of the sold-out world tour supporting This Charming Life. It took her through North America, Europe, and the U.K. Backed by bassist John Giblin, drummer and saxophonist Gary Foote, and keyboardist Spencer Cozens. The CD contains 15 tracks from the gig, and the DVD the entire concert with the full 21-song performance. Armatrading standbys like the opener “Show Some Emotion,” “Love and Affection,” and the still provocative “(I Love It When) You Call Me Names” are given tweaked arrangements to fit this tight four-piece setting. Armatrading’s guitar playing has never been more agile or visceral. The funk rock stomp that is “Heading Back to New York City” goes pretty far in establishing her as a virtuoso. More recent songs, such as the anthemic “Two Tears,” the forceful waltz “Promises,” the soulful, stinging 12-bar “Into the Blues,” and “My Baby’s Gone” are simply electrifying. Armatrading’s trademark understated passion is given full flower. Check “You Rope Me, You Tie Me,” and “Me Myself, I,” originally on Steppin’ Out: The former is a straight-up rocker, the latter a souled-out R&B number with a funky backbeat, which both underscore that despite modified arrangements, Armatrading's emotional depth and unique vocal phrasing wring even more emotion from her songs in a live setting. The DVD was recorded in a four r-camera shoot and captures the concert -- and two performances from Denver -- in brilliant video and audio. Live at Royal Albert Hall is not only the most electrifying live album in Armatrading’s long career, it is one of the most satisfying entries in it, period. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Rock - Released March 25, 2003 | Savoy

When an artist releases something as profoundly moving as Lovers Speak, critical acumen doesn't mean a damned thing. Joan Armatrading's first album proper in five years is a startling testament of artistic integrity, searing emotional honesty, and musical accessibility and sophistication that is literally unmatched by anything on the current musical scene. In fact, the only comparable album from 2003 is Annie Lennox's Bare. But where the latter is an album of confessions and exorcism, Lovers Speak is an unflinching look at the language of love from all sides. It is an investigation into the experience of love, its languishing and loss, and the redemption it is capable of rewarding to those who persevere and refine themselves through heartache and acceptance and tolerance. For starters, Armatrading, who has been known to consort with producers like Steve Lillywhite and experiment with song forms radically, decided to bear the weight of her own production in the chair and on the floor: she arranged and played everything herself. It's as if the emotional and physical and spiritual states explored here are so personal, so full of instruction and transcendence for the artist, that she had to carry them all upon her back as they flowed from her pen, hands, and heart, giving them utterance in the grain of her voice. The title track speaks of the symbolic and actual language of love as if it is a series of mysteries that can only be translated and exchanged among those who participate. "Physical Pain" is a ballad that assumes the consequences for telling lies in the space of love. One can easily picture Peter Gabriel recording this for the Us album. The asymmetrical polyrhythms in Armatrading's guitar playing propel a piano and organic percussion into an anthem that offers the truth of instant karma. "In These Times" is the darker side of John Lennon's "Imagine"; it is just as spare, with piano, bass, and strings accompanying the ache in Armatrading's lyrics and delivery. It is easy to imagine Gabriel recording this song as well. "Waiting" is the most desperate folk song ever written about being the one left, all night alone, while the beloved is adrift in the sea of night. The dawn comes cold, slow, and gray, turning the protagonist from the angry to the worried to the lovesick. "Prove Yourself" is almost a country-rocker, and is the only sensible update to Bob Dylan's "Forever Young." The album goes on like this for 14 tracks, turning over and in on itself with gorgeous pop, folk, and jazz forms, interstitially lacing, crisscrossing, and blending as the emotions so contradictory and tempestuous assuage, confront, and caress one another. But as the album closes with "Blessed," the underlying theme is the gratitude to feel at all in a time when emotion is snuffed out in favor of production, loss, grief, and rage; the simple fact that one is breathing and able to experience what is placed in the path is reason enough to live, and yes, to continue to try to love once more. Lovers Speak, in all its eclectic, musical, and lyrical diversity, is poetry of function and form -- a masterpiece that belongs at the very top of her shelf and should be a contender for pop album of 2003. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Pop - Released September 1, 1981 | A&M

Dominant keyboard lines and the characteristic fat percussion approach of producer Steve Lillywhite completed Armatrading's transformation from folky to new wave diva on this album. Still, it was songs like "The Weakness in Me" to which old fans responded, although the U.K. hits were "I'm Lucky" and "No Love." Another British Top Ten, the album was less successful in the U.S., consolidating Armatrading's expanded following without propelling her to major stardom. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 27, 2012 | 429 Records

Booklet
Soulful English singer/songwriter Joan Armatrading spent her last two outings, 2007's rootsy, Grammy Award-nominated Into the Blues and 2010's propulsive, electrified This Charming Life, testing the boundaries of the genre, channeling both the acoustic and electric histories of the blues with equal parts wit, warmth, and wildness. Released in 2013, Starlight serves as a jazz-centric complement to those two releases, offering up a luxurious set of new originals -- like "Single Life," "The Way I Think of You," "Always on My Mind," and the buttery title cut, all of which find Armatrading handling each and every instrument -- that skillfully bridges the gap between the smooth folk-pop of Show Some Emotion, the amorous candor of Lover's Speak, and the evocative cool of the aforementioned Into the Blues. © James Christopher Monger /TiVo