‘A’ is for Joan Armatrading

Friday 27th April

My CD collection is in almost strict alphabetical order with the odd exception that individual artists are filed by their surname, but groups by the first word in their name.  Idiosyncrasy rules even here with two exceptions, Elton John comes under E not J, and Pink Floyd under F not P; but as they are known respectively as Elton and The Floyd almost universally, on this occasion I might be forgiven.  But A is undoubtedly for Joan Armatrading.  Ever since I first bought her debut album “Whatever is for us” oh, way back in 1970 I would think. I have been addicted to this woman and her gorgeous emotional voice and wonderful songs.  Joan is almost unique amongst black female artists in that she not only writes all her own material but plays guitar too.  She is also unique in having avoided all attempts at manipulation by the great recording industry.  I cannot think of another black female artist with anything like the longevity or independence achieved by Joan; even the wonderful Tina Turner who had such a striking late rejuvenation may to some extent be a product of clever marketing.  But Joan has only ever relied on her honesty, her great voice and intelligent songwriting.  Just listen to Love and Affection, her first big hit and hear how she almost duets with herself, or the warmth oozing out of a song like Willow, “willing to be your shelter” but for sheer guts and emotional integrity try “The weakness in me” where Joan admits the solidity of her old love but the temptation of a new one, and her subsequent weakness in falling for that new love.  Add to this the secret knowledge that Joan is probably talking about her own female lovers and the poignancy is perfection.  Long may she continue, and yes, she is still writing and singing and playing live.

A is also for Air and Arcade Fire and Aztec Camera (and Amen Corner; if paradise is half as nice.)