Wednesday 14th March
Joan Armatrading 3 So, record number 4 Show Some Emotion came out the following year. As records used to those days. Artists were locked into, what would be considered these days as pretty onerous, contracts. An album a year was normal. So, back in the Sixties and Seventies, they would be touring for months on end, trying to find a space to write a song, then rushing into the studio to record. It is quite incredible that such good music actually came out of these decades. The pressure to come up with (decent) new material must have been incredible. And sometimes it showed. Many albums had a few good songs, maybe one or two superb ones and quite a few fillers too. Joan was no exception, except that her ‘fillers’ are pretty good all the same. On this record she seems to be trying just a bit too hard. It has a more bluesy feel, and apart from the sublime ‘Willow’ doesn’t really hit the high spots of her last one. Too many noisy songs, where she rocks out but somehow she appears to be shouting as much as singing. Other highlights include ‘Kissin and a Huggin’ and ‘Wontcha Come On home’. Although on a second listen it “ain’t half bad”. But Joan has set the bar so high that almost inevitably some records seem just a tad flat.
She followed this with one of my favourites of her early albums, To The Limit. Somehow this sounds much better, more accomplished, more mature. But this record has sad associations for me. It was ’78, a year after punk really broke, though I barely noticed it apart form a couple of singles – it left me cold as hell. It was my last summer with Joy, and I knew it was slipping from my grasp. We had been so happy those first few years, our wedding and honeymoon and the birth of Laura. Very happy memories. Then we started to go our separate ways, me – the Labour Party, and Joy her table tennis. And so we had a holiday in Newquay; Justin was 10 and Laura 5. We were staying in a dreadful hotel/come boarding house, and we were bickering – or that is how I remember it. I kept playing this record, taped onto a tinny little cassette player, trying to blank out all the bad thoughts. And listening now, I still love it. Best songs – Barefoot and Pregnant and What Do You Want. She followed this with a live album Steppin Out . An excellent record of her then band; but I do have a live In Concert radio broadcast from 1980 (on cassette), just one year later and it is even better. I am never sure of live albums, sometimes the versions are almost identical to the record, which is pointless, but sometimes extended versions and a few rarities make it worth it. Some great live versions on this one though I must admit.