sun 01/08/2021

Album: Joan Armatrading - Consequences | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Joan Armatrading - Consequences

Album: Joan Armatrading - Consequences

More love and affection

Joan Armatrading: trailblazer

Back in dark days of the first lockdown when she was birthing her new album, Joan Armatrading was the subject of a TV documentary called, not surprisingly, Me, Myself, I, a fascinating look at a career now almost 50 years old.

It was a powerful story of a woman who has always known her own mind, musically and otherwise, and who has always engaged with the media on her own terms and who has never ceded control of her music or her career to others. “I think it’s possible to be yourself and get on in pop music”, she has said. So she has proved.

Kate Bush was probably the most original of the women who emerged from Britain in the 1970s, but Armatrading was a trailblazer, and I much prefer the rich mahogany sound of her voice to Bush’s. She's a classy songwriter. Who can forget the power of “Down to Zero” and “Love and Affection” with its declarative opening line – “I’m not in love, but I’m open to persuasion” – and sax solo. Two timeless tracks from her third album, the distinctive timbre of her deep voice accompanied by the percussive sound of her Ovation guitar. The most pleasurable of earworms. I remember seeing her at Blackbushe in 1978, the only woman on the bill headlined by Bob Dylan.

Consequences is her twenty-second album and while it doesn’t contain anything as powerful as those two songs, it’s a very satisfying opus different from what’s gone before yet with all the Armatrading hallmarks: from the opening notes of “Natural Rhythm”, there’s no doubt who you’re listening to. As always, her voice is to the fore, never swamped by the arrangements which are, like pretty much everything else, her own work. The lyrics are always intelligible, love at their heart but love found, and the album is well paced, by turns soulful, bluesy, jazz-inflected, and often with intricate cross-rhythms. Vocal harmonies, Armatrading multitracked, are piled up, and sometimes there’s call and response. And then of course there’s Armatrading’s polished guitar work – she started off laying down demos and mastered everything from the get-go – and the memorable bass lines, solos in themselves. You get the sense she writes to please herself, not anyone else – and certainly not to get a hit record, though she’s had plenty,

“Change can heal the world and all you’ve got to do is change yourself” she sings on the reggae-accented and anthemic “Better Life”, on which she advises: “remember how short a life is, plan how you will enjoy it”. An album that begins with the drum-and bass-driven “Natural Rhythm” concludes with “To Anyone Who Will Listen”, a song in which the guitar is notably absent. Instead, Armatrading’s vocal soars over electronic keyboards, strings entering around the mid-point.

Maybe there’ll be some earworms from this album too. 

You get the sense she writes to please herself, not anyone else

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Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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