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I cannot believe she programmed those drums (not to mention everything else) all by herself. They sound live, crisp, and swinging, ever more complex with each listen. I better believe, though, that after 33 years of listening, I’m still underestimating this woman. (And that’s eight years after she started making records. So we all have to backtrack.)

Jazz is the feel, swing is the ambiance, but the text is the intrapersonal waxing interpersonal. A very-good-to-great songwriter, she wants to concentrate on (for starters) how lonely people who look like they’re having so much fun, can be (“Single Life”); then, the complexities inevitable in those who settle down, who accept a single partner with all the hopes, doubts, second-guessing, and fear, that implies.

Her private life remains as coy as ever and she still won’t attach gender pronouns to her “you”s, but no one expects otherwise by this point. She shouldn’t be revered for her orientation. She should rightly be honored for honesty and poetry.

She wants to sing about the loving soul including its less savory sides, thoughts of vulnerability and worthlessness and cheating hearts that most of us, I think, carry around and don’t much care to discuss. But which, nevertheless, don’t, ultimately (as thoughts anyway), shame us. She’s even more tasteful with it than she managed in her rocking years. Indeed, it’s all so damned pleasant, so impeccable, so casually masterful, it can take several spins to hear everything she’s thrown away. Leaving the matter-of-factly naked heart.

  • Album: Starlight
  • Artist: Joan Armatrading
  • Label: 429 Records
  • Songs: (1) Single Life (2) Close To Me (3) Tell Me (4) Back On Track (5) I Want That Love (6) The Way I Think Of You (7) Always On My Mind (8) Starlight (9) Busy With You (10) Summer Kisses
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