Saturday, 15 April 2017

"Joan Armatrading" by JOAN ARMATRADING (1997 A&M 'ReMasterPieces' CD Reissue – Roger Wake Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...I'm Open To Persuasion..." 

I can recall vividly the first time I heard "Love And Affection" in the Autumn of 1976 – sophisticated, hurting, layered – it was truly jaw-dropping stuff. And this most famous of her songs has pretty much remained a Radio stalwart ever since. Her third album – the self-titled "Joan Armatrading" is coming up on a 40th anniversary in September 2016 so deserves to have its considerable praises sung "...once more with feeling..."

UK released September 1997 – "Joan Armatrading" by JOAN ARMATRADING on A&M CDMID 104 (Barcode 082839322829) is a straightforward mid-price CD transfer of the album on the label's 'A&M ReMasterPieces' Series and plays out as follows (42:05 minutes):

1. Down To Zero
2. Help Yourself
3. Water With The Wine
4. Love And Affection
5. Save Me
6. Join The Boys [Side 2]
7. People
8. Somebody Who Loves You
9. Like Fire
10. Tall In The Saddle
Tracks 1 to 10 are her third LP "Joan Armatrading" – released August 1976 in the UK on A&M Records AMLH 64588 and September 1976 in the USA on A&M SP-4588. The album peaked at No. 12 on the UK album charts (No. 67 in the USA) in September 1976. The CD Remaster was carried out by ROGER WAKE at Bourberry & Wake and is very clean – beautiful in places. Unfortunately the inlay is a gatefold slip of paper with musician credits and bugger all else which is a damn shame (early days of CD reissues).

JOAN ARMATRADING – 6 and 12-string Acoustic Guitars & Lead Vocals
JERRY DONAHUE – Lead Electric Guitar (all tracks except "Somebody Who Loves You" and "Like Fire")
BRYN HAWORTH – Mandolin on "Somebody Who Loves You" and Slide Guitar on "Like Fire"
PETER WOOD – Piano and Organ (all tracks except "Somebody Who Loves You" and "Like Fire")
DAVE MARKEE – Bass on All Tracks
DAVE MATTACKS – Drums on All Tracks except "Down To Zero" and "Help Yourself"
KENNEY JONES – Drums on "Down To Zero" and "Help Yourself"
Duel drums with Dave Mattacks on "Water With The Wine", "Join The Boys" and "People"
B.J. COLE – Steel Guitar on "Down To Zero"
GRAHAM LYLE (of Gallagher & Lyle) – 12-String Guitar on "Down To Zero"
JIMMY JEWEL – Saxophone on "Love And Affection"
LEROY CHAMPAIGN and CLARKE PETERS – Backing Vocals on "Love And Affection"

Following on from her debut LP "Whatever's For Us" on Cube Records HIFLY 12 in November 1972 and her 2nd effort "Back To The Night" on A&M Records AMLH 68305 in April 1975 – "Joan Armatrading" didn't so much launch her but explode the West Indies lady (by way of Birmingham in the UK) onto a world stage. The self-titled LP was everywhere by Christmas and being praised as one of 'the albums of the year' by admirers in the music press on both sides of the pond and everywhere else for that matter.

Side 1 opens with the magnificent "Down To Zero" – a regular on "Best Of" and "Anthology" compilations and easy to hear why. A gorgeous production by Glyn Johns sees those acoustic guitars up front until Jerry Donahue from Fairport Convention kicks in with that great lead guitar. Kenney Jones (of Small Faces, Faces and The Who) and Dave Markee (of Centipede) both play blinders on the Drums and Bass too. But its those "...first class scene-stealer...brand new dandy..." lyrics that cut into you – announcing with bravado that this is no sappy love song nor is the writer a teenage sucker. The sweet sounds continue with the deceptive "Help Yourself" – and just as you're getting comfortable with it acoustic sway – the song goes funky and angry - genius.

"...Met him on a Monday and he said he loved me so..." she sings warily on "Water With The Wine" and by the time you get halfway though the song you get the uneasy feeling that things aren't going to work out for this Joe Schmo. It’s funny now to think of that deep bass vocal on "Love And Affection" as being Detective Lester Freamon in HBO's 'The Wire' TV Series who used to bawl out Dominic West's character McNulty every week. But the other unsung hero on this classic is surely Jimmy Jewell of Jake & The Family Jewels - whose Saxophone work elevates the song into the majestic. Everything about this ode to love is aching like an open wound – longing for a taste of the real thing - and even after 40 years "Love And Affection" still has the emotional mojo to move a soul.

Side 2 opens with the funky Rock of "Join The Boys" where Joan declares her musical motley crew is "...second to none even on a bad night..." – great piano and organ fills from Peter Wood throughout with both Kenney Jones and Dave Mattacks whacking those skins. I've always had a soft spot for anything Bryn Haworth plays on – a fantastic guitar player who used to be with Freakbeat darlings Fleur Des Lys in the 60ts. Haworth had just put out two solo albums on Island "Let The Days Go By" in 1974 and "Sunny Side Of The Street" in 1975 (see my review for this pairing on Gott Discs). Haworth's mandolin playing is sweetly complimentary to "Somebody Who Loves You" bringing out the warmth of the song - while his menacing chunky Slide on "Like Fire" perfectly underscores Joan's fantastic funky Acoustic Guitar playing. The record ends on the quietly hopeful "Tall In The Saddle" which features a wildly effective guitar solo from Jerry Donohue.

If you want more of her great material – the "Gold" 2CD set from Universal has beautiful 2005 remasters from Erick Labson – but at present this is the only way to get the whole album with 'that' song on it.

I'd love to hear outtakes from these sessions or demos and I can't help thinking that a 2CD Deluxe Edition of "Joan Armatrading" is due in September 2016? Here's hoping...

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