JOAN ARMATRADING – STORY
Joan Armatrading was born
Although she has been inaccurately compared with Tracy Chapman, the two women have little in common other than the colour of their skin and the fact that they are both guitar playing singer/songwriters. The Armatrading family moved to
her 1972 debut album produced by Gus Dudgeon (who was also working with Elton John at the time, hence the participation of musicians such as guitarist Davey Johnstone and percussionist Ray Cooper). Released in the
By 1975, Armatrading was signed to A&M world-wide, working with producer Pete Gage, (husband of Elkie Brooks). The album which resulted, BACK TO THE NIGHT,
featured instrumentalists such as Andy Summers (later of the Police) and keyboard player Jean Roussal, but again failed to trouble the chart compilers. 1976 brought the album which first thrust Armatrading into the limelight. The first of four consecutive albums produced by Glyn Johns, JOAN ARMATRADING
released in the USA and continental Europe but strangely not in the UK. Richard Gottehrer (once part of the Strangeloves and the producer of Blondie's first album) was obviously a good choice, as ME MYSELF I,
released in 1980, became Armatrading's first album to reach the US Top 40 and returned her to the UK Top 10, while it included two minor UK hit singles, in the title track and "All The Way From America." WALK UNDER LADDERS,
Armatrading's 1981 album, was produced by Steve Lillywhite, and among the musicians who contributed to it were the celebrated Jamaican rhythm section of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, plus Andy Partridge of XTC and Thomas Dolby.
was mainly produced by Lillywhite again, but with two tracks, "Drop The Pilot" (which was her second biggest
made the UK Top 20. By this point in her career, Armatrading appeared to have a solid core of fans who would buy every album, but who were too few to provide first division status. 1985's SECRET SECRETS
was produced by Mike Howlett with musicians including bass player Pino Palladino (of Paul Young fame) and Joe Jackson, who was the only other musician involved on the track "Love By You." "Temptation," another track from the album, was a minor
This was her least successful album in commercial terms since her debut, stalling outside the Top 30 of the
1988's THE SHOUTING STAGE
was her most impressive album in some time but failed to reach the height achieved by many of its predecessors despite featuring Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits and Mark Brzezicks of Big Country as guests. HEARTS AND FLOWERS
again demonstrated that even though the quality of Armatrading's output was seldom less than exemplary, it rarely achieved its commercial desserts. 1991 brought a further compilation album, THE VERY BEST OF JOAN ARMATRADING,
which largely updated the earlier TRACK RECORD, and included a remix (by Hugh Padgham) of "Love And Affection" which was released as a single. Armatrading seems to have reached a plateau in her career which is slightly below the top echelon in commercial terms, but which will enable her to continue recording with reasonable success (especially in critical terms) for as long as she desires. She has also contributed her services to a number of charitable concerts, such as the Prince's Trust, the 1988 Nelson Mandela Concert and Amnesty International.
She is equally at home reading through her considerable collection of comics. She is to be applauded for remaining unpretentious, and is also in the enviable position of being able to choose her own touring and recording timetable.
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