Album Reviews

Joan Armatrading Whatever’s For Us (Esoteric/Cherry Red)

joan

Joan Armatrading
Whatever’s For Us
Esoteric/Cherry Red

Joan Armatrading is an uncompromising woman who has spent the past forty years making music and records that follow her muse, irrespective of trends or one particular genre, blending folk, rock, pop, jazz, and soul into one righteously unique amalgam. Though her acclaim has been more critical than commercial, she has had moments of mainstream success, most notably with 1976’s worldwide smash hit, “Love and Affection.”

If there’s one thing that comes to mind when listening to Armatrading’s debut album, 1972’s Whatever’s For Us, it’s Elton John. One might take that as a dismissive comparison until one considers that the production team backing up Ms. Armatrading included a handful of Elton John’s session men and, most importantly, Gus Dudgeon, who worked with John on some of his most memorable records. It doesn’t hurt that Ms. Armatrading’s vocal range and songwriting style prove quite similar to Elton’s as well, especially on the powerful ballad “It Could Have Been Better,” the mellow “Conversation,” and the gorgeous “Spend A Little Time.” But on “Give It A Try” and “Mean Old Man,” she straddles the line between folk and soul, and the result is an impressive, original sound.

Mostly, though, what one finds here is the sound of a young woman coming into her own and concocting her own style.A s debut albums go, Whatever’s For Us is a gorgeous album, and its unassuming nature served as a great foundation for a long, varied, and compelling career.

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