Joan Armatrading

The Shouting Stage

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The good news is that, after several albums of flirting with rock and overproduction, Joan Armatrading has developed a spare sound once again focusing on her songs and singing, backed by such tasteful accompanists as Dire Straits members Mark Knopfler and Alan Clark. The not-so-good news is that, lyrically, Armatrading seems trapped in a romantic cul-de-sac -- when she doesn't have the object of her affections, she longs for him, but when she does have him, she argues with him and suspects him of infidelity, not to mention emotional abuse. There is a traditional sense of relationships mixed in with hints of the nascent "men just don't get it" flavor of '90s feminism. One is tempted to say that you can't have it both ways, but then Armatrading's emotional outpourings have always had more to do with contemporaneous honesty than long-term consistency.

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