Joan Armatrading

Hearts and Flowers

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For much of her 12th new studio album, Joan Armatrading sounds like she is ending a bad relationship, but by the last two songs she sounds like she's beginning a good one. Still, she finds herself pledging herself to someone she worries may not have the same commitment she does. Thus, perhaps the album's signal song (and Armatrading's first UK chart single in five years) is "More Than One Kind Of Love," in which she touts the value of friendship over romance: "Good friendships seldom die," she sings, and we are painfully aware that, especially in Armatrading's world, even good love affairs seldom live. Still, this is less a revelation than an incremental development in the artist's work, and Hearts And Flowers doesn't contain any songs that rank among her best.

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