Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Joan Armatrading - To The Limit (1978)

I've got no money if you want it....


Released in September 1978

Running time 41.12

This was the third in the credible trinity of albums between 1976 and 1978 that made Joan Armatrading an artist beloved of the cognoscenti. It was the least successful of the three, however, and it seemed that amongst all the punk, new wave and disco, Armatrading was getting a bit overlooked. Her career was revitalised two years, though, with the pop/rock of Me Myself I, but, for me, you can’t beat the understated, sensitive and sensual appeal of these three excellent albums. I remember late nights as a student listening to this in my then girlfriend’s room back in 1979-80. Joan’s songs are often so “break up” oriented, I almost felt I should split with my girlfriend in order to relate to the album! Or at least fabricate a row.


1. Barefoot And Pregnant
2. Your Letter
3. Am I Blue For You
4. You Rope Me You Tie Me
5. Baby I
6. Bottom To The Top
7. Taking My Baby Up Town
8. What Do You Want?
9. Wishing
10. Let It Last                                            

You might expect Barefoot And Pregnant to be a maudlin song, but it is far from that, musically, being shufflingly upbeat and quite infectious. Joan’s voice is excellent on this one, its up and down tone suiting the staccato nature if the song’s beat. Your Letter is a typical slow, emotive and impossibly moving Armatrading ballad. It features a sumptuous saxophone solo too.

Am I Blue For You is a mix of slow blues guitar and chunky guitar riffs over a soulful, brooding vocal. There is a nice bit of spacey, jazzy instrumentation half way through followed by a killer guitar solo. This is a song that builds on the traditions of the 1976 breakthrough Joan Armtrading album. The same applies to the deep soul/jazz of You Rope Me You Tie Me, which also features some fine piano/drum interaction on the faster paced parts. Lyrically, it sees Joan sticking it to a lover who seems to have numerous faults. You tell him.

Baby I is just lovely, a saxophone-enhanced beautiful soul ballad with Joan’s vocal range on full show. This is Joan Armatrading at her very best. The end of the song has a Love And Affection vibe about it, all saxophone and soaring vocals. Joan has always done a reggae-style number well, and she does here with the slow,  catchy shuffle of Bottom To The Top. A surprise is the frantic, rocking fun of Taking My Baby Up Town, which is full of Mark Knopfler-esque rock guitar, swirling organ and an almost rockabilly beat. I love this one, I always did.

What Do You Want? is another 1976-ish Love And Affection-style slow acoustic-driven groove. Man, it is simply beautiful. Nobody does this sort of thing better than our Joan. Wishing is a bluesy, acoustic, plaintive, minimalist ballad. It breaks out eventually to be a dignified, almost anthemic number. That old 1976 acoustic vibe is back again on the final track, Let It Last. Joan had a real skill in building up a song from quiet, understated beginnings and turning them into uplifting anthems. She does exactly that here. Check out that beautiful tenor saxophone half way through before Joan comes back in. Take us to Heaven, Joan. “I’ve got no money if you want it...” was such a typical Joan line too. Great song. Great album. Great artist.