Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Joan Armatrading: Joan Armatrading [A&M, 1976]
It took me a long time to hear that this forthright (not to say stentorian) black Englishwoman was anything more than a postfeminist Odetta, but it's clear in retrospect that Armatrading was reaching for something more colorful and less pompous even on her apparently folky 1973 debut, Whatever's for Us, produced by Eltonian concertmaster Gus Dudgeon. Two years later, on Back to the Night, she had shucked both the portentous prettiness of Dudgeon and the vague portentousness of lyricist Pam Nestor, but only here, with production from Glyn Johns, does she find a context forceful enough to give her own maturing lyrics an edge. Helps that she's more comfortable singing, too. B