Listen: Down To Zero (Mono) / Joan Armatrading
Me, I never tire of Joan Armatrading, and never will. She’s gone through a lot of musical twists and turns, by her own choice, during the last decade. Some of it, quite frankly, is tough for me to tolerate. But like all true greats, meaning seminally true greats, every album contains, minimum, a couple of jems.
During the span of her career, beginning in the early 70′s, I never missed any of her upstate appearances, where she played on a regular basis. After relocating to New York in ’84, I went to every, and I mean every one of her shows. Three nights at The Beacon Theater, I was there for them all. In fact, I’d gladly drive out to Long Island or New Jersey to catch neighboring appearances. There are no plans to end that pattern by the way.
‘Down To Zero’ still slays every female singer/songwriter in sight.
When doing A&R for Columbia in the 90′s, Jewel had her meteoric rise into mainstream ubiquity. Every label, especially Columbia, was looking for their own version of Jewel. So an endless parade of young nursing student types would schlep through the department, many times with an acoustic guitar in tow, or their parents, or worse yet, both. As soon as the sight of this entered my office, I got straight to the point.
“Are you as good as Joan Armatrading?”
To their credit, every last aspiring hopeful knew her, and would always answer, “Well…..no.”
With utmost politeness, I’d ask them not to unpack or even bother playing me their demo, because I couldn’t tell good from slightly better than good, given that greatness had just been established as outside the realm of possibility. Basically, there was no point. Out of courtesy, I’d shuffle them down the hall to others more qualified in the genre.
A few even got signed. None succeeded.