W.H. Auden, over supper, once inquired of Marianne Faithfull, “When you’re smuggling drugs, do you pack them up your ass?” The question suggests the difficulty some people used to have in taking the singer seriously. Broken English, a scorching comeback album, changed that. Her voice was as carnal as an unmade bed; the fair damsel sounded as if she had come through slaughter. This follow-up does not match the impact of her last album, but the dance rhythms grow on you, and there is still that pained, racked voice. Faithfull is a ravished child of the ’60s still aching for harmony and grace; on T7'uth Bitter T7'uth she airs the bruised ideals of a generation. As sad as it is, it is also encouraging that she still thinks of matters of tenderness and truth.
WALK UNDER LADDERS Joan Armatrading (A&M)
Usually so serious-minded, Joan Armatrading is perhaps the last person you would expect to find at the hop. But At the Hop she is, and that song, as well as another fast mover, Eating the Bear (done in a techno-disco style), are but some of the signs of a punched-up revitalization. Those who have found her reliability dull should be especially glad for the dashing saxophone and lyrics of No Love (“But if you’ve got no love/To give/Baby don’t give it here”) and the hard, clear edge of her vocals on ballads such as The Weakness in Me and Only One. Those who are already fans might even regard this album as perfect.
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