Picks and Pans Review: Secret Secrets

updated 04/01/1985 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/01/1985 01:00AM

Joan Armatrading

Armatrading is a musical jujitsu artist. She comes at standard song forms, her voice low, stealthy, eerie. Within a few bars, another unsuspecting ballad or folk-rock victim is upended and staring at the ceiling. That originality helps make the 34-year-old singer the wonderment she is in Secret Secrets. Check out the daring melodic and rhythmic leaps in Persona Grata. Her voice cascades from a thin but satisfying soprano to a deep masculine tenor. At times it takes on the otherwordly timbre of Grace Slick. On Love by You, accompanied only by Joe Jackson on piano, Armatrading proves how evocatively she can handle a simple love song, too. Producer Mike Howlett, who has worked with A Flock of Seagulls, provides the denser textures of New Wave on Friends Not Lovers and of rock on Moves. In the latter, Armatrading sings, "Poor me, pity on me/ Why don't I know how to make those moves." That lyric is a blatant lie. (A&M)

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