"SLEIGHT OF HAND." Joan Armatrading. A&M. After 13 years of working with such top producers as Glyn Johns and Steve Lillywhite, Joan Armatrading has found the best producer for her distinctive work: Joan Armatrading.
Armatrading's imaginative yet restrained production touches--an evocative guitar lick here, a haunting synthesizer burst there--underscore the emotional complexity of her material as much as her strong, husky voice does. Even the Hendrix-like guitar that closes the moody "One More Chance" is for emotional effect rather than mere showiness. (This is also the first album on which Armatrading provides all the guitar work). As usual with Armatrading, melodies, rhythms and lyrics combine to convey a tough, vulnerable stance.
Though not a breakthrough of dynamic rhythms like 1977's "Show Some Emotion" or modern bop like 1981's "Walk Under Ladders," Armatrading's 10th studio effort ranks near those two at the top of her justly respected oeuvre.