In 2007, Joan Armatrading  got "Into the Blues" and scored a Grammy Award nomination in the process. But on her newest album, "This Charming Life," the veteran British artist is rocking out at 59-more aggressively than she has since the early '80s. In a clearly ebullient but still thoughtful mood, Armatrading strides into the new set with its title track, pondering the virtues of obsessive love amid a shimmering sonic wall of guitars. The track "Love Love Love" is funkier and more dynamic and features the first of a series of hot guitar solos that Armatrading (who plays everything but drums on the 11 songs) also laces into "Heading Back to New York City" and "Virtual Reality." She channels Eurythmics ' "Missionary Man" on "Best Dress On" and incorporates a reggae feel into "Goddess of Change," while "Promises" is a richly detailed waltz that still brims with muscular energy. The song "Cry" and its expressions of jealousy close "This Charming Life" on a smooth soul-pop note, a respite from a tough-rocking ride that shows Armatrading is still formidable nearly 40 years on.
- Album Review