So for years I’ve been waiting for Joan Armatrading’s Back to the Night to be put out on CD or be available as an MP3 or something that would allow me to listen to it again because I only had it on vinyl, and I haven’t had the equipment to play a vinyl record since…well, it’s been a long time.  This is one of my favorite albums ever.  I bought it when I was 18 and living by myself in Portland.  I picked it up in a used record store downtown on a whim.  This was the year after Tracy Chapman’s first record came out, and everyone who wrote about Tracy Chapman compared her to Joan Armatrading.  I’d never heard of Joan Armatrading before that, but whatever all those music journalists wrote about her intrigued me.  So the first Joan Armatrading record I found, I bought.  I probably paid $3.99 for it or something.  I don’t remember.

Anyway, I took it home and put it on my turntable, which lived on the bare floor of my barely-furnished apartment, and I instantly understood the comparison between Tracy Chapman and Joan Armatrading.  Their voices are very similar.  But Joan Armatrading’s music is just so much more…colorful.  It has more…layers, if you will.  Like an onion.  Or a parfait.  Parfait’s gotta be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!  And so is this:

Yes, the sound quality is terrible.  But this way you can pretend you’re with me in my cold, lonely apartment, listening to a scratchy old vinyl record.  Mine sounded better than this, but you don’t have to know that to pretend.

So I’ve missed this record a lot.  The other day I discovered that it was–finally!–available in a non-obsolete format, so I bought it and listened to it for the first time in, I dunno, maybe eight years.  It’s as good as I remembered.  It also takes me back to a time in my life that I don’t remember with particular fondness.  There are a lot of things that remind me of times in my past and I’m not always sure why, but they produce these visceral responses that aren’t entirely positive, but the non-positiveness is not entirely negative.  I can’t explain it.  The feeling is loneliness, and it’s both sad and exciting.  Sad because I don’t want to go back, but exciting because my greatest revelations–about life, about myself, about my work–have come when I’m alone.  It’s not always pretty.  I block out a lot of stuff in my conscious mind, but my subconscious remembers whether I want it to or not.  But I guess I’m grateful for that.

I thought I would feel more complete by this time in my life.

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