September 19, 1988 12:00 PM

Joan Armatrading

It’s 15 years and 13 albums into her career, and it’s high time to face facts. Our Miss Armatrading will probably never bullet up the pop charts. The musical style of this singer-songwriter is too introspective and uncompromising to fit into the Top 40’s cookie cutter universe. Even this relatively accessible album, containing more neatly turned songs about affairs of the heart, is unlikely to break out beyond the cognoscenti. Unusual for an Armatrading record, it features a notable guest appearance. On two songs, Did I Make You Up? and the title track, the talented and ubiquitous Mark Knopfler takes over the show. His fluid, stirring guitar work elevates these two to a heady pop plateau. Of course, Armatrading does pretty well on her own, as on the simple Stronger Love, on which her emotional delivery is couched in a setting of piano, sax and strings. She missteps a few times, with the blustery Straight Talk for instance. But Words and The Devil I Know both have enough rock instrumental oomph to muscle their way onto radio-play lists in a reasonable world. But then this isn’t a reasonable world, or there wouldn’t be a Tiffany, would there? (A & M)

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