Singer/songwriter Joan Armatrading first burst onto the scene in 1972 with the Cube Records release of Whatever’s for Us. In the 40+ years since, the Caribbean-born British artist has released eighteen studio albums, scored three U.K. and two U.S. Top 40 singles, and netted three Grammy nominations in an enduring and rich career. Cherry Red’s Esoteric Recordings imprint has just returned to Whatever’s for Us for a newly remastered reissue.
An early break came for Joan Armatrading when she was cast in a touring company of the musical Hair; the original production of Hair was a fertile proving ground for many young musical talents worldwide, from Meat Loaf to Donna Summer. While a member of the Hair tribe, Armatrading met another rising young talent, Pam Nestor. With Armatrading primarily setting Nestor’s lyrics to music, the pair came to the attention of Gus Dudgeon, by that point already well-known for his productions of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and a stunning string of albums for Elton John. Dudgeon brought on board the crème of Britain’s pop session talent including guitarist Davey Johnstone and percussionist Ray Cooper from Elton’s band. Bassist Larry Steele and drummer Gerry Conway, both known for their work with Cat Stevens, also played on numerous tracks. Del Newman came aboard to write a few orchestrations. Armatrading herself played piano and guitar. Mostly recorded over two weeks at Strawberry Studios in France (later to be known as Chateau d’Herouville, or Elton’s Honky Chateau), Whatever’s for Us featured eleven Armatrading/Nestor compositions and three by Armatrading alone.
By the time of the album’s release, it was clear that Whatever’s for Us was Armatrading’s show despite the crucial contributions of her partner. None of the songs on which Nestor sang or played piano were selected for the final album sequence, leading to reported tension and a break-up of the duo’s musical partnership. Still, Nestor is pictured both in a photograph in the album’s sleeve and on the front cover in drawn form. The album of folk-flavored pop was issued in November 1972, gaining fans including Elton John and Manfred Mann, whose Earth Band later recorded “Visionary Mountains.” But the album didn’t make a commercial impression, and Armatrading didn’t release another album for three more years.
Esoteric’s reissue includes two bonus tracks – both sides of the 1973 non-LP single “Lonely Lady” b/w “Together in Words and Music.” The entire album has been remastered by Paschal Byrne from the original Cube Records master tapes, and includes a full-color, 16-page booklet with new liner notes by Malcolm Dome. Whatever’s for Us is available now at the links below from Esoteric Recordings!
- My Family
- City Girl
- Spend a Little Time
- Whatever’s for Us
- Child Star
- Visionary Mountains
- It Could Have Been Better
- Head of the Table
- Mister Remember Me
- Gave It a Try
- Mean Old Man
- All the King’s Gardens
- Lonely Lady (Cube BUG 31-A, 1973)
- Together in Words and Music (Cube BUG 31-B, 1971)