By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
This St. Kitts woman from Birmingham, U.K., was never much more than a cult artist in America and is now almost forgotten here except among gay women, although she keeps her private life very private and has never come out. The two CDs are distilled from 10 spotty, sui generis big-rock albums, and they just don't wear down. This music still sounds fresh and muscular two decades later, and conveys so much felt intelligence about human relations it's hard to believe Armatrading's a loner. Forthright voice meets shy heart and no one knows who wins, probably including her. I hope somebody loves her, and vice versa.
Five Guys Walk Into a Bar . . .
I'm not claiming there's much competition, but the greatest box-set name ever is perfect for a band that was never as great as it should have been. Their music was so loose and that was such an up; their music was so loose and their songs fell so apart. Come to think of it, bar bands are generally tighter. But if five straight hours of shambolic garage rock is what you seek, you couldn't do betterthe four CDs maintain a raucous level that crests rather than peaks and never gets boring. Ron Wood you know, Ronnie Lane you should. But above all, here for the hearingwhy old-timers think Rod Stewart had something to sell out.