To the Limit (Joan Armatrading album)

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To the Limit
To the Limit - Joan Armatrading.jpg
Studio album by Joan Armatrading
Released 1978
Recorded Olympic Studios, London
Genre Pop
Length 41:12
Label A&M
Producer Glyn Johns
Joan Armatrading chronology
Show Some Emotion
(1977)Show Some Emotion1977
To the Limit
Steppin' Out
(1979)Steppin' Out1979

To the Limit is the fifth studio album by British singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading, released in September 1978 by A&M (AMLH64732).


The album was Armatrading's third and final studio collaboration with producer Glyn Johns. It was recorded at Olympic Studios in the London suburb of Barnes and mastered at The Mastering Lab, Los Angeles. To the Limit marks a departure from her previous work, as she wanted to move away from the formal sound of a studio album and aim more for the feel of a live performance, while retaining the quality of a studio. To this end she used half the number of musicians she previously had, used a live studio band, and kept overdubs to a minimum.[1]

Dave Markee and Henry Spinetti stayed on from Armatrading's previous album Show Some Emotion while Red Young and Quitman Dennis joined from her live band and Dick Simms from Eric Clapton's band. Phil Palmer had previously worked with David Bowie and Frank Zappa, and is the nephew of Ray and Dave Davies of The Kinks.[2]

Annie Leibovitz, who did the photography, was the first woman to photograph Armatrading for an album cover. The pictures show Joan relaxing at her home, which was then in Sutton. Leibovitz spent four days with Joan at her home to capture the pictures.[3]

To the Limit is an "aspects of love" album with the songs being a series of letters or private conversations addressed to the lover, and it reached number 13 in the British album chart. Armatrading did not tour following its release, the first time she had not done so.

The songs[edit]

"Bottom to the Top" was Armatrading's first flirtation with reggae (although there were reggae influences on Show Some Emotion) and the song arose from hearing some records which her younger brother had. She wanted to get as close to an authentic sound as possible, so the song was recorded in one take.[4]

"Barefoot and Pregnant" was written after a conversation with her agent, during which Armatrading heard the expression "barefoot and pregnant"; used in the women's movement at the time. She was intrigued by the expression and wanted to write a song with that title.

The idea for "Your Letter" arose from a conversation Armatrading had with the American singer Bonnie Raitt who described finding a letter "she shouldn't have seen".[5]

"Taking My Baby Up Town" extends the theme of the song "Kissin' and a Huggin'" from Show Some Emotion and it was put to Armatrading by Penny Valentine of Melody Maker that the song was about gay relationships, though she denied this was the case.[6]

The song "Wishing" is a blues influenced number and was described by Armatrading as "the first bit of poetry I've ever written".[7]

"Let It Last" is influenced by country and gospel music.

The songs "Bottom to the Top", "Barefoot and Pregnant", "You Rope You Tie Me" and "Your Letter" have subsequently appeared on compilation albums. "Barefoot and Pregnant", "Bottom to the Top" and "Takin' My Baby Uptown" were released as singles. "You Rope You Tie Me", "Barefoot and Pregnant" and "Takin' My Baby Uptown" were included in the set list for Armatrading's seminal concert at the Rockpalast in Cologne in 1979. "You Rope You Tie Me" was included on Armatrading's 1979 live album Steppin' Out.


The album was critically well received and made it to number 13 in the British album charts, and number 42 on the Australian Kent Music Report albums chart.[8] Dave Connolly of Allmusic described it as "one of her better albums", stating that "nothing on To the Limit is great, but nearly everything is good". He gave the album a star rating of 3.5 out of 5.[9] The album also received a 3.5 out of 5 star rating on Discogs.[10]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Joan Armatrading.

Side 1[edit]

  1. "Barefoot and Pregnant" 3:40
  2. "Your Letter” 3:40
  3. "Am I Blue For You" 4:24
  4. "You Rope You Tie Me" 4:08
  5. "Baby I" 4:52

Side 2[edit]

  1. "Bottom to the Top" 3:34
  2. "Taking My Baby Up Town" 3:25
  3. "What Do You Want" 3:44
  4. "Wishing" 4:48
  5. "Let it Last" 4:57



  1. ^ Mayes, p. 83
  2. ^ Mayes, p. 84
  3. ^ Mayes, p. 86
  4. ^ Mayes, p. 85
  5. ^ Mayes, p. 87
  6. ^ Mayes, p. 88
  7. ^ Mayes, p. 89
  8. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (Illustrated ed.). St. Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 19. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  9. ^ Connolly, David. ""To the Limit". Allmusic. retrieved 3 November 2012.
  10. ^ To The Limit". Discogs. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  • Sleeve notes: To the Limit, 1978, A & M Records (AMLH 64732)
  • Du Noyer, Paul, Ed, (1999) Encyclopedia of Albums ISBN 0752533363; ISBN 978-0752533360
  • Hardy, Phil, Laing, Dave, Barnard, Stephen, & Perretta, Don (1988) Encyclopedia of Rock, Schirmer. ISBN 0-02-919562-4
  • Mayes, Sean (1990). Joan Armatrading – A Biography (unauthorised). Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-81058-8.