Winehouse Remembered in Hidden Treasures
- Friday, December 16, 2011
Artist: Amy Winehouse
Title: Lioness: Hidden Treasures
Label: Universal Republic Records
As you might expect, the posthumous release of Lioness: Hidden Treasures by talented yet troubled R&B throwback singer Amy Winehouse stirs up a tough mix of emotions; sadness that she lost her life to alcohol poisoning earlier this year, joy in hearing her voice again on such fine material, frustration thinking about what might have been.
And anyone who knocks the set as opportunistic for arriving four months after her death should think again. Lioness is a sweet remembrance and supports the Amy Winehouse Foundation her family began to aid people suffering from illness, disability, or addiction.
Of course, the record does sound a little bit stitched together since no one would ever plan for this type of project, but producers Salaam Remi (Frank, 2003) and Mark Ronson (Back to Black, 2006) insightfully provide a context for these worthwhile in-studio cover tunes, alternate takes, and previously unavailable originals in the excellent liner notes.
Amy's defining love for jazz and soul hits of the 1960s is reflected by interpretations of "Our Day Will Come" (Ruby and the Romantics), "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" (The Shirelles), and "The Girl from Ipanema" (Getz/Gilberto), which are splendidly marked by reggae twists, Motown nostalgia, and bossa nova ease in turn. She was a fan.
Such passion for music of the past is also evident in Winehouse compositions like "Between the Cheats," a bright doo-wop piece darkened by lyrics about a troubled marriage and the telltale slur in her voice. You also have to expect an occasional expletive or drug/alcohol reference in her material.
Over a breezy flute in "Half Time" she waxes poetic about her medium and declares: When Frank Sinatra sings it's too much to take. Millions who bought multi-Grammy winner Black will appreciate a demo of "Tears Dry" which arguably surpasses the better-known upbeat take as a slower, simpler ballad here.
Well-done cuts like "Valerie" (featured on Ronson's Version) and "Body and Soul" (Amy's final recording also released on Tony Bennett's Duets II) are also kindly included on Lioness, a measure of completion that reminds us she was capable of good work even as her downward spiral deepened.
Still, last track "A Song for You" (by Leon Russell) fits too well as Winehouse struggles through the ethereal arrangement, singing: Listen to the melody ‘cause my love is in there hiding. When my life is over, remember I was singing this song for you.
She won't be forgotten.
*This review first published 12/16/2011
**Listen to this album on Spotify
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