Why do all the good ones go before their time? Amy Winehouse, a beautiful voice and a musical tour de force, shall be dearly missed. This short life saw a troubled superstar that fought hard against her addictions to drugs and to alcohol, that all ended in tragedy on July 23rd. Winehouse’s death from alcohol poisoning, makes her, like Kurt Cobain or Jimi Hendrix, a member of the 27 club.
Winehouse’s music is widely acclaimed as being poignant and emotionally raw. Lioness: Hidden Treasures, her posthumous album, compiled by long-time musical collaborators Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson, is no exception. This is the follow-up to 2007’s Back to Black, the multi-Grammy winning, multi-platinum international powerhouse. Some of the proceeds from this posthumous album will go to the Amy Winehouse Foundation set up in her name by her father Mitch to help youth orientated charities around the world.
The twelve tracks of the album are essentially an assortment of alternate takes of existing classics, previously unreleased tracks in addition to several new compositions by Winehouse. The album begins on a happy, coherent note, ‘We’ll have everything/We’ll share the joy falling in love can bring.’ This is Winehouse’s reggae-tinged jaunty, sassy rendition of Ruby & the Romantic’s 1963 classic ‘Our Day Will Come’ recorded in 2002, right at the start of Winehouse’s music career. The track is bursting with romanticism and hope.
The album also features a bracing attempt at Carole King’s ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’. I felt that the militant drumbeats in Winehouse’s version are rather out of place, and somewhat mar the track. Winehouse’s previous version of this track is featured in Bridget Jones Diary: The Edge of Reason, and is to my mind subtler. The Zutons’ ‘Valerie’ is another reworked track: this incarnation is delightfully playful and perhaps even better than the original. Alternate renditions of ‘Tears Dry’ and ‘Wake Up Alone’ also make it onto the album: the former set as a ballad, while the latter is significantly more pared back than the original. This allows her powerful vocals to shine, accompanied only by the acoustic guitar and laid-back beats. Winehouse’s last ever recording was made with iconic crooner Tony Bennett on a version of ‘Body & Soul’. This is a more traditional piece that works very well.
Other standout tracks include ‘Halftime’ and ‘Like Smoke,’ both new compositions. ‘Halftime’ is exquisite, a languid, 70s sounding track that oozes soul. In contrast, ‘Like Smoke’ features Nas’ succinct raps that complements Winehouse’s brutally honest lyricism ‘I never wanted you to be my man/ I just wanted some company.’â€¨The heart-breaking album ends with her impassioned cover of the legendary Donny Hathaway’s ‘A Song For You.’ Winehouse’s emotional version of this classic tune is heart-wrenching and haunting.
This compilation album is yet more proof of Winehouse’s tremendous talent and what immense potential she could have achieved. Fans of Winehouse will no doubt miss this girl’s unique vocals and her gift for songwriting. However, this final album may provide some slight consolation, only a few months after we said goodbye to this sublime singer/songwriter. Let’s be frank, her legacy will continue to live on.