Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Amy Winehouse: "Lioness: Hidden Treasures" (album review)

It seems that every time we lose an artist we inevitably get inundated with posthumous albums, often of dubious quality.  The latest is Lioness: Hidden Treasures, from Amy Winehouse.

Now, Winehouse wasn't exactly prolific just before her untimely (but sadly not unanticipated) death back in July.  As a result, this record cobbles together odds and sods that include alternate versions, covers, and half-composed originals.  It's should come as no surprise then that the songs are of widely varying quality.

Winehouse tackles the Goffin/King classic "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" with all of the kinetic energy of a glacier.  The Mark Ronson hit "Valerie", which featured Winehouse on vocals, is included here as well.  Alas, the version, dubbed the '68 Version, features a stripped-down arrangement, which fails to cover up Winehouse's listless performance.  The run-through, which is the most apt description, of the standard "The Girl From Ipanema" is a disorganized mess.

A pair of tracks from Winehouse's mega-hit Back To Black are included in their 'Original Version'.  Those cuts, "Tears Dry On Their Own" and "Wake Up Alone" lack the pep and polish of the album versions.  It almost makes one wonder how much of the power of that record was Winehouse's actual performance and how much could be attributed to clever studio tricks.

One of Winehouse's strongest vocal performances on the album is for "Like Smoke".  Her smooth sultry delivery is spoiled though as rapper Nas drops rhymes over top that are completely inappropriate for the rest of the song.

There are some decent moments on the album however.  The swaying "Our Day Will Come" and the doo-wop influenced "Between the Cheats" provide a nice one-two punch to open the record.  "Best Friends, Right?" shows us the confident, sharp-tongued Winehouse that endeared herself to the world.

Capping off the album is "A Song For You", a track that Winehouse basically mumbles her way through.  It seems sadly fitting, out with a whimper.

Best tracks: "Our Day Will Come", "Best Friends, Right?"

Track listing for Lioness:
  • Our Day Will Come
  • Between the Cheats
  • Tears Dry
  • Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
  • Like Smoke
  • Valerie
  • The Girl From Ipanema
  • Half Time
  • Wake Up Alone
  • Best Friends, Right?
  • Body and Soul
  • A Song For You

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