on March 13, 2007
In U.K. Amy Winehouse has been a tabloid regular recently with tales of anoxeria, addiction, and drunken TV appearances, but she really should let her music speak for itself . . . especially when it's as good as this.
Her debut, "Frank", was sometimes stodgy and definitely over praised, but no praise is too high for this unashamedly retro, but beautifully observed and realised take on classic girl group pop and Motown soul.
The 11 songs all sound like great lost classics from the 60s, snappily written with a mix of bitterly caustic lyrics and finger popping tunes, then delivered in a voice that alternates sexy smouldering with dismissive contempt.
She started last year amid criticism from all corners over her dramatic weight loss and ended it heralded as the new queen of UK cool; with hair messier than a sleepover with Pete Doherty, a mouth like a drunken fish wife and an album swelling with the kind of lump-in-throat emotional soul last heard sometime in the late 70s, somewhere in Detroit
Hence it was somewhat of a surprise when it reared its sultry head again in 2006. With near genius production from hip pop mainstay Mark Ronson (who also had a finger in the tasty pie that was Lily Allen's debut), stomping, romping punk-rock-jazz was the order of the day as Ms Winehouse showed everyone what being a real lady is all about.
on March 13, 2007
The sassy 23 year old Londoner delivers the goods with swagger and panache. 2003s single "Stronger Than Me" and album "Frank" weren't exactly great sellers, despite being hits with the critics. This time it's a totally different situation, because she's appealed to fans and critics alike. Winehouse has a new-found confidence, having slimmed down four dress sizes with more aggressive make-up; she's turning into the UK's most promising talent in years.
" Back To Black" is a masterstroke of contemporary Jazz-crossover material, all delivered with supreme style. Her razor-sharp singing is a major highlight, however, this album is all about truly brilliant songs, all written by Winehouse herself, with some collaborations.
Using Robbie Williams' and lily Allen's studio wizard Mark Ronson, Amy is going into a totally different stratosphere with this one, leaving Katie Melua and Norah Jones in her wake.
Amy said, "I didn't want to play that jazz thing up too much again. I was bored of complicated chord structures and needed something more direct". That said, Jazz is very much a prime element, though this time.
Jam-packed with superb songs and impressive production, she's breaking new ground, though the past plays a big part. Delving, in places, into Tamla Motown and The Specials' musical ideas ("You Know I'm No Good"), she's proved to be a top class songwriter.
"Rehab" is an out and out classic, with many shades of Motown with modern twists. "Me And Mr.Jones" is textbook 60s swing, which other singers like Christina Aguilera are adopting. There's no question where the title track came from - right out of the Motown school of classic pop - you could just see the Funk Brothers doing their inimitable thing on this - brilliant.
The stunning Soul ballad "Loving Is A Losing Game" could again be a Motown classic, taking Diana Ross head on, possibly her finest moment, as is the sprightly "Tears Dry On Their Own" : a (slight) remix could well be the next single - and another hit for sure. The triumvirate run-in has ballads using R'n'B beats, and yes, even more Motown stylings on the addictively punchy "Addicted".
For one so young, "Back To Back" is truly remarkable, invigorating, and genuinely sensational. She's not only a diva, but a phenomenal talent, with her best years to come.
on March 22, 2007
As for her voice: where does it come from, this extraordinary sound?
The music poures out of her, a stream of weathered, seasoned phrases, seemingly without effort, and mercifully without any of the ululating and over-emoting that blights so many performances in the soul-jazz field in which Winehouse operates.
For her, what matters is the quality of the notes, not the quantity.
Amy Winehouse is, of course, almost as famous for her behaviour as for her music; tabloid newspapers in recent months have been peppered with the striking visage of this north London Jewish girl, accompanying lurid reports of her latest night on the razz. But here, on this fantastic set, she'd done so in moderation, because she seemed focused and together.
"Back to Black", is a more soulful and stripped-down collection than her jazzier debut, "Frank". The influence of girl groups from the 1950s and early '60s is plain: plinky keyboards, parpy brass, trebly guitar.
Some excellent background vocals provide weight and depth, while she and her band do a brilliant job of recreating the big soulful sound conjured up in the studio by producer Mark Ronson.
In songs such as "Me & Mr Jones", "Back to Black", "Love is a Losing Game" and "Rehab", we may hear the sound of Phil Spector, of Muscle Shoals, of the Shirelles and the Supremes.
But this is no mere retro soul show: these are not pastiches, but real emotional journeys from a woman with real emotional experiences.
She is a standout talent with a nice line in bitchy put-downs and a wondrous voice reminiscent of Dinah Washington.
Even so, her second album has surpassed all expectations.
This is the best British soul album in absolutely ages, a complete package of lovingly recreated Motown/60s girl group sounds, caustic, often excruciatingly honest lyrics, great finger popping tunes and a voice that does sexy and smouldering and dismissive contempt with equal alacrity.
on February 8, 2011
Just a short note to say that the mastering on this version is much better than the standard edition. The dynamics are much better, and is not mastered as loud as the standard edition. Plus, the bonus disk of covers is outstanding! Very nice book with lyrics also.
on March 13, 2007
Addiction to alcohol, marijuana, sex - just about anything you can get hooked on, Amy has been there, written a song about it, and is now looking for something else to feed her dependency.
Well, it makes for an interesting record.
As a songwriter Amy has grown and stretched her self, vocally she is in a new league breaking loose with Aretha-style vocal stylings on "Just Friends" or going gospel on the opening single "Rehab".
"Love Is A Losing Game" is pure classic modern songwriting: brief, to the point and drenched in emotion. Other highlights include the Nas inspired "Me and Mr Jones", the beautiful "Wake Up Alone" and "I'm No Good" - the personal epiphany that you can behave just as badly as all those guys that have messed you around and stamped all over you..
After a strident opening with (refusing to go to) "Rehab", she works through a patchwork of vices and denials and just about every genre going in a self-dramatising sweep of trauma and Tanqueray.
Swept along in the tide of her addictions, over waves of Aretha Franklin influences, her cigarette-tinged voice croons, twists and occasionally screeches to a complement of guitars, trumpets, even the odd flugelhorn.
You name it, she's not afraid to use it.
Experimental and confident, she flirts variously with R&B, soul and hip hop before returning to her home key: JAZZ.
on March 27, 2007
Listening to her voice, you continually have to carry out the aural equivalent of rubbing your eyes to remind yourself that it's not a seasoned black session singer in a jazz club- but a skinny 23-year-old Jewish girl from Camden, UK. Almost impossible to categorise, as she once boasted, endearingly: "I'm at least a five trick pony".
Any album that features the lines "What kind of f***ery is this?/ You made me miss the Slick Rick gig" demands closer investigation. Of course, 23-year-old Londoner Amy Winehouse demonstrated her aptitude for a tart couplet on her debut album three years ago, but this time the music, too, packs a similar punch, and the upshot is a 21st-century soul classic.
Starting with the pungent single "Rehab", everything is in its right place: the exuberant neo-Motown swing supplied by producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi; the rich, sinewy vocals, somewhere between Lauryn Hill, Beth Gibbons and Etta James; and the thoroughly modern songwriting, in which infidelity is betrayed by a telltale carpet burn ("You Know I'm No Good") and a lover is less desirable than a good supply of weed ("Addicted").
On the latter song she triumphantly declares: "I'm my own man."
Only a fool would argue.
I love music and have a very diverse collection of styles and artists in my cd collection including a lot of artists popular in the UK not known here yet. For some reason I never discovered Amy Winehouse with her superb first release FRANK. Had I, I would have been a huge fan from the beginning. Instead, the same as many, I was introduced to her through the single REHAB which sadly came hand in hand with her strong addiction problems. The paparazzi had a field day with her. And the joke was she was singing about rehab when it seemed she so obviously needed it. Even with her Grammy wins I didn't purchase this album.
Regretfully, it took her very sad and untimely death with talk of her unique musical talents and gifts that I bought both FRANK and BACK TO BLACK. I have truly fallen in love with Amy. She indeed was a truly gifted artist. BACK TO BLACK is honestly one of the best albums I have ever heard. She wrote every track and by listening to this cd you can put all the gossip and drama aside and listen to Amy as an artist. It is very important to remember she wrote the lyrics to all these songs and it is obvious the poor woman wore her heart and soul on her sleeve. But for the listener it provided a great gift. The cd is a winner from beginning to end and speaks of love and relationships and all that comes with it. Her style combines retro soul with r&b and jazz with a hint of classic pop. It is a style new, unique and truly inspired. The songs BACK TO BLACK, LOVE IS A LOSING GAME and TEARS DRY ON THEIR OWN are instant classics. ME AND MR. JONES is a stunning and clever album cut. YOU KNOW I'M NO GOOD is also an instant classic and showns much insight into Amy's thoughts of herself. Listen to the words on the haunting WAKE UP ALONE and SOME UNHOLY WAR and you will feel so much what the life of this woman was like.
The song REHAB is not a defiant song to those trying to get her help but rather a declaration of how she thought it wouldn't help. She talks of what rehab would give her but she could get the same advice and support at home listening to music like Ray Charles and waiting for the sorrow to pass. In her mind it was all about love and heartbeak. If the sorrow could pass she would not have to use. Addiction is a very serious illness and whatever was really going on we need to acknowledge the very sad fact that this musically gifted person Amy Winehouse left us and this life way too early. For her sake she managed to leave a musical legacy behind with only 2 cds. She will live on through her music and because of her gifts as a songwriter and expressive, superbly diverse singer we will always see her as the person by the music. May you rest in peace Amy and hopefully all your demons have been silenced and you have found peace. But rest assured you will be remembered.
on April 28, 2007
This girl is seemingly channeling a retro soulful singer through these modern times. The combination is undeniably penetrating. The whole album is impressive. I watched Winehouse sing on Youtube with just a microphone and herself, it seems to come pouring out of her effortlessly. Winehouse sounds like no one else, yet sounds so familiar. Her voice is deep, rich and confident. She has a natural edge and fills her lyrics with unabated self confessions. I had bought her previous album (Frank) and wasn't sure if it was going to be as stylized as this one, but it was! If you saw her video on t.v. and you liked it, you won't be disappointed, there will be many more powerful songs of hers that you like. I highly recommend this album and her earlier work as well. She is an all around super talented songwriter and singer.
on April 30, 2007
Just when I was about to give up on today's new artists Amy Winehouse comes along.
I came across her on an internet radio station a few weeks ago and thought maybe she might have something to offer. A song or 2. Because surely, nobody can put together a complete CD anymore. (Maybe John Legend or Anthony Hamilton. But they even have a a questionable song or 3 on there CDs)
Wow, was I surprised. How in the world does someone this young get "it" and make "it" sound so good. Its like a flashback to when you had to be able to sing before you even thought about getting a record deal. And to get air play you really had to be something.
Well. She is SOMETHING!!!
At first I thought the reviews both from those Professional reviews and from folks like me that bought the CD were a little too gracious. Like with all of the other so called next big stars. Now I see they weren't kidding.
I mean come on. This her 2nd CD. Normally the one that everybody flops on. (At least a little) And she nailed it.
She's honest in her lyrics and she makes you feel what she's feeling. Something very few artists can do. Especially in this day and age. And she does it pretty darn well. (Parents please note that she covers adult topics. So if you let your kids listen to this make sure you explain what she's singing about and get you point across about where you stand.)
From her first CD, "Frank". (Check out "You Sent Me Flying", "Know You Now", and "No Greater Love") to the job she did on "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" ("Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason", Import Version) to this new CD. Even to the job she did with Mark Ronson on Valerie ("Version") No doubt about it, this girl can sing. (Makes you glad she stopped rapping at 10 years old.)
Not since Mary J. Blige (Or going back further, Sade) have I found a female artist that I know I'll probably be buying every album she puts out.
If you haven't guessed it by now. I really like this CD and am now a fan.
Definitely check her out...
on October 4, 2011
Is this import worth the extra cost vs. the US version? Definitely yes. Why?
1) Bonus CD: Wow. Short (~23 minutes) and sweet. Really, really, sweet.
2) Bonus track: "Addicted", a melodic, whimsical track added to the album (though you do lose the remixed "You Know I'm no Good").
3) Sound quality: slightly fuller and smoother.
4) Booklet: 12 pages (vs. 8), including a half-dozen extra photos.
Under normal circumstances, the above factors might not be worth the extra cost (or worth buying this import even if you already own the US version, as I did). But given Winehouse's tragic early death, it's a worthy upgrade.