Mike gave me the posthumously released Amy Winehouse CD Lioness: Hidden Treasures for Christmas, which was a neat surprise because I hadn’t known it even existed.
Amy Winehouse is the kind of artist I would listen to singing the phone book, so it almost goes without saying that I like this CD. Is it a great album? No… it’s a little too reined in and there are some weak tracks – it’s no Back to Black. But if you love Amy Winehouse, you’ll love the new versions of some older songs, and a standout new track called “Between the Cheats” that I also really enjoy.
“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” is a Shirelles cover that was first featured (the Winehouse version, that is) on the soundtrack to Bridget Jones – but this version is much better and more soulful. I’ve heard two previous recordings of “Valerie,” and my favorite is still the live performance on Jo Whiley’s BBC 1 radio show, but this one is a good second place. There are satisfying original versions of the Back to Black hits “Tears Dry On Their Own,” and “Wake Up Alone,” the latter of which is one of my favorite songs ever.
Weakest spots for me are “Like Smoke” with Nas – the song itself is fine but Nas’s verse is just cringingly awful – and “Body and Soul” with Tony Bennett – just not a Tony fan, sorry.
If you don’t “get” the appeal of Winehouse, I’m not sure what to tell you. Mike and I had the opportunity to see her perform at Lollapalooza in 2007 and hearing her voice in person just gave you the chills – there was so much power there you got the feeling she was only singing with 20% of her vocal potential most of the time. Much is made of Adele these days, and I like Adele, but to me she is the Sarah Vaughan to Amy’s Billie Holiday. Sarah/Adele is more polished, better produced, more listenable, but if you want raw, naked soul, you go to Billie or Amy.
My favorite Amy Winehouse performances are still the first ones I ever saw and heard, which you can see if you go to youtube and search “Amy Winehouse The DL Show.” If those don’t win you over to Amy’s beautiful artistry, nothing will.