15 December, 2011@1:05 pm
Let’s face it, posthumous albums usually suck. Reason being, the estate and/or record label gathers up all of the leftover material from said deceased artist, slaps some fonts on an old press photo, and tries to pass it off as an album. Even worse are the remixes, which attempt to “update” the artists’ sound for today’s audience, usually utilizing Bruce Hornsby samples or something. All in all, it’s usually a bad deal.
In the case of Amy Winehouse, she released one of the greatest vocal albums of all time with the now classic Back To Black, and then struggled to finish a follow-up. It was a Motown throwback LP that delved into dark territory, revolving around how drugs and alcohol effected her relationships and shaped the world around her. While her life imitated her art on the world stage, ultimately leading to her demise, Back To Black was an integral LP that many people could relate to, even if not to the level of Amy’s real world extremes.
Lioness: Hidden Treasures is a compilation of alternate versions and unreleased tracks, but one that plays like an album. Featuring the unified sound of producers Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson, Lioness isn’t quite as topical as Back To Black, but is put together perfectly in her absence.
There are a number of familiar moments here, such as alternate versions of “Tears Dry On Their Own”, “Valerie”, and “Wake Up Alone”, all of which sound completely different and “new”, in comparison to their previously released counterparts. She also covers Frank Sinatra’s “The Girl From Ipanema”, in perhaps the album’s lone weak moment.
We do get glimpses of the depression that Amy was so good at channeling into bittersweet songs, such as on the doo-woppy “Between The Cheats”, the dysfunctional “Best Friends, Right”, and the post-one-night-stand anthem, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”, her last recorded track. The album also includes two gorgeous duets, “Like Smoke” with Nas, and “Body & Soul” with Tony Bennett. Both show her range as a collaborator and are great for different reasons.
It’s clear that a lot of care was taken in the creation of this project. Reportedly compiled by Remi and Ronson from “thousands of hours” of unreleased vocals, Lioness really defines Amy’s talents, as her scraps are better than most people’s entire catalogs. Sure, it’s not Back To Black 2 – nor is it intended to be – but surprisingly, it plays beautifully throughout, as if it was her third LP. If only we could have heard what she actually intended for us.
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