Album Watch: Points On A Lioness

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lioness: Hidden Treasures provokes more than just the looming "what if?" factor like all other posthumous albums tend to emphasize. It further establishes how much Amy Winehouse really was a vocalist of a different breed. How she was yet another who managed to change the climate towards sounds that were deemed gone with the wind, and brought a new generation to have appreciation for it. Not to mention with every warble she had respect for where the sound truly derived from and did it well. Even though she led a less than favorable lifestyle (then again are we all saints?), Winehouse's candor about the realities of love, loss, and life was what brought people in. Toe-to-toe with the British Soul grand dames a la Dusty Springfield is where I like to place Amy Winehouse, because (and this is to my ear) she often had a pinch of overcast in her vocal tone to make it all the real---she had been there, and as I briefly mentioned, she was that voice in my head, and will probably continue to be. Lioness: Hidden Treasures is in a sense a sad affair, for obvious reasons, and it really doesn't lead one to figure out where Winehouse was going as a follow-up to her 2006 opus, Back To Black. Poignant, captivating towards her talents, and no doubt a worthy purchase, is mainly for the fans, as it closes the book to what Winehouse built her house of Soul on.

Some further points....:
  • The original version of "Tears Dry On Their Own" (just titled "Tears Dry" on here) is oh so sublime and was meant as more of a Stylistics-esque ballad, instead of the ram-bam fingersnapping jovial of the original. A real gem it is when it's taken down a notch. In fact, I actually like it better this way. 
  • Mark Ronson's all over "Valerie" and it's here again---like it is on every B-Side bootleg and extended edition of Back To Black. Some part of me wishes something else had been put in it's place. B-Sides like "Fool's Gold" and even another cover (particularly "Someone To Watch Over Me") would have been a better, much more surprising addition---unless it's just me being grouchy.  
  • Highlights like "Between The Cheats" swishes in a Grease "Beauty School Dropout" woo while "Halftime" (my favorite of the 'rares') is subtlety charming in a soothing flute riddled swirl that Minnie Riperton would have been proud of. These two Saalam Remi produced numbers easily could have been singles.
  • Amy was a fan of Donnie Hathaway, yet another artist taken from the music world before his time, and she does a real number on his signature hit, "A Song For You". She evokes the same raw Blues undertone this song has and rears up the attention to vocal detail that Donnie had on his original---scary good. 
  • Many try to do Astrud Gilberto on "The Girl From Impanema" and so few catch the spirit. Amy is lively, with a bit too many sprawling scats for my taste. Yet, she was eighteen on this track and was just trying to find her voice and it's nice we got a peek into the beginnings of Amy here, even though this album, sadly, marks the end. 

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