It’s not too often that you are able to listen to music that hasn’t been made for sales, for numbers, for demand and for A&R guys. Rarer, even still, is to be able to listen to the treasured songs that never did make it onto the original records that were intended for commercial success. Perhaps it is artistry in its truest form; however that would be an understatement for the late Amy Winehouse. Despite the surrounding tragedy, a young artist who spiraled downward, out of control, Amy Winehouse’s extraordinary talent was never questioned during her lifetime. Lioness: Hidden Treasures is both a celebration and mourning of her resonating talent. As the name suggests, this album diff ers from your traditional ‘Best Of’ compilation, as it draws from songs lost, but nonetheless great. These are 12 tracks most will have never been heard before, whether they are diff erent versions of classic songs on her previous records or completely original ones, her talent is showcased brilliantly. What is unique about Hidden Treasures can be found within the cover inlet. Mark Ronson and SaLaAM ReMi, two producers that Amy worked with (creating prominent pinnacles in her career) lend their own personal anecdotes and memories of the late singer. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, it has to be said that this was, indeed, very sad. However, it paints a real (or realer) dimension to the wild character so often portrayed in the media, and gives us insight into her musical genius. Both producers also write a short paragraph describing each track, highlighting the song’s signifi cance, both to Amy and themselves. By the time you arrive at the page detailing her parent’s words on their daughter, I recommend you have a Kleenex handy.
The music itself is at the same high standard of her albums Frank and Back To Black, and some may even prefer the less commercial approach. Each song showcases her powerful deep contralto vocals and her eclectic mix of musical genres including soul, R&B, jazz and reggae. The original version of Tears Dry, minus the Motown vibe, is a slow and beautiful ballad. Off ering her signature strong male backing vocals, this version off ers more pain and vulnerability to the overarching message than the sassier composition featured on Black To Black. Half Time is a sexier jazz influenced track that never made it onto Frank. With a soulful beat, the melody is laced with soft fl ute and synth timbres, all of which ride gently behind Amy’s smooth(er) vocals.
While both these tracks are stand-outs, the highlight track would be a cover of the Donny Hathaway classic A Song For You. Perhaps it’s that they both suffered a similar fate, Mr. Hathaway (as referenced in Rehab) passed away at a young age after committing suicide, or it was simply Winehouse’s love for the artist. Whatever it was, A Song For You is a musical piece that has been covered time and time again by the crème de la crème. Yet, none are as gritty or rich as Amy’s version. With her brassy vocals carefully working heart-wrenching crescendos, she truly gives this song the homage it deserves. The album closes with Amy’s introspective thoughts on Donny Hathaway, “He couldn’t contain ‘imself. He had somethin’ in ‘im yer know?”
Best Track: A Song For You
If You Like These, You’ll Like This: DONNY HATHAWAY, NINA SIMONE, DUFFY
In A Word: Bittersweet
BY TAMARA VOGL