Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Amy Winehouse - Back To Black

After the music press tagged her with "The next generation jazz singer-songwriter", Amy disappeared.

She returns with an album that may have made her Record Company's jaw drop. When they expected to hear a follow up, cashing in on the wave of Norah Jones, Katie Melua and even Joss Stone, what they actually got was an album that may just as well have been titled "I got balls!"

It's a natural progression from her debut album, "Frank".
But with added balls.

I can sum the feel of this album up in a short question:
Like Phil Spector, The Supremes and the whole 'Wall Of Sound' feel?
Then you're gonna love this.

This album couldn't have provided a better clone tip of the hat to The Ronettes, The Teddy Bears, The Paris Sisters, The Crystals, early Tina Turner, The Righteous Brothers et al had it been produced by the man himself.

The album kicks off with the first single to be released. Rehab has been getting loads of radio airplay with it's bluesey feel and blunt lyrics about (supposedly) her own account over excess. Just how much of what she sings about being true isn't the important factor here. It's all about the feel of the song. That dirty blues sound, her deep vocals tripping effortlessly over the sparse keyboard and horns.

You Know I'm No Good follows next and begins with a percussion beat that wouldn't be lost on a Kanye West or P Diddlydood album. Then a bassline kicks in, a little like walking the dog. Her vocals come in over some horns telling tales of previous relationships and her self pitiful image of herself. It doesn't paint a pretty picture but get away from that and just enjoy the whole mellowness of this track. It's dreamy.

The 3rd track is Me And Mr Jones (Fuckery). Yep, you read that right.
What we get here is a dirty sounding blues groove, and vocals delivered in a really sassy tone. Anybody who can embed the lyric "What kind of fuckery are we? Nowadays, you don't mean dick to me" is borderline genius as far as I'm concerned. This is a tale of woe. A story about lies, deceit and cheating. Once again, the listener get an earful of horns playing up the rear to her line delivery and it works really, really well.
This is by far my favourite song on the album.

Next comes Just Friends. It begins as if it were a Diana Ross balad, gently placing a few lines while the jazzy guitar and tinkling keyboard tune up. Soon enough it turns into a reggae flavour and it's a brief breath of fresh air. Even after just three tracks, the whole 'nod to the Wall Of Sound era' grows a little tiresome. There's not enough like this on the album.

The title track Back To Black comes next. The intro is a great clone of a Supremes sound and complements the song throughout, giving it more of a 'Motown' sort of feel. She sings in a great pitch, the chorus is just one big hook and it's probably the most 'instant' song on the album. I'm pretty sure this will be a single and if it isn't, her Record Company need hanging.
Great lyrics too...."You got back to her and I go back to black"

Love Is A Losing Game is a slow tempo number driven by a sixties type guitar chord flick. Some mellow orchestrations wash in every now and then with lush strings. Damn I love strings. Apparently, this is the song on the album that's most personal to her. She's been quoted as saying she gets all emotion when she sings this track live. It's a nice song with a subject matter that everybody should be able to relate to.

The next track is Tears Dry On Their Own. Again we get an almost Motown feel to the song, but it feels kinda disjointed at times. I guess this is a nod back the classic Jazz feel. It's listenable and sits quite nicely with a feeling that it would be best suited playing the background in the summertime.

Wake Up Alone features that familiar sixties ballad style. The slow plucking down of the guitar strings, slightly echoed. The tinkering keyboard following suit and her voice retains that edgy, raw feel as she weaves in and out of the story of failed love....again. If you could imagine somebody else singing this, it wouldn't be out of place in the Grease movie.

Next track is Some Unholy War. Slow tempo, with backing vocals that sound like they've been sampled straight off the Lauren Hill album. In fact, this track could have been the hidden, hidden, extra bonus track on that album, that's how familiar this song sounds. That's maybe not a bad thing and her voice suits the track well but I can't help feeling like I've heard this song now a hundred times before.

Penultimate track is He Can Only Hold Her. That familiar mix of sixties girl group and a slight sprinkling of Motown once again. It's an ok song, but nothing special. To be honest, by the time I get to this track, I'm almost begging for something 'different' to come on next. The familiar sound, pleasant though it is, just starts to merge in with all the previous songs and I begin to feel like I'm listening to just one really long song.

The album ends with Addicted. A breezy, mid tempo song that gallops along with the double time snare drum. The bassline follows familiar jazz club styles, then brass and flutes jump in bringing visions of back street clubs in the 70's. As a song that finishes off the album, in my opinion this is probably the worst choice out of all the tracks. It sounds like an album filler and album fillers by law should be plonked in the middle somewhere.

A verdict from me then?
If you hear just one song off the album and like it, then you're gonna like the whole album. There's nothing crap on this release and it's a very confident collection of songs from somebody who in my opinion, is recording and releasing songs that she wants and not necessarily what her Record Company want. The difference seems to show.
The length of the album feels short at just under 35 minutes and yet I still feel like somehow that's too long. I put that down to the samey sound throughout the album and find that just over halfway through listening to it....I become kinda bored.

By all accounts she rebellious, she has a great voice and she writes a mean lyric at times. All the right ingredients to find herself being filed in the 'occasional/moody/dirty sounding' folder.

8 Discussions:

Blogger swisslet said...

she strikes me as a bit of a dick, but she has got the most amazing voice. "Rehab" is ace.

Have you seen her band? They look brilliant. I saw them on "Later..." and I thought that

a) the uniforms of the horn players were great


b) the drummer was brilliant.

I may have to check out the album, I think.


8:19 AM  
Blogger swisslet said...

although I have to say that "there's nothing crap on this release" isn't the biggest endorsement I have ever heard!

8:20 AM  
Blogger bedshaped said...


If you're a little apprehensive, then download the tracks I've put up and make an informed decision from those.
I'd be really interested to hear what you make of them or indeed the album if you get it.

9:04 AM  
Blogger Cat said...

I really like Rehab, but not anything else she's done. Am I getting muddled up or did she appear on Never Mind the Buzzcocks completely plastered the other week?

12:21 PM  
Blogger bedshaped said...

Yes she did. She was also donning that awful hair-do!
All I can say is try to look beyond the image and give it a whirl.

8:02 PM  
Blogger LB said...

I don't like her at all and I don't like that whiney voice either. And I don't like "Rehab".

Probably not for me then, eh?

11:25 PM  
Blogger LB said...

..although I did like her being referred to on "...Buzzcocks" as "Amy Winelake"....

10:58 PM  
Blogger swisslet said...

sorry mate - just caught up with t his. I'll give them a go.

I really like what I've heard so far though.


3:28 PM  

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