Almost feel a bit silly posting these. The Lioness write-up is old; I penned it for my university paper very early last year, so it’s recycled (with edits) and won’t appear on this year’s list. It’s an album I like that everyone else hates. I had planned on relegating At the BBC to a budding collection of Honorable Mentions that would have given it short shrift word-wise. Really, what’s there to say about a second posthumous comp? But I found myself unable to quit yapping and still haven’t pinned down any decent review of A-albums for 2013, so here’s a quick filler ’til next week, hopefully.
AMY WINEHOUSE – At the BBC (Universal ’12): Second posthumous release, this one live. Given Winehouse’s turbulent performance reputation, it’s no wonder the compilers opted solely for BBC appearances. Fourteen cuts, half recorded pre-Back to Black (four in total from said album), only two as late as 2009, sequenced in order of album appearance and not performance date. Relatively stripped down, especially in comparison to the super-production of her two proper studio releases—horns and backup singers appear, sure, but easy jazz guitar, nimble bass, and light percussion dominate, at best make Amy’s emoting more easily discernible (particularly those Back to Black cuts, whose emotional genesis is clear) and at worst produce flat, lifeless lounge renditions. Hit and miss—unfortunately mostly miss—yet never unlistenable, though you’d think if Universal were capable of compiling a worthy live collection they would have. Considering they chose to close with a stale “To Know Him is to Love Him” cover recorded circa 2006, the ‘him’ not chef-musician Alex Clare but infamous coke whore Blake Whogivesashit, I’m guessing they couldn’t. Optional 2-CD includes one of three DVDs available in the deluxe. Haven’t seen ‘em, won’t unless a friend is nuts enough to buy ‘em. B PLUS
AMY WINEHOUSE – Lioness: Hidden Treasures (Universal ’11): Posthumous proof Amy was a jazz singer tempted by the allure of doo-wop from inception to untimely death. The evidence: Her sleek, sexy, scat-tastic cover of “The Girl from Ipanema,” the best-ever version of “Valerie” (so good it sounds like it originated from the 60’s rather than an ’06 Zutons indie track), and the original recording of “Tears Dry” emphasizing the song’s heart rather than its energy. I won’t take any complaints about too many covers or underwhelming production, nor will I boycott for accusations of blood money collection. Truth is, both qualities let Amy the Artist’s voice reinvent and direct the material rather than compete against it—a pitfall apparent in Back to Black’s overt attempt to rebirth that Motown sound. And if you feel like sticking it to her questionable estate (or really, the foundation where proceeds from this flow), cop a download. Rest easy, sweet lioness. A MINUS