Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures
    • WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2011

    • Posted by: Julianne Wagner

    Lioness: Hidden Treasures is a short (45 minutes) and overall lacking posthumous collection of Winehouse rarities, covers, and deflated demos-- not so hidden or secretive, after all. This revelation comes tinged with a heavy side of guilt wrapped up in sadness as it points to the reality that Amy Winehouse, in her last years, was more taken with addiction than realizing her talent could inspire millions. There is no sketch here, however faint, of her third album, rumored as written but not yet recorded. Lioness is far from the combustible potency of the Amy Winehouse that ought to be fully remembered.

    What is of course at the forefront, protected from slanderous tabloid reports, is Winehouse's voice-- now a tragic artifact. The recordings over the course of the past nine years are polished faultlessly by producer Salaam Remi and compiler Mark Ronson. This is the entire problem; the songs themselves fall flat against schmaltzy, sleepy compositions. (Looking at you, "Tears Dry"). It is clear-- with instrumental spaces in between verse and chorus, the rap solos, background vocals that never existed before, and a whole lot of Winehouse wailing lyric-free-- that the recorded remnants of her were sparse.

    The bulk of the album comes from cuts from 2002-2004. This is not necessarily an issue when we have the sweet, ska take of "Our Day Will Come" where Winehouse floats dreamily atop hushed male "ooh-ahhs". The same nostalgic barbershop quartet takes us away while repeating the title line on the newer (2008) "Between the Cheats," striking a chord that Winehouse probably never got around to writing or singing a proper chorus herself. But do we really need another subdued version of "Girl from Ipanema," especially taking note of how little output Winehouse did create?

    The cut and paste methodology is evident on one of the tracks set for her third album "Like Smoke." It blossoms and fiddles with incredible potential until a heartbroken Nas snags the spotlight and references things Amy never saw or would know about (Occupy Wall Street). "Halftime" reverses the sour taste collaborators have left, as the chilled ambiance affirms her place as a soul singer. The last few tracks on Lioness try their hardest to bring it home. "Wake Up Alone" befits the groggy loneliness affixed with Winehouse's persona when it was downtrodden. "Best Friends, Right" would have been a hit, a cheeky list of all her bedmates.

    The final track, a cover of Leon Russell's "A Song for You" mixes crunchy guitars and horns with flighty flutes as Winehouse wavers, slurring her words. Somehow she makes it her own; somehow it's still beautiful as a portrait of a woman who did it to and for herself. She loved peril, loved love, and merely had to release herself in her own music.

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    MP3:"Best Friends, Right?"

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