Amy Winehouse - Back to Black

Amy Winehouse
Back to Black

(Universal Republic)

Rehab: Memorable Song #10 for 2007

First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2007, Volume 14, #3

Written by John Metzger

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Amy Winehouse has a penchant for crafting modern-day tales that sound as if they are the products of a bygone era. Yet, where her debut Frank was entrenched within the smoke-filled jazz clubs of the 1950s, her latest effort Back to Black embraces the oversized production techniques employed by Phil Spector, the shimmering pop of Berry Gordyís Motown Records, and the urban grit of Memphis soul. On opening cut Rehab, for example, she takes solace in the music of Ray Charles and Donny Hathaway; elsewhere, allusions to The Supremes, The Temptations, Aretha Franklin, and Martha & the Vandellas abound.

Although more contemporary textures lurk beneath the surface of Back to Black ó and these are permitted to blossom fully on the alternate rendition of You Know Iím No Good that serves as the setís bonus track ó thereís a deliberate attempt by producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi to keep Winehouseís material firmly rooted in the past. As the tapping tambourines, colorful orchestrations, grunting saxophones, echoing drums, and sun-dappled horns combine, they provide a punchy backdrop that is well suited to her powerfully emotive vocal style. Just as important, however, is the air of more innocent times that the vintage arrangements conjure.

Thatís because lyrically Back to Black is drawn from an entirely different universe. Building upon the personal intimacy and inherent honesty of Carole Kingís Tapestry ó to which Tears Dry on Their Own owes a tremendous debt ó Winehouse pours her heart and soul into her songs. Tying her addictions to drugs and alcohol together with her dependence upon men, she lashes out at former lovers while also making felt the depths of her self-loathing. Oscillating between defiant depictions of strength and aching tales that reveal her vulnerability, Winehouse uses the naivetť of the music to lend weight to her hip-hop-imbued ruminations. Invoking a full suite of profanities and lewd observations, she unabashedly examines her recent experiences, and while the portrait that she paints isnít pretty, her sultry performance as well as her stark wit transform Back to Black into an unwaveringly compelling affair. Winehouse might be a train wreck waiting to happen, but itís impossible not to hang on her every word as she looks to music for salvation and hopes that it can save her from the devastation that occurs as everything about her life begins to unravel. starstarstar Ĺ

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50th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Record of the Year
Rehab

50th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Song of the Year
Rehab

50th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best New Artist

50th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
Rehab

50th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Pop Vocal Album

50th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Producer of the Year
Mark Ronson

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Of Further Interest...

Christina Aguilera - Back to Basics

Feist - The Reminder

Nellie McKay - Pretty Little Head

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Back to Black is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!

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Ratings

1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!

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Copyright © 2007 The Music Box