It wasn’t long ago that we tragically lost the Neo Soul phenom Amy Winehouse. Her passing left her fans with a huge void, and I would venture to say that it will be some time before we feel the full reverberations of her impact on music. The bright spot is the posthumous release of her album, Lioness: Hidden Treasures. The album is a medley of new songs, alternate versions of previous released songs, and demo and unreleased tracks.
Of the 12 songs on the album, Amy Winehouse leaves us with a few great memories of what made her so great and timeless with Between the Cheats, Our Day Will Come, Best Friends, Right, and Half Time.
On Our Day Will Come, Amy projects a mood of lightness, hopefulness and optimism; a welcome change of pace from the traditional heartbreak, anger and sadness we here in so many songs. Her voice glides over the arrangement in full musical brilliance.
Between The Cheats showcases the familiar deceptiveness of Amy’s style. While most might interpret it as a doo-wop rendition that Amy has carried forward yet again, listening to it more closely will reveal her unbridled profession of her love, reverence and unyielding support for her man, a thinly veiled secret between them, and a direct challenge to any woman who may have eyes for him.
My other favorite is Like Smoke, a Hip-Hop flavored collaboration with rapper Nas. Although I like it, it comes off more as a Hip-Hop freestyle over Amy’s vocals, where Nas’ lyrics, in typical fashion, make him sound like he’s rapping as a testament to his own intellect and philosophical and spiritual points of view rather than saying something people can actually understand and relate to. This song would have been better left to Amy to do alone.
The Girl From Ipanema will surely raise eyebrows, as it does not reflect Amy’s style, and is the only evidence that I’m aware of that suggests limits to her highly dynamic singing abilities. It is, however, matter of fact and mildly playful, which is definitely representative of Amy Winehouse.
Valerie and Tears Dry reinforce that Winehouse varied her renditions, never singing any one song the same way. The Soul classic, A Song For You, which has had countless renditions of it done, falls disappointingly short of other classics Amy has both credibly and effectively carried forward. It had lots of potential, but Amy simply couldn’t bring it together. The bright spot is that she is heard at the end of the track comparing Donny Hathaway to Marvin Gaye, an interesting perspective on the two greats of the Soul genre. It’s also a haunting reminder of her, in that we lost such a unique and amazing talent too soon.
Body and Soul with Tony Bennett would have been better off left to Tony Bennett’s own album. Amy’s other jazz-infused tracks on Hidden Treasures have much more strength, and Tony and Amy simply don’t sound intertwined for this type of duet.
Overall, I give the album 3.5 out of 5 stars. If nothing else, this album serves to help us reflect on her more fully as an artist, as well as imagine what could have been had she remained with us. Perhaps there’s more that’s yet to come. I’m a fan and would happily welcome anything that’s in store.