Artist: Amy WinehouseTitle: Back To BlackRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Robert Longfellow
Okay, its true. This Amy Winehouse character can really sing. Shes not a bad songwriter either as her generally melancholy but engaging blues make for an intriguing stateside debut in Back to Black (Universal Republic). Weariness of another white girl singing colored style hype aside, the album is a winner, so catch up.
Winehouse, of the well reported propensity for enjoying "spirits," enlists the production of DJing wonder Mark Ronson and Nas savior Salaam Remi. Ronson displays a propensity for brass sections-see "Rehab" and "You Know I'm No Good" (the version with Ghostface is recommended)-while Remi relies on sturdier drums and nuff swing as displayed on the bluesy "Me & Mr Jones" (no, not Nas) and the Ashford and Simpson caressing "Tears Dry On Their Own."
Listening to Back to Black you get the feeling that you've heard this stuff before. Winehouse's affecting vocal tone has lead to much comparison to Jazz and Soul greats. Think only one name needed divas from Holiday to Badu. Graciously, the music is slickly produced but not so much that the true center of each track, that voice, gets overshadowed.
Winehouse's saving grace may just be the shortness of her half hour and change set. That, and a knack for pulling off cheery feeling tunes (Tears Dry On Their Own) and depression inducing ditties (Wake Up Alone) with equal aplomb. She is certainly off to a good start, but those seeking uncharted musical territory will have better luck at the bottom of Tanqueray bottle. Nevertheless, Back to Black plays like an updated take on music of an older vintage.