MiD DAY got an exclusive preview to Amy Winehouse's posthumous album that is due for release on December 5 and came back feeling heartbroken about the ghostly silence that will follow it
The emotional pay-off of listening to Amy Winehouse's final album four months after the English singer died in tragic circumstances only really hits you right at the end.
As the last song 'A Song For You', a cover of the Leon Russell classic made famous by soul singer Donny Hathaway comes to a loose, jam-room-like end, we hear Amy speaking about Hathaway and how he was superior to Marvin Gaye.
It strikes us then that these 45 minutes were the last we'd ever get to hear of Amy. As we hear her voice reflecting upon how Hathaway 'couldn't contain himself' and then trailing off into ghostly silence, we realise we are in a pop-cultural context privy to the final musings of one of the greatest artistes of the decade.
This final album is an emotional and fitting tribute to her musical legacy, with its collection of covers, demos and outtakes held together by producer Salaam Remi's warm swing-jazz arrangements.
You won't find anything as upbeat as a Rehab or anything else off Back To Black and Frank in this album; the overall mood is reflective and melancholic.
It starts off magically with a reggae version of '60s doo-wop song Our Day Will Come, with its lush vocal arrangements. This is followed by a new composition entitled Between The Cheats, featuring lyrics that are critical, even scathing, but never flat out angry, and an infectious '60s vibe (seemingly destined for usage in a future episode of TV show Mad Men).
Covers are aplenty, ranging from the bossa nova classic The Girl From Ipanema (there's an irresistible, feline quality to the way she scats in this song), to the Frank-and-Nancy Sinatra style duet Body and soul with legendary jazz/showtune singer Tony Bennett. The lush string arrangements and overall 'big band' sound make this album sound timeless.
Tears Dry On Their Own from Back To Black, simply titled Tears Dry here, appears in its original avatar: a jazzy ballad, slow and introspective in mood and much more soulful than its more gleeful predecessor. This, reportedly, is how Amy had always intended this song to be, and while fans may take a while to digest this change in arrangements, it stands out as one of the best songs on this record.
Speaking of which, it's pretty hard to pick a best song from this album after a single listen, since Amy's compositions have always had a tendency to creep up and hit home when you least expect it.
However, put a gun to my head and I'd say it's a tie between the heartbreakingly raw Wake Up Alone, a sparse, one-take demo that features some of her best songwriting ever, and Halftime, where her lovely contralto meets downtempo electric piano arrangements (think Zero 7).
Lioness: Hidden Treasures may not be the best Amy Winehouse album ever, but it's one that no self-respecting music lover should miss out on. It's a heartbreaking testament to her talent that this is, incredibly, only the third album she has and will ever release.
Amy Winehouse's posthumous album hits stores on December 5, Universal Music India, Rs 495.