Post-humous Winehouse album shows off her best

Anjli Mehta

When listening to Amy Winehouse’s posthumous release, Lioness: Hidden Treasures, it’s hard to believe the tracks were recorded within the past decade. When it comes to jazz, Winehouse’s sumptuous alto vocals boast an authenticity her musical peers could emulate but never master as she did.

After Winehouse’s death in July, producers Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson opened the vaults to Winehouse’s unreleased material as far back as 2002 to compile this album. Album sales go toward The Amy Winehouse Foundation, which raises funds to support vulnerable youth.

For those eager to hear what some of the songs on Winehouse’s 2006 release, Back to Black, could’ve sounded like, the album features stripped-down versions of “Tears Dry On Their Own” and “Wake Up Alone.” Lioness’ version of “Tears Dry” is slower and sheds the originally released track’s heavy accompaniment, instead opting for a harmoniously blended choir. The track is less dynamic than the originally released version, making room for Winehouse to milk each note and, in turn, fully convey the heartbreak the song describes. “Wake Up Alone” is refreshed with sweetly simple strings but held back by a dilatory tempo.

When Winehouse echoes at the end of the track, each line resonates — a reminder that she’s no longer with us.

Fans can rest assured cult favorite cover “Valerie” is on this album. The song, originally performed by English rock band The Zutons, takes on a slightly more relaxed tempo as it boasts more soul and less pop.

Reggae infuses the jazz rhythms of “Our Day Will Come” and “Girl From Ipanema.” Both tracks bubble and brim with tropical beats and the brighter, sunnier side of Winehouse’s voice. On ’60s cover “Girl From Ipanema,” Winehouse nasally scats just before surfing into a rich and soulful riff. It’s songs like these that make it easy to forget that this album is a product of this decade and not of a dreamier, more glamorous time of record players and piano bars.

Winehouse’s last known recording, “Body and Soul,” is a duet with jazz singer Tony Bennett. The duet is a throwback that will excite true jazz fans but bore those who prefer Winehouse’s more upbeat and pop-infused songs. The stars show little traces of a generational gap as their voices compliment each other and cling to demure and understated jazz vocals.

A drumroll kicks off the sultriest cover, “A Song For You,” where Winehouse sensually croons with conviction. She sings to a secret lover, “I’ve acted all my life in stages with 10,000 people watching/But we’re alone now and I’m singing this song for you.” Sure to be the next fan favorite, this track proves that Winehouse’s voice can make you forget that a song was originally performed by someone else, in this case, rock ‘n’ roll hall of famer Leon Russell.

On Lioness, Winehouse purrs lyrics that may be difficult to make out but are beautifully stained with emotion that is equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking. This album does more than pay homage to Winehouse — it serves as a stinging reminder that the world has lost a truly mesmerizing musician.

Printed on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 as: Posthumous album benefits youth in need