Amy Winehouse – Back to Black

tenthavenuefreezeout_sin-au-aside

MICHAEL

It’s hard for me and I am sure many others to listen to this album without feeling some sadness.  This soulful, troubled rebel would be gone less than 4 years after its release.  Her pain is all over the album.  She bares herself to us testifying about her addiction, abusive relationships, her love, loneliness and despair.  It is a very personal record.  Throughout it all I can’t help myself from wondering “what could have been done to help her?” and if things had been different “what would she have brought us next?”

I guess I have hard time separating the Life from the Art.

“Rehab” opens the set list with its infectious and now famous “No, No, No” recant.  This retro, pop song of personal defiance produced by Mark Ronson is probably the biggest and most closely associated song with Winehouse.   From there the album continues introducing us to an eclectic blend of jazz, pop, soul and R&B tunes that create both a distinctive and familiar sound.   Amy’s cool brassy voice weaves effortlessly across upbeat and torch songs reminiscent of  Etta James from decades earlier.  Throughout,  vintage Motown melodies, soul singer phrasing, girl group harmonies and the reminiscent feel of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound all provide a real collage of times gone by in a contemporary shell.

winehouse-bw

One of the nice parts of this project is that you get to come back to albums that you haven’t spent time with for a few years.  The standouts for me on this one are “Back to black”, “Tears dry on their own”, “You know I am no good” and “Love is a losing game”.  Each of these show a different piece of this artist’s unique intensity, abilities and personal experience.  In full disclosure, I expect to add these songs to a playlists this week.

dookie002

MAX

When my dad first suggested that we listen to the Winehouse album next, I wasn’t quite sure what I was walking into.  I had heard the name many times, but I couldn’t really place the artist or the sound.  Once I listened to “Rehab” I recalled the upbeat, happy tune from when I was younger.  Now that I understand the words and their meaning, the pain and struggle are apparent as a darkness began to sweep over the song.

I first listened to this album a couple of weeks before I wrote this.  I liked it but for some reason, it didn’t stick with me.  I listened to it again today and I felt completely different… I’ve  been overtaken by the soul echoing out of every word. The one thing I noticed in both listens is that her pain can be genuinely and authentically felt. There are lots of artists today that try to copy  Winehouse’s melancholy style but they fall short in the believably of what they are singing about.

I really agreed with my dad on the top songs: the piano riff playing on the offbeats in”Back To Black” and the Marvin Gaye-esque “Tears Dry On Their Own” are some of my favorites, along with the groove and background vocals of “Addicted”.  Hearing artists that are new to me is lots of fun.

Back to Black is #451 on the Rolling Stone Magazine 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list

I cheated myself

Like I knew I would 

I told you I was trouble

Yeah, you know that I’m no good