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Amy Winehouse - Back To Black

Amy Winehouse, Back To Black

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THE spirit of Motown drifts blissfully throughout the second album from Amy Winehouse, Back To Black, which revels in old school values.

Having become bored by the complicated chord structures and jazzy sounds of debut album Frank, Winehouse sought to shake things up a bit and has come back with an absolute barnstormer – one that fans are sure to be impressed with even if it’s not the same sound they were expecting.

Hence, there’s traces of gospel and funk on Rehab, homages to Aretha Franklin on Just Friends and a Shirley Bassey Bond vibe on slinky performers such as You Know I’m No Good.

What’s more, the album chops and changes pace quite frequently, drifting from out and out dancefloor romps to more serious personal epiphanies that offer an insight into the singer’s truest feelings.

The album kicks off in familiar fashion with the Motown drenched Rehab, the lead single. With its funky beats working perfectly in unison with Winehouse’s sassy vocals, the song is a rousing and defiant statement of intent that finds the singer determined to stay away from rehab.

If anything, the singer sounds more confident in her own delivery than ever before and the music simply echoes that with its classic sense of style. The moody “no, no, no” backing simply adds an extra element of attitude and style that’s as direct as she obviously intended.

The sharp, snappy beats and cracking bassline that heralds the arrival of You Know I’m No Good is another gem, a truly funky performer that epitomises Winehouse’s feisty style – it’s declaration that women can behave just as badly as the men that have messed them around is difficult not to agree with; just beware! Lyrically, it’s also wickedly playful, delivering gems like “by the time I’m out the door, you tear men down like Roger Moore”.

Indeed, in spite of its classic values musically, the album takes a defiantly modern approach to songwriting, tossing in lines such as “nobody stands in between me and my man, it’s me and Mr Jones… what king of fuckery is this?” on Mr & Mrs Jones, another track that instantly impresses.

Just occasionally, Winehouse is found out by the contrasting styles. Just Friends, with its calypso trumpet approach, doesn’t work as well and places the singer’s gravel-coated vocals at odds with the sunshine vibe.

But for the most part, this is sassy, direct and tremendous fun. Title track Back To Black, for instance, continues the no-nonsense approach to the battle of the sexes with the opening line “he left me no time to regret, kept his dick wet…”. It’s a hard-hitter in every sense, from its brooding beats to the gutsy lyrics about drugs and lost love – yet it’s not at all depressing.

The melancholy lyrics of Love Is A Losing Game is another case in point, a slow-burner delivered in classic style with a lonely central guitar riff that finds the singer at her most tender, vulnerable and achingly beautiful. The lyrics are heartbreaking.

If anything, Winehouse is the new Alanis Morrissette in terms of her outlook on relationships, yet the melodies and hip-shaking style of many of the tracks belies the sentiment behind them. Hence, listeners may find themselves dancing along to songs that actually reflect on sadness, bitterness and pain.

It’s an interesting paradox that only serves to make this wonderful album all the more special and attention-grabbing.

Track listing:

  1. Rehab
  2. You Know I’m No Good
  3. Me & Mr Jones
  4. Just Friends
  5. Back To Black
  6. Love Is A Losing Game
  7. Tears Dry On Their Own
  8. Wake Up Alone
  9. Some Unholy War
  10. He Can Only Hold Her
  11. Addicted

  1. This album is superb, I love Sixties soul music and this hits the spot. Everytime I listen to a track I hear a new nuance from it, the phraseology is just what the classic 60’s singers would probably have loved to say. SUPERB

    Tom Halvey    Nov 3    #