Amy Winehouse: Lioness: Hidden Treasures [Island]

Vale Amy Winehouse. She died in July this year but it’s hard to shake the feeling that she’d been artistically dead for quite some time.

Certainly, that’s the impression given by Lioness: Hidden Treasures; a ragtag collection of cover versions, alternate takes and previously unreleased songs polished up and hustled together to cash in on the lucrative Christmas market.

That’s not to say this is a bad album. It’s just not the much-anticipated follow up to 2006’s Back In Black. Sadly, this posthumous compilation is probably as good as any third album would have been anyway given the circumstances.

Winehouse was pretty much finished as a singer. Sad but true. Her magnificent voice was almost shot from the drink, drugs and smoking-induced — cigarettes and otherwise — lung disease emphysema. And it was horribly apparent, after June’s Serbia debacle, that she wouldn’t tour again.

Despite its necessarily piecemeal composition Lioness: Hidden Treasures is a dignified send-off for Winehouse and that’s the best that can be hoped for. It’s nice to remember her this way and not that way.

Reggae-tinged Our Day Will Come — the first of several cover versions — opens proceedings and its sun-kissed youthful optimism is an early highlight. Only two tracks from the obviously troubled third album sessions make the cut — the doo-wop influenced Between The Cheats and Like Smoke — and they’re tellingly among the weakest songs featured. Rapper Nas is recruited to bolster Like Smoke‘s sound, so wispy is its foundation.

The inclusion of an original (and inferior) languid version of Black To Black‘s wonderful Tears Dry shows that the Winehouse recordings vault must be empty already. Best Friends, Right? which sees Winehouse air some pointed observations about a love/hate relationship is much better. As is Half Time‘s ode to how music is “stronger than all else”.

Well, almost all else as it turned out.

Winehouse’s much-publicised recent duet with old smooth crooner Tony Bennett, Body And Soul, pops up but it’s more a jazzy Bennett beat than a Winehouse joint. And another version of Valerie appears. This time it’s a slowed-down ’68 version, whatever that means. Its inclusion will nicely boost Liverpool indie band The Zutons‘ bank balances. It’s a damn fine song (again) though and they deserve it.

And another cover, Winehouse’s take on Carole King’s Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?, is eerily affecting.

Fans will still love Amy Winehouse tomorrow. The tragedy is she couldn’t love herself a little more and live to see that tomorrow.

★★★★★

earworms: Our Day Will Come, Valerie (’68 Version), Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxYRbzGi8Rg&ob=av2n[/youtube]