Amy Winehouse

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

Influential singer Amy Winehouse. 27, was found dead in her London apartment Saturday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Amy Winehouse, the influential vocalist whose career was marked by her jazz, soul and R&B musical style and storied addiction and mental health problems, was found dead in her London apartment on Saturday.

At press time, the police reported the 27-year-old musician’s death as “unexplained” and said “no arrests in connection with the incident” had been made.

Winehouse rose to fame in the U.K. with her 2003 debut album Frank, which The New York Times described as a “glossy admixture of breezy funk, dub and jazz-inflected soul.” It was her Motown-inspired 2006 follow-up, Back to Black, that earned her serious international acclaim, including five Grammy awards, and was listed on a score of critics’ year-end top 10 lists.

Her smooth, emotive and piercing contralto vocals were in stark contrast to her private life, riddled with tabloid covers and tales of her struggles with drugs and alcohol, which she famously sent up on her most iconic song, “Rehab:” “They tried to make me go to rehab / I said, ‘No, no, no.’”

Despite her troubles, her music proved highly influential in reinvigorating the soul music scene and kicking off a wave of commercially and critically successful female musicians with strong voices. Adele told People in 2009 that Winehouse helped make it possible for musical acts like herself and Duffy to be so widely received. In 2010, Rapper Jay-Z likened Winehouse’s ascent as the revitalization of British music, telling the BBC, “It’s been coming ever since I guess Amy [Winehouse]. I mean always, but I think Amy, this resurgence was ushered in by Amy, that’s how I see it.”

Lady Gaga credits Winehouse, whose distinct ’60s girl group look with heavy mascara and swirled, beehive hair, for making her own offbeat style more accessible. Her influence can still be seen in other recent popular female vocalists, including Florence and the Machine, La Roux and Little Boots.

Winehouse last performed in Austin in 2007 during South By Southwest. During her set at the Island Records party, she performed “Love Is a Losing Game,” a melancholic ode to the tragedy of love with soaring, controlled vocals and a steely gaze. The crowd was mostly silent but staring directly at her — you weren’t sure if they’re savoring the performance or just politely listening along. But when the song ended, Winehouse cracked a brief smile and the crowd roared with cheers and applause.

One of her final recordings was a cover of Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party” with Quincy Jones. The song is perhaps the most befitting for Winehouse to have recorded, its thematic thrust perfectly in line with her attitude. She may have been an addict and unhealthy, but she didn’t care because she knew she had the goods — it was always Winehouse’s party and she did what she wanted.

Printed on 7/25/2011 as: Grammy Award-winner Amy Winehouse dies at 27

The Black Lips are an Atlanta-based punk band that has been playing for nearly a decade. Their sixth studio album, Arabia Mountain, will be released on June 7.

Photo Credit: Erika Rich | Daily Texan Staff

It isn’t necessary, at least for Black Lips and Vivian Girls, to cite the growing lo-fi trend in music anymore.

In Black Lips’ case, mega-producer Mark Ronson took the helm on its upcoming sixth studio album Arabia Mountain. Ronson, you may remember, also produced Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse and Adele.

For Vivian Girls, singer-guitarist Cassie Ramone always asserted that the band wasn’t intended to be associated with the leagues of lo-fi bands emulating its sound, while also vehemently denying that the band’s all-female roster was some sort of gimmick.

One thing Black Lips and Vivian Girls do share though is the true, quintessential spirit of the D.I.Y. punk scene, buried under layers and layers of fuzz and distortion. Black Lips singer-guitarist Cole Alexander talks about bringing punk music to the far corners of the world like a new-age Marco Polo. Ramone talks about the Vivian Girls’ latest album, Share the Joy, the way you would describe an existential nightmare: “[It dealt] with alienation, rejection, loneliness ... ”

Read on to find out what Alexander and Ramone had to say about the ongoing tour, 1990s nostalgia, collaborating with Waka Flocka Flame and more.

The Daily Texan: Can you tell me a little bit about your upcoming album Arabia Mountain? Were there any issues in recording?

Cole Alexander: It’s a little more together. I feel like 200 Million Thousand is a little more trashier, sloppier. But this is the first album we ever used a producer, and so it’s a little more together, I think. It’s more cohesive and accessible, but still fucked-up at the same time. That’s the vibe we got. Like thunder ... in the night.

DT: You mentioned a producer: were you talking about Mark Ronson?

CA: Yeah, and you would think that that would be contrary to our sound. But Amy Winehouse’s album has those great rich sensibilities, those '60s sounds and old-school vibe. We tried to go with that retro vibe with him.

DT: I understand you’ll be touring with Vivian Girls as well — I really love those girls. I understand you guys recently partied with them, Surfer Blood, the Strange Boys and a bunch of others recently? Can you tell me a little bit about Bruise Cruise?

CA: [laughs] We partied with them on the Bruise Cruise. They did a cover of Celine Dion’s song from “Titianic” on the boat and scared everybody. But yeah, they’re really really cool.

DT: Now that the band has been putting on live shows for a little over a decade now, do you feel obligated to tone down the energy?

CA: I wanna bring up the energy, actually. We haven’t settled down, we just don’t do the same thing over and over again. We’re not one-trick ponies that do the same thing. I always tell people that like with GG Allin, if you can do even 20 percent of what he did, you’re going to do amazing things.

DT: Considering that you’ve travelled all over the world – Europe, India, and beyond, what does it feel like to play in, say east Atlanta Village, or a small town in the Midwest?

CA: Well, I mean, you’ll notice, all the great explorers — even Marco Polo — stopped in all the small towns to meet the people. We’re like punk rock Marco Polos.

DT: I think it’s really terrific that you’ve collaborated with GZA, and I think it was Jared who mentioned during SXSW that you might try to talk to Waka Flocka Flame about doing something as well, but I couldn’t tell if that was a joke or not.

CA: We’re talking to Waka Flocka. I really like his Gumby chain and I think he’s bringing some good stuff to the rap game. I really want to talk to Tyler [the Creator] from Odd Future [Wolf Gang Kill Them All].

DT: Speaking of collaborations, I have to ask about Almighty Defenders – was that sort of a one-off with King Khan & BBQ Show?

CA: Yeah, that was a one-off, but you never know! One of these days, who knows.

DT: What was the first album you purchased with your own money?

CA: I think Nevermind by Nirvana.

DT: How would you describe your perfect sandwich?

CA: [laughs] My perfect sandwich is the like fried peanut butter and banana sandwich.