Friday, December 16, 2011


The worst you can say about this collection is that it's not a proper album.  Assembled from a variety of different sources, it's basically a grab-bag of styles and moods that WInehouse chose to explore over her brief career.  Everything from old standards to hip-hop, girl group pop to bossa nova.  Some go back to her two proper records, others were scheduled for the much-promised and never properly started third.  Then there's the duet with Tony Bennett, Body And Soul, her last recording session, from March of this year.

It's always worrisome when producers take raw materials, in this case vocals, build the tracks posthumously.  But since that's pretty much what her producers did anyway, you can't argue that they are over their bounds.  Winehouse sang, they added.  In fact, she had never met many of the musicians and voices on Frank until after the disc came out, such was the way Mark Ronson put it together.  So, away they went.

While not being a regular, cohesive disc, these are worthy cuts all.  Of course, it's her voice.  Like Aretha in her heyday, Winehouse had the ability to make everything ring, seemingly effortlessly.  She was a true singer, using her voice as an instrument, delivering both a tremendous performance and defining the mood.  When you find out that many of these tracks were the alternates, the discards in the pile, left aside for other arrangements, its hard to figure out why.  Highlights include a dramatic and very different arrangement of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? that makes a mockery of the original, the new Between The Cheats, which surely would have been a highlight of a third disc, and Half Time, dropped from the Frank album, but clearly no lesser number.  This is the rare disc to come out after an early death that enhances an artist's legacy.

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