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March 12, 2007 | by  | in Music |
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Amy Winehouse – Back to Black

With 2003’s Frank, Amy Winehouse gave crossover jazz/pop fans around the world a new siren to lust over. Bold and brash, Winehouse brought a boozy and often lurid sense of humour to the table (for instance, Frank features a song titled ‘Fuck Me Pumps’), as well as possessing a distinctively large, soaring voice. With Back to Black, Winehouse makes the jump from crossover jazz to contemporary R&B and soul, but manages to retain the musical personality that made Frank so widely appealing. Back to Black showcases an even more relaxed and confident Winehouse, belting out her tunes with much more flair and spark.

Fortunately, her somewhat intriguing sense of humour makes the journey from album to album wholly intact, with lyrics like “what kind of fuckery is this?” (from ‘Me & Mr Jones’) giving a distinctive flavour to her songs. As with Frank, Winehouse finds her inspiration in the bittersweet nature of love and relationships, offering wryly sardonic observations on the all too common themes of infatuation, deceit and heartbreak.

Although Winehouse’s impressive soulful voice does take centre stage, the success of this album ultimately lies with the superb arrangements underneath the vocals. Producers Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson have done a wonderful job here, merging jumpy bass lines with crisp rhythmic drumming and tastefully melodic horns, sculpting a mix that remains charmingly organic despite its obvious use of studio trickery. Tracks like ‘You Know I’m No Good’ and album closer ‘He Can Only Hold Her’ are perfect examples of this, combining smooth, flowing bass rhythms with bouncy instrumentation. Back to Black is an ultimately gratifying step from Winehouse, and further demonstrates what differentiates her from 90 percent of other contemporary R&B and soul artists. If you’re keen on modern soul and want to avoid the horrendous pitfalls of Joss Stone and her clones, pick it up and give it a listen.

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