It’s easy to forget that Amy Winehouse is no longer here. All one has to do is turn to her albums, or search YouTube for countless performances and undiscovered B-sides, to erase that July afternoon when news broke of her passing. Lioness: Hidden Treasures, a collection of previously unreleased recordings and alternate versions of some of Amy’s beloved hits, gives fans another chance to experience her trademark vocals and wonder what could have been. Although not as polished as her previous studio albums, the producers and artists who knew her best keep her legacy going strong.
Amy’s voice floats over the reggae melody of the album opener, “Our Day Will Come,” and her whimsy wipes away the sadness listeners might anticipate. But Amy is still no stranger to the blues on “Between The Cheats.” The track nods Billie Holiday stunningly not only with Amy’s husky brand of soul, but in every line she croons: “I’d take a thousand lumps for my love.”
She shines on the album highlight, “Will You Still Love Me,” a brilliant rendition of a jazz standard that’s been recorded by legends like Smokey Robinson and Carole King. The track finds Amy at her best— delivering vulnerability, wit, and edge, with a natural mastery of soul that just can’t be taught. Nas provides a verse on the Salaam Remi-produced “Like Smoke.” Escobar, her good friend and the muse of her song “Mr. Jones,” spits about current events like the recession, but the track’s vibe is vintage Amy. Modern drum patterns and Amy’s old-school scatting make for a great cover of the bossa nova classic “The Girl From Ipanema.” The track’s only fault is that it’s much too short.
The original version of “Tears Dry On Their Own,” one of Back To Black’s hits that hooked fans 2006, also appears. Listeners are instantly reminded of her sass: “I should just be my own friend. Not f*ck myself in the head with stupid men.”
Before her death, Amy spoke about putting together a dream band with The Roots’ Questlove and saxophone player Soweto Kinch. If they had a chance to share a stage, “Halftime” would have been their go-to song for impromptu jam sessions. This time she’s not singing an ex-flame. It’s her love song to music: “Rhythm floods my heart, the melody it fills my soul. The tune tears me apart, and it swallows me whole.”
Hidden Treasures closes with Amy’s cover of the late soul singer Donny Hathaway’s “Song For You,” and makes for a poignant a swan song. Hathaway was another troubled artist who found solace in music when the noise of the world was too overwhelming. Amy weighs in before the track fades: “Like Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathway… he couldn’t contain himself, he had something in him you know.”
Artists with legacies that stretch far beyond lives cut so short, never get to appreciate their talent the way the rest of the world does. For much too short a time, Amy offered listeners the vintage visceral soul that poured out of her. Lioness: Hidden Treasures preserves the gift of a true diamond in the rough.