In July we packed away our comedy beehive wigs and scrubbed off our felt tip pen tattoos because the joke just wasn’t funny anymore. The inky Id, our little black shadow that seeped forth from our mental diaries, who we listened to aching through speakers and headphones as the jet of night turned into the sour dawn was gone. We had cried with her on the kitchen floor, we had twisted and turned our ballet-slipper shod feet round grubby dance floors to her defiant tough girl hymns. We had watched like slack jawed spectators unable to turn our gaze away as she stormed through the streets broken and bloodied, peroxide and skeletal, boobed up and brash, a never ending parade of tabloid headlines.
No, the glare of Fleet Street’s finest may not have killed young Amy Winehouse but it constructed its own grim narrative, it swarmed and suffocated until the layers peeled off and only the shaking frame remained. Whereas good old Keef and silly headed Pete are Bacchanalian raconteurs, rascals of the underworld, pirates and poetic princes, Amy was disgraceful, disgusting and vile, a vulgar woman, a dishevelled mess of a girl to be picked apart and feasted on. They trumpeted the death clock on every headline and when the time finally did come they blitzed their ready-made obituaries out and recycled their Diana quotes. So what is left? The sad, slim legacy of endless scrutiny: two albums and so much potential.
Lioness: Hidden Treasures is an attempt to forge the Amy-the-icon ideal, the music that she should be remembered for but with so little material to choose from the compilation may not be the tribute she deserves. A mish-mash of demos, covers and studio originals, it lacks true incisive cohesion and oftentimes unfortunately unfolds like a hasty scrapbook, skipping from fragment to fragment chasing the elusive muse or slice of goosebump magic that made Amy truly great. It does almost scale the dizzying heights of wonderment with her voice vibrating clear and with heart-scorching honesty on the one take demo version of ‘Wake Up Alone’ and the sultry breeze of the Baduesque ‘Half Time’. Drenched in standards and cover versions, it is dazzling to hear that voice blast out ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’ (which sounds like it could have been written for her) and ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ but hardly inspiring.
Frustratingly there is scant original/unheard material featured so it is impossible to figure what route she may have taken or what shape a new album would have formed, as most of the ‘new’ material were songs left to languish for the past seven years at least. Which begs the question: why have they not seen the light of day before now if they are so vital? Sadly we may never know what Island Records plans to do with any of the remnants of her unheard catalogue but they certainly haven’t included any here. It’s difficult to be cynical when a portion of the proceeds are going to her foundation but perhaps if more time, effort and thought had been spent on Lioness it could have attempted to measure up to her past glories rather than stinking of a Christmas cash-in. By now everyone must own a copy at least of Back to Black, if you want to remember the scrappy chanteuse true genius give it a spin whilst decorating the tree.