They may not be as engrossing as the gut-wrenching film, but these songs are definitely worth your while
In death, Amy Winehouse’s music has generally been treated with a respect and restraint that, as director Asif Kapadia’s brilliant, gut-wrenching documentary about the singer made plain, was too often missing from her own life. Granted, there was 2011’s posthumously-released ‘Lioness: Hidden Treasures’, but that hastily-assembled collection of covers, outtakes and polished-up demos looks like being her last studio release of any real substance – if her record label are to be believed, what few recordings had been made for Winehouse’s third album were ultimately destroyed to safeguard her legacy against future cash-ins.
The remarkable success of Kapadia’s film might justify the release of this soundtrack album, but despite the access granted to the director and his team, it’s light on new or little-heard music – there’s a ‘downtempo’ version of ‘Some Unholy War’, previously released as a bonus track, and an acoustic demo of ‘Like Smoke’ the Nas duet which first appeared on ‘Lioness’. The latter is scarcely 80 seconds long and is more of a sketch than a fully-realised song, but it’s elevated by the effortlessness of that voice – even when she wasn’t really trying, Winehouse could convey bruised, world-weary pathos like nobody else.
The rest of the album is largely comprised of live recordings, most of which can be found online (a 2006 version of Donny Hathaway’s ’We’re Still Friends’ is the notable exception), or originals that anyone with even a passing interest in Winehouse will own already (though you have to admire the chutzpah of finding a new way to sell ‘Tears Dry On Their Own’). Brazillian composer Antonio Pinto’s score for the film is also included, and while casual listeners will likely skip the eleven instrumental pieces that are woven throughout the tracklisting, the brooding, intense atmosphere of pieces such as ‘Kidnapping Amy’ and ‘Cynthia’ serve as a reminder of the story that lies between the lines – the one the filmmakers did such a wonderful job of telling. This compilation isn’t anywhere near as enlightening or engrossing as its source material, but if you’ve seen the film, read the think-pieces and are now determined to buy the album, there’s just enough here to make it worth your while.
Record label: Island
Release date: 30 Oct, 2015