Back To Black marks the welcome return of Amy Winehouse. With her recent single ‘Rehab’ still getting favourable attention on the radio fans of the aforementioned track will find there is plenty more on offer with the album as a whole.
Where 2003’s debut ‘Frank’ mined its sound from a decidedly jazzier vein, Back To Black draws its inspiration from different sources. This time round the influences are more soulful than jazzy. Whether it be the petulant stomp of the single or the gentility of tracks like ‘Love Is A Losing Game’. As a whole the influences on this album range from the late 50’s to the early 70’s and these make the album an unassuming but precious thing all the same.
Essentially this is a tour de force in terms of musical professionalism, the backdrops are nothing short of exquisite without leaning to heavily on their influences. Close harmonies hang respectfully in the background and the bright chiming piano rolls punctuating some of the tracks illicit memories of the better output of Motown records.
Vocally Winehouse is as forthright as ever, the Marlboro stains on her voice often suit the subject matter as she paints herself as quite the tear stained Jezebel on tracks like You Know I’m No Good. Elsewhere she can show femininity and vulnerability (Wake Up Alone). Either way there is a worldly wisdom to her performances that gives her a real sense of authenticity that is only usually harnessed by those who’ve been around a lot longer.
Production wise Mark Ronson is at the helm and this explains just why the general production values are so high. He demonstrates a feel for the sounds that are being emulated but at the same allows shards of modernity into the mix so this album’s dedication to the past doesn’t become slavish.
As a whole this is unmissable, a mature record that displays an unashamed indifference to pretty much everything you will find in the chart right now. This should be your album purchase of the week.