Friday, 13 July 2012

Back to Back to Black (Amy Winehouse tribute album)

Last year Q magazine compiled a track by track cover version of U2's Achtung Baby to coincide with the album's 20th anniversary, and to be honest, I found that particular issue rather hard to track down, scouring a number of local newsagents before finding a solitary copy in WH Smiths.

And understandably so, since I was impressed by the calibre of contributing artists taking part to pay homage to the classic album.

Having fallen for this trick a number of times before from the predictable Mojo magazine and their re-covered Beatles albums featuring a whole host of people that I hadn't heard of and hadn't done a great job either, I was dubious of the magazine's ploy.

In this case tho, Snow Patrol, The Killers, Jack White and Depeche Mode, had all been drafted in, and the result was a startling reinterpretation of one of rock's well respected artefacts.

And so, to mark a year since the sad and untimely passing of Amy Winehouse, Q's latest cover mount is a song by song reconstruction of the modern classic, Back To Black, originally released in 2006.

The Cribs and The Manic Street Preachers head up the talent this time around, alongside The Temper Trap, The View, St Ettiene and up and comers Dry The River and Hollie Cook.

It is my sad duty to report that even with these artists on board, the album fails to impress, the over all feeling of it is far too muddied, cluttered and lacking focus, bleakly paralleling Amy's final years in the media spotlight.

Not to say that there are not good tracks on there, just that they are few and far between, Hollie Cook's reggae light take on You Know I'm No Good stands out as a highlight on the first half of the album, and at the half way mark The Temper Trap seem to mimic Spandeu Ballet balladry on Love Is A Losing Game (my opinion of which, the verdict is still out on), from here on in tho, the quality somewhat improves.

Karima Francis tackles Tears Dry On Their Own and buoys it with enough emotional weight to make it work and claim it for her own, Swindle and Zed Bias both inject a controlled dose of dub step into each of their more zion-skewed cover versions, and both sound all the more refreshing for their challenging takes, meanwhile The View's attempt at Addicted doesn't stretch itself too much, but satisfyingly adds a cheeky twist to Amy's ode to cannabis.

yet even with these positive points going for it, it does still leave half the tracks to be filed under forgettable, or even worse, skippable.

perhaps the reinterpretations were just handled incorrectly, or perhaps it is just too soon, perhaps it is because the memory of Amy Winehouse and her unique contribution to the music world still resonates with us too much, and no matter how fondly we look back on it, we are not yet far enough removed for this project to feel right.

Back To Black's impact on the musical landscape was phenomenal, inspiring a renaissance in self-empowered female artists, as well as bringing a flavour of Motown and soul back into the charts ahead of the inevitable imitations that would follow.

But very few would ever get close to Winehouse's troubled talent and her noir fuelled delivery, so closely intertwined with her turbulent life, indeed, with the lead single Rehab, she laid her problems bare for all FM radio listeners to hear.

so I must conclude that while Q and the artists involved made an admirable effort, it falls some way short of living up to the already considerable legacy that Amy Winehouse left with us in such a tragically short career.