Lioness: Hidden Treasures
There’s no getting away from the feelings of unease that swirl around this posthumous compilation, which is surely not the last time we’ll hear Winehouse’s smoked-honey voice from beyond the grave. It’s not that the project is morally questionable (if anyone has the right to open the singer’s vaults to producers Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson, it’s surely her own family), simply that it again summons tragedy’s ugly spectre. But any assessment should heave history aside and focus on the songs.
Lioness…, then, is a collection of demos and unreleased material that dates from before 2002’s Frank up to songs Winehouse was working on last year. As well as a smattering of new material from her planned third album, the tracklist is bolstered by alternate treatments of familiar songs, such as The Zutons’ ‘Valerie’, rendered here as a late-night supper-club number, its hit-single brashness subdued.
The original version of ‘Wake Up Alone’ shuffles in on understated drums and Spanish guitar, showing the singer at her observational peak. ‘I stay up late cleaning the house; at least I’m not drinking,’ she croons, admitting that the ‘silent sense of content everyone gets just disappears when the sun sets’.
Elsewhere, Nas pops up to namecheck Camden on the swings-swathed ‘Like Smoke’, while the barbershop chorus on ‘Between the Cheats’ sounds so wintry retro you can practically see the snowflakes.