Island Records/ Universal Music Group
If you compare Amy Winehouse’s two studio albums released while she was still alive (I predict the music industry 2pacing the shit out of miss Winehouse’s unreleased material, until every scrap is released in one way or another) you will notice a few differences between the Amy of her 2003 debut Frank and the one of her 2006 sophomore Back in Black. There’s no bee-hive, no tats and a few pounds of body mass more. If you ask me she looks a lot better on Frank’s cover. Intelligent readers will also notice in the two sentences preceding this one that I only got to a superficial comparison. That is correct because I have never heard either album in its entirety before I started writing this review. In fact I never cared much for Amy until she passed away in late July this year and I started a music review site and needed something that would generate a lot of hits. Sounds saddening? Oh well, at least I’m not some Winehouse fanatic ranting about how she was the greatest soul singer of our time. And might as well have been for all I know. Let’s get into it!
I really don’t dig this intro. Is she mocking the jazz genre here? Is she actually attempting to really make a pretentious album intro? What’s the motherfucking point!? Well, at least it is short.
1b Stronger than Me
Now this leaves little doubt what its intentions are. It’s making a mockery of her effeminate boyfriend. While I really enjoyed Salaam Remi’s jazz-hop infused instrumental and while Amy’s singing is technically proficient, this cannot hold a candle to Lily Allen’s similarly themed Not Big. Still, this is a hell of a lot better than Katy Perry’s Ur So Gay, but that’s not really any sort of accomplishment now, is it? Anyway, this song was a successful single, was nominated for a Ivor Novello award and received tons of critical acclaim. So while I didn’t go bonkers over it I am clearly in the minority here.
2a. You Send Me Flying
This is a pretty good song and it was released as an airplay-only single in the UK. Although it is anything but an original idea to wait half a song before letting the drums kick in it is used to great effect and the hook is some pretty terrific stuff. Well played ma’am. Also, the instrumental sounds nothing like what Remi might’ve given NaS which is a testament to his versatility behind the boards, although it’s not hard to imagine Lauryn Hill & Wyclef over it.
Tacked onto the rear end of this track is a hidden track with a rather corny idea behind it. Luckily there is the skip button, ladies and gentlemen.
3. Know You Now
I found this one to be boring as fuck both musically and conceptually. Sorry, That’s all I got.
4. Fuck Me Pumps
Hmmm… Dissing unnamed people for being only famous for their rambunctious social life. Hell, the comment I would make were she still alive is both way too mean to throw onto the interweb this soon after her unfortunate passing, too easy, not completely accurate and musically irrelevant. Anyway I read online other music critics found this to be very witty and entertaining and such but I respectfully disagree. This was released as a single.
5. I Heard Love Is Blind
Whereas this is those things and more to me. Telling a lover that you really weren’t cheating on him when you were fucking someone else because you were thinking about him the whole time. That’s hilarious. The music itself not being half bad also helps matters considerably
6. Moody’s Mood For Love (Leo Ticks)
Apparently this a cover of some sort of jazz-standard. I really enjoyed the jazz-hop with an extremely mild reggae twist-beat of this song, provided by Salaam Remi, and Amy sings sex songs as well as love songs, it seems. The most memorable moment of this track to me is when she sings “You can blow now if you want to. I’m through.” at the very end. I think I’m getting why people think she was special. I can’t think of any female artist that could be so straightforward without making it awkward in one way or another, but here you have it.
7. (There Is No) Greater Love
Short and sweet.
8. In My Bed
Beat-jacking NaS!? Well, it works a lot better than I might have thought it would if someone described this song to me. And she does have the producer of the original song on board. Still, I’d listen to Made You Look before this anytime.
9. Take the Box
So far what separates miss Winehouse from similar artists is her sincerity and no-shit songwriting. While I’m still not as in awe as when I first listened to Lily Allen I am starting to like her. This is kind of bittersweet as I know I haven’t got anything to look forward to from her in the future, except for her sophomore album Back In Black which I’ve never heard in it’s entirety (although technically as of the writing of this sentence I still haven’t heard Frank in it’s entirety either). Anyway, she is winning me over.
10. October Song
Pleasant. Nothing more, nothing less.
11. What Is It About Men?
Something about liking bad boys and Amy’s destructive side. I didn’t really feel this one but then this one is probably more for the ladies than for me.
12. Help Yourself
Upbeat and jazzy from the very first second. Still, can’t say I like to be preached to by this woman who clearly did nothing of the kind she tells the listener to do. Not a musical argument either, I know.
13a. Amy Amy Amy
Another one about bad boys and Amy’s destructive side. Still this one is pretty good. Mostly because it’s funny rather than preachy or (ha!) whiny. Good way to cap off this album.
Only the first 4 minutes and something of thrack 13’s thirteen minutes consists of the song Amy Amy Amy. After a short instrumental reprise of Stronger than Me we get a hidden song. It’s okay, a lot better than the Jazz Intro of this album but not great. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was Amy Winehouse’s Frank.
Oh, wait! There’s another hidden song. This second one is pretty good, upbeat and fun. Although it seems to be about buying alcoholic drinks at the store. Well, at least Amy seems happy and inspired singing about booze. #Bittersweet.
Because of all the hype surrounding Amy, her black voice in a white person, her erratic public appearances, her promise of leaving a young corpse and her delivering on that promise it’s hard to listen to Frank objectively. Still, this is a genre- and epoch-defining album and while it is far from perfect it is for the most part a thoroughly enjoyable listen. Winehouse has a nice warm singing voice reminiscent of Lauryn Hill and the idea of an English jazz/soul singer collaborating with american hiphop producer Salaam Remi is a fresh one. Also, while Amy doesn’t rap anywhere on this album her lyrical straightforwardness has a hiphop edge to it. Basically this is effortless genre crossing. While there’s consistently enough jazzy hiphop being made there’s little hiphop-infused jazz around as far as I know. This would be the only example I know as a matter of fact and. It is an innovation and a lasting one I hope. Frank bridges a gap. While some songs miss the mark, most songs on here are pretty good and promise a really good follow-up. Whether or not Amy delivered on that promise before she died will be analyzed in due time , right here on Straight from the Crates.
You Send Me Flying, I Heard Love Is Blind, Moody’s Mood For Love (Leo Ticks), There Is No Greater Love, Take the Box, Amy Amy Amy + Outro
If you find this in the discount section of your local record store or fo’ cheap on sites like amazon you should pick this up. This album isn’t half bad. Just don’t expect to hear the new Billie Holiday or some shit like that because you won’t. Best soul singer of our generation? Maybe… But if she were, and I don’t believe she is, that would say as much about the state of the genre as it says about the artist.
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