Live At The BBC [3CD]
It’s been ten years since Amy Winehouse’s addiction won – and we lost. We lost a great and very finite talent. The two studio albums completed in Winehouse’s lifetime were perfectly imperfect. She was jazz and she was hip-hop and she wasn’t quite either but was so overtly influenced by both that she ended up cutting a path through the middle and making a new/ish version of R’n’B that was both cool with the kids and the boring stiffs she would have hated ended up getting right down to those funky heartbreakers like the song about not wanting to go to rehab. (Spoiler alert: she should have gone).
I remember hearing the first Amy Winehouse album back when being a reviewer meant you just might be hearing the music before a large percentage of the population and you had a job to do – a job the record company never thanked you for when it worked best for them and always grilled you for when it didn’t. And despite their sporadic feedback I don’t recall any payslips eh.
Anyway, Amy Winehouse arrived in my life the best way music can – it was just there and it was straight away fabulous and you wondered how you’d lived without it previously and you couldn’t wait to share the word and you wanted, straight away, to hear more.
I gushed about Frank and kept listening to it for years. And still dig it out now and then – and marvel at what a young person was capable of making. It is a thrill-ride. It has edge. And if you listen closely you’ll hear the footsteps of the young Winehouse dancing right in that spot. And with the magic of music being recorded you can frame her for all time right there.
Back To Black was more problematic for me – I couldn’t love it straight away. Rehab and a few other songs made it feel like she’d sold out to the Karens of the world she was all but mocking or rejecting on the first album. Then I listened again – and again – and fell for the grooves and some of the heartbreaking lyrics too. So we got on with each other in the end, me and that album.
But anything else that was served up was shit. Leftovers and b-sides and live tracks. None of it needed and most of it way below standard.
To mark the decade since Winehouse died of exhaustion and addiction we have this callous and lazy 3CD expanded edition of all the BBC recordings, mostly appearances from Later…with Jools Holland. Many of them crushing (slurring, shoddy) and most of them just underwhelming (over-enunciating). To pad out what was awful to begin with when it was first posthumously released as just a single CD with a DVD we have several versions of the same song. Two and three versions of everything and a lot of underwhelming content basically. A little slice of grave-robbing for the last of the CD-as-beer-coaster collector crowd. A little way to grab some cash from any fans willing to part with it in the hope of a thin thought that maybe they’re getting something more for their money.
And yes, you’ll hear a pretty lovely version of Love Is A Losing Game, and she gets towards Billie Holiday with her phrasing at times. There’s a nice version of Valerie too, you might like the cover of To Know Him Is To Love Him. Look, you might like a few of these things in fact. But the point is – you don’t need to. And you don’t need this. And the release of it is cold and capitalistic and futile and somewhat ghastly if anything. And certainly lazy and cheap and the very best thing you can do to keep the memory of Amy Winehouse alive ten years on is listen to that debut album fresh. Listen to the one that followed. Think about the bewildering lack of support she was shown or given and make a promise, as you hear the best of her work again or for the first time in a while, that you’ll do your best to do right by anyone you know that is trapped in a world where addiction takes over and where support is the only thing that seems to run dry.