It’s been a year since Amy Winehouse’s sad, untimely death, and Q Magazine are celebrating her life with a free tribute album featuring the likes of Saint Etienne and the Manic Street Preachers covering songs from Back To Black.
Imaginatively called Back To Back To Black, it’s a diverse and entertaining tribute, so here’s our track-by-track review:
1 – Rehab – The Time And Space Machine
Richard Norris’s new act apparently originally went all Hawkwind on Back To Black’s most famous track, stripping away the horns of Mark Ronson‘s original production and replacing it with a lengthy, spacey new version. In the end they relented and edited it down to a more manageable length and it works very well, coming across a bit like Lou Reed singing over the Flaming Lips, and those vocals fit the lyrics perfectly. A good start.
2 – You Know I’m No Good – Hollie Cook
Amy Winehouse always had her reggae side, so it’s good to hear one of the UK’s best young starlets from that genre adapting one of her best songs, and Paul Cook’s daughter dubs it up well. Her voice actually sounds eerily like Amy’s and it’s a fine cover version, coming at a good time for her after supporting The Stone Roses at the weekend.
3 – Me & Mr Jones – Dry The River
Another act on a high at the moment are Dry The River after the fairly high profile release of their debut album this year, and they deliver a slow and folky version of this jazzy original. It’s not a classic, but works well enough, albeit lacking the spark of Winehouse’s delivery of the word ‘fuckery’.
4 – Just Friends – Saint Etienne
Saint Etienne have been busy this year, releasing an excellent new album and contributing a cover to a Pet Sounds tribute album. This one sees them tone down the reggae lilt of the original and convert it into a kind of elevator music tinkly style and it’s typically slick and lovely.
5 – Back To Black – The Cribs
There’s nothing lovely about this one though. The Cribs take Winehouse’s best song apart and remake it like a Frankenstein’s monster of doomy vocals, distorted guitars and drunken-sounding drum beats. It’s meant to sound bleak and harsh but maybe achieves that a bit too much.
6 – Love Is A Losing Game – The Temper Trap
Here’s one that doesn’t necessarily sound like a disaster, but doesn’t really work at all. It’s a desperately sad song, of course, and one that became even more sad a year ago, so why The Temper Trap have made sound so upbeat is a little mystifying. It’s not bad, it’s just not right.
7 – Tears Dry On Their Own – Karima Francis
Karima Francis was tipped for big things a few years ago but didn’t live up to expectations with her debut album, but her voice is still an interesting one and this cover of Tears Dry On Their Own is full of passion and sounds so real after the song that preceeds it on this album.
8 – Wake Up Alone – Manic Street Preachers
This seemed like a natural song for the Manics to cover, because the choppy guitar sound on the original seemed quite like James Dean Bradfield‘s style of playing, and it comes across like their own song in this cover. It starts off a little bombastic, but soon settles into a nice groove and is one of the best tracks here.
9 – Some Unholy War – Swindle feat Baby Sol
A dub/soul cover of Amy Winehouse seems like a fairly safe bet, and Baby Sol’s vocals are – like Hollie Cook’s – very similar to the originals, but what sets this one apart from being a straight up remake is the woozy guitar solo at the end.
10 – He Can Only Hold Her – The Balearic Folk Orchestra
A lovely song in its own right really, this folky cover has beautiful female vocals and possibly does what nothing else on here does, in that it actually sounds better than the original. It’s just really nice.
11 – Addicted – The View
A decent enough end to the album proper, this finds The View combining Rod Stewart with Winehouse in vocal style and managing to come across much more appealing than they usually do. It’s quite chilled-out and good fun.
12 – Monkey Man – Zed Bias feat Trigga and Trevor Roots
Here’s a curiosity of a ‘bonus’ track, a cover of a cover, which begs the question of what the point is. Few would see Winehouse’s version of the Toots & The Maytals classic as being particularly essential, so this is basically just another cover of that one. And it’s interesting enough, more so than Amy’s version actually, just an odd thing to tack on here.
13 – Valerie – Jabru feat Maz Totterdell
This cover of a cover is at least one that Amy Winehouse is remembered for above the original version (by The Zutons of course), and it’s a nice blissed-out version with good production and soulful vocals.