Music’s Treasure: Amy Winehouse

Following her tragic passing in July 2011, some of the producers and musicians who worked closely with Amy Winehouse, among them Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi,  spent time listening over the many recordings that Amy had made, before, during, and after the release of “Frank” and “Back To Black”.

Many who have worked with Amy said that she never sang or played a song the same way twice. It quickly became apparent to Salaam and Mark that they had a collection of songs that deserved to be heard, a collection of songs that were a fitting testament to Amy the artist and, as importantly, Amy their friend.

“Lioness : Hidden Treasures“, the third album from Amy Winehouse, without question one of the most talented, original, and best loved artists to emerge in popular music for decades. The 12 track collection features previously unreleased tracks, alternate versions of existing classics as well as a couple of brand new Amy compositions, and has been compiled by long-time musical partners Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson in close association with Amy’s family, management and record label Island Records. “Lioness : Hidden Treasures” proves a fitting tribute to the artist, the talent and the woman and serves as a reminder of Amy’s extraordinary powers as a songwriter, a singer and an interpreter of classics.

I spent so much time chasing after Amy, telling her off that I never realized what a true genius she was. It wasn’t until I sat down with the rest of the family and listened to this album that I fully appreciated the breadth of Amy’s talent, from jazz standards to hip hop songs, it really took my breath away. “Halftime”, I’d never heard before, is just incredibly beautiful. If the family had felt that this album wasn’t up to the standard of “Frank” and “Back To Black” we would never have agreed to release it and we believe it will stand as a fitting tribute to Amy ‘s musical legacy.

Mitch Winehouse – Father of Amy Winehouse

The Hidden Treasures story

With thanks to Universal Music Singapore, we present to you some excerpts from producers Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson on the various tracks featured on the album Lioness: Hidden Treasures.

It’s been hard for me in a lot of ways ‘cos I spent a lot of time just listening back to all the tapes, all the things that we recorded over the last (almost) ten years so I was like ‘wow, you know what?: somebody else needs to hear that.’

Salaam Remi

With her there was no compromise in the studio and the music was always better because of it. And the thing about ‘Back to Black’ that I’m really proud of is that we made something that she was just happy to listen to and ,y’know, would fit in her CD collection right between The Shangri-La’s and her Nas CD’s.

Mark Ronson

OUR DAY WILL COME

Salaam Remi said that with ‘Our Day Will Come, it was one of the songs that while we were still in ‘jazz-mode’ doing the ‘Frank’ album we were into different songs and I’d hipped her to ‘Our Day Will Come’ by Ruby and The Romantics so we cut a version of it.  This one felt like the right one that I felt like everyone should hear first.”

BETWEEN THE CHEATS

Back in 2008 Salaam Remi went to visit Amy out in Henley at this studio where she was there and he asked what she wanted to  Amy picked up the guitar and gave Salaam the first chord and he looked through it. He grabbed the bass (and) went on the drums, went on the piano and basically created the track right there in about twenty minutes.”

TEARS DRY

With this version of Tears Dry prior to the version that was on ‘Back to Black’, Amy laid down that vocal in pretty much one take: just laid out all the lyrics the way she wanted it to go but by the time ‘Back to Black’ was coming together they had so many mid-tempo’s and down-tempo’s Salaam said ‘we need something that’s up’

So Amy heard Salaam messing around with the Motown vibe of ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ and then they augmented the song to fit ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ but this is the original version of the song, the way that she did it.

WAKE UP ALONE

Paul Duffy said “Y’know, there’s a lot of people say ‘this was recorded in one take or that was recorded in one take’ but what was unique about this particular situation, for me especially, was because we’re still in the writing process so normally you’re trying things out; you’re seeing where things would go but she’d just be writing away and then all of a sudden she’d say ‘I think I’ve got something’, and I’d say ‘ok, do you want to try it out’ but she said ‘no, just turn on the mic and let me have a go’ and to my astonishment she delivered this lyric and a melody against the music just in one take. And so I said to her ‘how did you manage to do that, how did you do that’: she didn’t know what I was talking about, that was just normal for her. So at that point you then know that you’re dealing with something that’s extraordinary and she had an extraordinary talent that she wasn’t even aware of I don’t think.”

WILL YOU STILL LOVE ME TOMORROW

Darcus, who signed Amy, he had asked me if I wanted to produce this version of ‘Will You Still Love Me…’ and I heard the vocal and the vocal just kind of blew me away and I think it’s one of the best vocals she’s ever recorded. So I felt like, when I had the vocal, I had to kind of write, in some way, the best arrangement I’ve ever done: I have to know that Amy’s gonna be psyched on this and would love this. It was both sad and enriching at the same time working on it ‘cos I realised how great she makes me; her vocals, her approach, everything and using that to make this a phenomenal piece of music and at the same time going, like ‘wow, this is the last time I get to do this with this girl, so…

Mark Ronson

VALERIE

The other song that’s on the record is a version of ‘Valerie’ that was actually the original version that we cut. So, one day in December, just after ‘Back to Black’ had come out in England she was in New York so I took her to Brooklyn to meet these guys who’d played on her record and we went in and the original arrangement was much more soulful, sort of like a sixties Curtis Mayfield sound to it and then as the whole band’s packing up and everyone’s about to get out the door, kind of last minute, (I was) like ‘let’s do one with sort of like ‘dumbed down’ beat, just (mimics beat) and that’s the one that became the version but this original one is actually, was always kind of my favourite… it was certainly Amy’s favourite. Also the two versions of ‘Valerie’ are the only times that she actually sang in the room with The Dap Kings so there’s something a bit magical about them all performing together as well.

Mark Ronson

LIKE SMOKE featuring NAS

According to Salaam Remi, Like Smoke is basically a song that we had from the ‘08 period. They  had early versions of it during ‘Back to Black’ that were kind of jazzy but then brought it back around the 2008 period and put it right down and it was just one song.

Winehouse actually wrote more lyrics that they never got a chance to record but Salaam felt that this was a great opportunity for her and Nas to finally do that as Amy would’ve done. Whenever he approach something he was always thinking what would Amy say right now? She’d say ‘yeah ok!’

We heard about each other of course and we knew we shared the same birthday so Salaam would tell us how we both reminded him of each other. So it was cool to see my crazy twin. You know talking to her you are talking to someone very genuine; there’s nothing Hollywood about it, nothing industry about it just in her world and her world was cool, and Amy was someone who I wanted to see stick around and I just felt like she had so much to offer, man.

Nas

Other tracks on the album include:

The Girl from Ipanema

Halftime

Best Friends

Body & Soul

A Song for you

I think the most obvious legacy or marker of something that Amy did is that you can tell that as soon as she came around a blew up you just saw a shift in what was going on in popular music.

Mark Ronson

Lioness, you know, I told her a couple of weeks before she passed (we used to Skype a lot so we were talking on Skype) and I was like ‘y’know with a lioness, at the end of the day if you tell man to fight a lion he’s not going to look in there and say ‘well that’s a female lion or that’s a male lion…that’s a lion! I’m not fighting a lion!’ So when there’s no male lion around a female lion will do and control everything that’s going on and that’s what she was.

Salaam Remi

People could listen to her music and it’ll change their day and she was certainly one of the best that I’ve ever worked with.

Paul Duffy

—-

To pay tribute to Amy Winehouse,

Universal Music Singapore will donate s$1 to Make-A-Wish Foundation with each “Lioness: Hidden Treasures” CD purchased from now till 29 Feb 2012.

By Elliott Danker

Lioness: Hidden Treasures is out in stores and is reviewed this month in POP Reviews

Images and notes courtesy of Universal Music Singapore

©POPCulture Online 2012, All Rights Reserved

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