By Shereen Siewert
Released in 2011, Lioness is not Amy Winehouse’s long-lost gem, nor is it a revealing glimpse into the life of a tortured star. Rather, Lioness is a collection of odds and ends recorded over the course of nine years and compiled into a posthumously-released double vinyl set of sheer pleasure, one that presents an incredibly talented singer at her most restrained.
This is a sad record, one that hits you like a punch to the gut when you realize that this is all there is when it comes to the work of Amy Winehouse. The iconic singer’s July 2011 death of alcohol poisoning was the cap to the very public struggles with drugs, bulimia and alcoholism that eclipsed her success, and it’s hard not to listen to this record and not know that her best work was likely before her. Still, Lioness is a must-buy for any Winehouse fan, even if not every track is perfect.
The album was produced by SaLaAM ReMi and Mark Ronson, who both worked closely with Winehouse during her short career. Their notes on each song are included in a pull-out and are essential reading for fans seeking a better understanding of how each song was produced. Between the Cheats showcases Winehouse’s amazing ability as a lyricist, while Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow sounds like a parting gift to the world, even if the arrangement verges on the overblown. But perhaps the most heartbreaking song of all is her rendition of the Leon Russell classic, A Song for You, recorded in her attic in 2009.
Lioness is not a collection of Amy Winehouse’s greatest hits or even her finest works, but it does give insight into how her life unraveled. The shift in her vocals from the careful enunciation of her early material to the smeared, ragged voice on her later recordings is pretty striking. Instead of adding anything concrete to her legacy, Lioness only reaffirms what we already knew about her, and hopefully why she deserves to be remembered as an artist rather than a media circus.