Back to Black

Back to Black

4.5 48
by Amy Winehouse

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America was introduced to Amy Winehouse through her second album (her U.K. debut, Frank, saw release during Back to Black's reign at the top of the charts), but got caught up with storyline quickly enough: "Rehab," her inescapable and perfect single, branded her right from the start. Here was Amy, obviously a major vocal talent, but also nearlySee more details below

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America was introduced to Amy Winehouse through her second album (her U.K. debut, Frank, saw release during Back to Black's reign at the top of the charts), but got caught up with storyline quickly enough: "Rehab," her inescapable and perfect single, branded her right from the start. Here was Amy, obviously a major vocal talent, but also nearly superheroically self-destructive. Unlike her hometown audience, we never got to hear that expressive, jazz-indebted voice outside of the carnival of tawdriness that has followed Winehouse since Back to Black surfaced, that is, apart from the cartoon. But our gain is an artist fully formed. The album is smartly conceived, and as lean as the anorectic-seeming Winehouse would herself unfortunately become. Thanks goes to the production team: Salaam Remi, whose hip-hop record meshes perfectly with the increasingly interesting Motown fixations of Mark Ronson. The pair devise a musical space tailor-made to Winehouse's contemporary take on the '50s bad girl that was already apparent in her tart lyrics and wild bouffant 'do. Honking saxophones, tambourines and hand-claps (most from the busy Brooklyn studio band the Daptones) herald a sound that's been attempted before but never fully succeeded. And that's where Amy comes in, with that wonderfully singular voice, equally at home crooning pillow talk as gutter talk, each surprisingly, shockingly delivered verse a lot more interesting than her tabloid exploits would warrant. Here's hoping she finds a way to top one of 2007's best albums.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - John Bush
The story of Back to Black is one in which celebrity and the potential of commercial success threaten to ruin Amy Winehouse, since the same insouciance and playfulness that made her sound so special when she debuted could easily have been whitewashed right out of existence for this breakout record. (That fact may help to explain why fans were so scared by press allegations that Winehouse had deliberately lost weight in order to present a slimmer appearance.) Although Back to Black does see her deserting jazz and wholly embracing contemporary R&B, all the best parts of her musical character emerge intact, and actually, are all the better for the transformation from jazz vocalist to soul siren. With producer Salaam Remi returning from Frank, plus the welcome addition of Mark Ronson (fresh off successes producing for Christina Aguilera and Robbie Williams), Back to Black has a similar sound to Frank but much more flair and spark to it. Winehouse was inspired by girl group soul of the '60s, and fortunately Ronson and Remi are two of the most facile and organic R&B producers active. (They certainly know how to evoke the era too; Remi's "Tears Dry on Their Own" is a sparkling homage to the Motown chestnut "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," and Ronson summons a host of Brill Building touchstones on his tracks.) As before, Winehouse writes all of the songs from her experiences, most of which involve the occasionally riotous and often bittersweet vagaries of love. Also in similar fashion to Frank, her eye for details and her way of relating them are delightful. She states her case against "Rehab" on the knockout first single with some great lines: "They tried to make me go to rehab I won't go go go, I'd rather be at home with Ray" (Charles, that is). As often as not, though, the songs on Back to Black are universal, songs that anyone, even Joss Stone, could take to the top of the charts, such as "Love Is a Losing Game" or the title song ("We only said good bye with words, I died a hundred times/You go back to her, and I go back to black").
Entertainment Weekly - Will Hermes
[Grade: A-] All told, it's a near-perfect set that declares not just the arrival of a fully formed talent, but possibly the first major salvo of a new British Invasion.

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Amy Winehouse   Primary Artist,Guitar,Background Vocals
Vincent Henry   Clarinet,Flute,Guitar,Piano,Celeste,Bass Clarinet,Saxophone,Alto Saxophone,Baritone Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone
Mike Smith   Tenor Saxophone
Bruce Purse   Trumpet,Flugelhorn,Bass Trumpet
Peter G. Hanson   Violin
Mark Berrow   Violin
Dave Bishop   Baritone Saxophone
Liz Edwards   Violin
Richard Edwards   Tenor Trombone
John Heley   Cello
Andrew MacKintosh   Alto Saxophone
Anthony Pleeth   Cello
Johnathan Rees   Violin
Salaam Remi   Bass,Guitar,Piano,Drums,Bass Guitar,Upright Bass
Frank Ricotti   Percussion
Steve Sidwell   Trumpet,Harp
Jamie Talbot   Tenor Saxophone
Helen Tunstall   Harp
Sam Koppelman   Percussion
Boguslaw Kostecki   Violin
Bruce White   Viola
Victor Axelrod   Piano,Hand Clapping,Wurlitzer
Cochemea Gastelum   Baritone Saxophone
Chris Elliott   Conductor
Everton Nelson   Violin
Perry Mason   Violin,Leader
Rachel Bolt   Viola
Chris Davies   Alto Saxophone
Warren Zielinski   Violin
Neal Sugarman   Tenor Saxophone
Vaughan Merrick   Hand Clapping
John Adams   fender rhodes
Mark Ronson   Tambourine,Hand Clapping,Finger Snapping
Ian Hendrickson-Smith   Baritone Saxophone
Nick Movshon   Bass Guitar
Binky Griptite   Guitar
Homer Steinweiss   Drums
Joely Koos   Cello
Thomas Brenneck   Guitar
Katie Wilkinson Khoroshunin   Viola
Tom Pigott-Smith   Violin
Christopher Tombling   Violin
Peter Hanson   Violin
Dave Guy   Trumpet
Troy Auxilly-Wilson   Drums
Jon Thorne   Viola

Technical Credits

Nick Ashford   Composer
Paul O'Duffy   Composer
Salaam Remi   Producer,Audio Production
Valerie Simpson   Composer
Richard Poindexter   Composer
Robert Poindexter   Composer
Chris Elliott   Orchestration,Orchestral Arrangements
Dominic Morley   Engineer
Perry Mason   Orchestra Leader
Derek Pacuk   Engineer
Vaughan Merrick   Engineer
Mark Ronson   Arranger,Composer,Producer,Engineer,Audio Production
Gabriel Roth   Arranger,Engineer
Amy Winehouse   Composer
Matt Paul   Engineer

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