The highly anticipated posthumous album Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures was officially released today amidst mixed reviews and high emotion. Amy‘s father, Mitch Winehouse, has expressed how emotional the process of producing the album has been, saying, “The estate, which I’m a part of – my ex-wife and I – we could decide to put it out or not put it out, and when we went to listen to the album it was a very difficult time for us. It was very emotional.” It seemed, on all accounts, that the sheer poignancy of Amy’s death would be enough to carry the album, and to have it connect with her legions of fans and admirers. However, the album, now released, has been met with mixed reviews.
The Seattle Post Intelligencer calls Lioness: Hidden Treasures “sublime,” “nostalgic, wine-soaked heaven.” The Guardian, however, was not so forgiving, acknowledging that the album is revealing of Amy’s struggles, but that it is subpar considering the strength of Frank and Back To Black. Cynically, the Guardian review surmises, “Presumably it was felt that was what was wanted by the audience Lioness: Hidden Treasures is expected to attract: not the kind of diehard fans who normally flock to posthumous collections of out-takes and demos, but mainstream record buyers, Radio 2 listeners, the Christmas market. Which, of course, tells you something else about Amy Winehouse,” positioning the album essentially as a cash grab by Amy’s estate.
Following the announcement that Amy Winehouse‘s first posthumous album will be released a mere four months after her death on July 23, we started wondering how that timeline compared to some of history’s other notable posthumous record releases. From Nirvana to the Notorious B.I.G., we take a look back at the often uneasy relationship between art and commerce.
Artist:The Notorious B.I.G
Died: March 9, 2007
Album: Life After Death
Release Date: March 25, 2007
Speed To Market: 16 days
Artist: Otis Redding
Died: December 10, 1967
Album: (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay
Release Date: January 8, 1968
Speed To Market: 29 days
Died: September 7, 1996
Album: The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory
Release Date: November 5, 1996
Speed To Market: 59 days
Following the tragic death of singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse earlier this year, two of her closest collaborators, Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi, have put together an album using Winehouse’s unfinished recordings that’s set to be released on December 5. Amy’s father, Mitch Winehouse, oversaw the production. Entitled Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures, the album will include 12 tracks featuring Winehouse originals, unreleased tracks, alternative versions of her existing songs and covers of other artists’ songs.
Since Winehouse’s alcohol-related death back in July, there has been much speculation surrounding the volume of Amy’s unreleased recordings. The Guardian reported that up to a dozen songs were close to being finalized, but the tracklisting for this record shows that there’s only one track (“Between The Cheats”) that can be really be labeled as “new” (as opposed to outtakes from sessions on previously released albums).
All of which leads us to this: Will the record-buying public consider this record, with its mismash of demos, outtakes, and B-sides, as anything more than a “cashgrab”? In its defense, Mark Ronson’s pivotal role in the project— given his close friendship, ongoing creative partnership and overwhelming admiration for Amy—lends a great deal of credence to the project, and having yet to hear it, leads us to believe that the project was assembled with great affection. Additionally, the fact that Â£1 from each album sold will benefit the Amy Winehouse Foundation, an institution set up in Amy’s honor to support those dealing with substance abuse issues and addiction, seems to be a positive sign. However, there is a cynical part of us that can’t help but feeling like this record is being rushed to take advantage of the holiday buying season, and also that it won’t be the last posthumous album that Winehouse releases. We seriously doubt that her estate contains the same sort of treasure trove of unreleased studio sessions that 2Pac’s did, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Full tracklisting for Amy Winehouse Lionness: Hidden Treasures below:
In the wake of Amy Winehouse‘s untimely death, many of her obituaries have focused on how little recorded material of hers actually exists. Since releasing her second studio album, Back In Black, in 2006, the soul-influenced vocalist went five years without officially releasing any new material. And while speculation and rumors of new songs have been swirling around since her unfortunate passing on Saturday, a source close to Winehouse’s management has told The Guardian that there may actually be a treasure trove of songs to release. Enough for an album, or, dare we say it, even two.
According to the source, the late singer “had put down the bare bones of tracks and some were further along than others.” Constantly writing over these past few years, it was understood that Winehouse was recording and amassing a pile of demos in the studios within her home. In 2008, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, Lucian Grainge publically boasted that Amy’s new material was “sensational,” and just a year ago, the artist who already penned Frank and Back to Black vowed that a third album was in the works, and would be released in January of 2011.
Like the gifted singer, that date has now come and gone, and as fans, we can only hope that the purity in the groundwork Winehouse already created will be handled with care and built upon in the most respectful manner possible. And while her label Island Records is maintaining a universal (no pun intended) don’t-confirm-or-deny position, we’ve been told by our own sources over there that there is “no new music as of now.” Translation: it’s coming, but we have to be patient.
Amy Winehouse: Dozen New Songs May Be Set For Release [The Guardian]