As the music world reflects on the death of British singer Amy Winehouse, many are recalling the promise shown in her breakout album, "Back to Black." When he reviewed "Back to Black" in March 2007, News Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers gave the album four stars, calling it "outstanding." Here's that review:
She's trouble, no doubt about it.
Amy Winehouse is an accident waiting to happen. Luckily, she's documenting her downward spiral with some of the finest soul music to come down the pike since Dusty Springfield went to Memphis, and yes, I'm including Macy Gray in that grand, sweeping statement. Winehouse is wowing them in Britain, and should do the same here with her bad-girl beauty and impeccable classic soul run through a modern filter.
"Rehab" -- as in "Don't even think I'm going there," according to Winehouse -- is Ronnie Spector and the Shangri-Las, all girl-group sugar and realist's spite. "I told you I was trouble/You know that I'm no good," Winehouse laments during "You Know I'm No Good," old-school soul with a hip-hop beat. Even a ballad like "Just Friends" avoids overblown sentimentality, particularly when it moves effortlessly from molasses soul to skanky ska without batting a false eyelash.
Winehouse knows her history, and producer Mark Ransom has certainly served his time pondering Phil Spector's impenetrable wall of sound. But never on "Back to Black" do any involved stoop to rehashing cliches or going for the easy -- and obvious -- pop glory. Winehouse has crafted a remarkably fresh soul record in a world largely bereft of such. Outstanding.