26 September 2023

Amy Winehouse at the BBC

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Reviewed by Ian Phillips.

By Amy Winehouse, Island Records/BBC World Music 2021.

I grew up in a household of music. My father’s love of jazz had a profound influence on me and many nights were spent listening to Woodie Herman, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Ella Fitzgerald.

When Amy Winehouse first appeared on the scene back in the early 2000’s I became enraptured by her amazing voice. She seemed to me to be Ella Fitzgerald reborn.

Amy was a member of the (English) National Youth Jazz Orchestra in her youth and her love jazz is clearly evident in all her songs and recordings.

It is particularly evident in the tracks she recorded for the Big band Special in 2009, many of which are included on this compilation.

Amy Winehouse at the BBC is a three CD collection of her performances at the BBC from 2003 until 2009.

She appeared on live TV music shows Later With Jools Holland and Hootenanny many times as well as numerous radio shows at the BBC.

The BBC also recorded her in concert at various venues from T in The Park in 2004 to concert halls such as Porchester Hall in 2007.

There are 38 tracks on the CDs although some of them are repeated as they were part of her regular set list. It’s great to hear versions that vary slightly depending on her accompaniment and setting.

Amy Winehouse only released two official albums in her lifetime, Frank (2003) and Back To Black (2006). A third album was released posthumously Lioness: Hidden Treasures (2011).

Only two albums and yet her reputation and legend has continued to grow since her untimely death in June 2011.

Many of the songs on her first two albums appear on this compilation and they are gorgeous but it’s some of the covers that delighted me the most.

Her version of I Heard It Through The Grapevine with Paul Weller & Jools Holland is wonderful as is her cover of Phil Spector’s To Know Him Is To Love Him, which was performed live on the Pete Mitchell radio show in 2006.

Another stand out track is her delightful rendition of the jazz standard Lullaby of Birdland.

I shed a tear or two as I was listening to this album. They were partly tears of joy but also of extreme sadness at the loss of such a great talent so early in her career.

Amy tried many times to defeat her various demons but in the end she wasn’t strong enough.

Thanks to my friend Neil from Human Services for lending me his copy.

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