London singer Amy Winehouse was initially marked as a neo-jazz diva. Although the tag may have been beneficial in terms of press coverage, it was misleading; unlike the inoffensive Katie Melua and Joss Stone, Winehouse had no fear of displaying the seamier side of her life. Her debut album, the aptly titled FRANK, was a solid collection of jazz-inflected pop, but it was the 2006 follow-up, BACK TO BLACK, that really set her apart. Displaying the marked influence of 1960s soul music, girl groups, and Motown, the album also boasted clever, sexually explicit lyrics and punchy pop arrangements, all pulled together by Winehouse's powerful vocals. Her hit "Rehab" became something of a personal theme song, as the singer became a permanent fixture in the tabloids, due to her wild behavior and infamous live shows.
3 years prior to Amy Winehouse receiving worldwide accolades for the soulful opus “Back To Black”, the unabashed UK talent made her debut in 2003 with the warm-up precursor, “Frank”. This introduction declared Winehouse as a major young talent who stuck out prominently with her fierce attitude, brash humor and vulnerability. Though “Frank” may not possess the vintage Motown –esque ‘sound’ consistency as “Back To Black”, the overall ‘feel’ of the album is a tad more gloss and less grit.
One of the album’s standout tracks is “F*** Me Pumps”, which finds Winehouse over a simplistic hip-hop backdrop with overtones that provide the songstress just enough leaway to unleash her ‘tude with flair, sincereity and panache. Her unique voice is a combination of Macy Gray, Ella Fitzgerald and Lauryn Hill and has the vocal presence of a soul artist from the 50’s, particularly on “You Sent Me Flying”, “I Heard Love Is Blind” and “Stronger Than Me”. “Frank” reassures the listener that Amy is all talent, minus the played out gimmicks, token labeling and big name dropping producers. The record moves smoothly along jazzy influenced production, capturing the rawness of emotions of Amy Winehouse - something that resonates without reservations and carries the momentum extremely well throughout. “Frank” is more than an impressive debut that should satisfy the pallets of those who adored her subsequent “Back To Black”.
Favorite Songs – “F*** Me Boots”, “You Sent Me Flying”, “I Heard Love Is Blind”