Back to Black

UK singer Amy Winehouse is a 24 year-old singer and songwriter who grew up in a London suburb in a family with a history of jazz musicians. Her debut album was released in 2003, and garnered favorite notices in England for its catchy jazz-pop. Her latest, though, is straight from the '60s catalogue of R&B labels like Motown and Stax.

Much about Amy Winehouse can be summed up by the album's lead-off track "Rehab." It's based on a autobiographical incident about Winehouse being asked to go into an alcohol treatment program by her management company. She refused, fired the management company, and wrote a song about it. The personal, in-your-face lyrics sport a style that is at once modern electronic beats and retro Phil Spector-esque old school R&B.

"Me & Mr. Jones" is another terrific track, which mixes cheeky and modern profane lyrics with jazzy music and a backing vocal arrangement recalling music from the '40s. Few songs can so successfully namecheck rapper Slick Rick while still sounding like Ella Fitzgerald after downing eight pots of coffee.

"Love is a Losing Game" is a slow-tempo poppy torch song, while "Tears Dry on their Own" is another Phil Spector-esque number which repeatedly builds to its strong and evocative chorus. "Back to Black" starts off very similarly to "Baby Love" by The Supremes, and does a good job satisfying the bouncy promise of the song's beginning.

Back to Black is an engaging and CD, and one that ranks in the higher echelon of discs released thus far this year.

Mike Sauter, WYEP midday host