Written By: Jim Farber

Amy Winehouse’s ‘Lioness: Hidden Treasures’ gives last glimpse at singer’s fleeting greatness

The Amy Winehouse posthumous compilation album “Lioness: Hidden Treasures”

She sounds like a singer in full command, robust in tone, sure in phrasing. When performing at her best, Amy Winehouse presented the picture of control. How could a star so poised and self-possessed end up so lost?

That’s the irony that haunts “Lioness: Hidden Treasures,” a dis cobbled together by Amy Winehouse’s producer Salaam Remi less than three months after her death by alcohol poisoning.

By all rights, “Lioness” should seem a pure exploitation item. It’s a mishmash of outtakes and covers, demos and home recordings, none of which were necessarily bound for Winehouse’s third CD. Yet the results rarely sound so low. What could have been ghoulish instead feels like something to be cherished.

Like Joplin and Cobain before her, Winehouse left little in the vaults to salvage and finesse. “Lioness” repeats some of her sole smash CD, “Back o Black,” including the hit “Valerie” that appeared on th project’s deluxe edition in the same slightly slower tempo heard here. (A faster take turned up on a solo recording from her producer Mark Ronson). There’s also a one-take demo of “Wake Up Alone,” which sounds quite full, plus a recycle of her frisky duet with Tony Bennett on “Body and Soul,” which came out just three months ago on his disk.

Otherwise, the songs rate as genuinely rare. Recorded between 2002 and ’09, they accent classic covers, greatly altered by her improvisational flair. Winehouse’s run at “The Girl From Ipanema” sidesteps the sensual samba cliches for a harder beat and a heartier vocal. It’s bossa nova hipped by trip-hop.

The take on “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” adds a militaristic drum to break up its ’60s fetish, plus a more assertive vocal than the familiar one. It’s an expression of sexual and emotional yearning in ideal balance. The usual doo-wop “Our Day Will Come” subs in a reggae beat, while Winehouse’s vocal avoids her own retro-soul stylings to tap a jazz-lounge sensuality worthy of Anita O’Day.

Throughout, the recordings play games with history, matching ’60s girl-group harmonies with ’60s muscular soul, tempered by its slicker ’70s descendent.

Modern touches arrive in “Halftime,” which sounds like a less abstract Erykah Badu track, and “Like Smoke,” cut in 2008 with rapper Nas (whom she had name-checked on her old “Me & Mr. Jones”).

“Between the Cheats” had the greatest chance of turning up a legit third CD, and the way her voice swoops over the melody makes one sad for its absence. While cut in ’03, “Best Friends” connects to the singer’s earliest performances. A witty anti-love song, it shows her sly ease.

The album, like Winehouse’s life, ends sadly — with a demo run at Leon Russell’s “Song or You” greatly influenced by Donny Hathaway’s famous cover. It’s an unfortunate inclusion, showing a singer losing her grip and her skills. While the CD producers surely meant this to be poignant, it feels voyeuristic; a reality-show intrusion fans don’t need.

Better to end with that cover of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.” Listen closely to the part where her voice breaks, then peaks in a near scream. Listen and try not to cry for what’s lost.

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