Personnel: Amy Winehouse (guitar, background vocals); Vincent Henry (guitar, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, piano, celesta); Salaam Remi (guitar, piano, upright bass, bass guitar, drums); Binky Griptite, Thomas Brenneck (guitar); Steve Sidwell (harp, trumpet); Helen Tunstall (harp); Perry Mason, Warren Zielinski, Liz Edwards, Mark Berrow, Tom Pigott-Smith, Christopher Tombling, Peter Hanson , Peter G. Hanson, Boguslav Kostecki, Everton Nelson, Johnathan Rees (violin); Katie Wilkinson Khoroshunin, Jon Thorne , Rachel Bolt, Bruce White (viola); John Heley, Joely Koos, Anthony Pleeth (cello); Andrew MacKintosh, Chris Davies (alto saxophone); Jamie Talbot, Mike Smith , Neal Sugarman (tenor saxophone); Ian Hendrickson-Smith, Cochemea Gastelum, Dave Bishop (baritone saxophone); Bruce Purse (trumpet, bass trumpet, flugelhorn); Dave Guy (trumpet); Richard Edwards (tenor trombone); Victor Axelrod (piano, Wurlitzer organ, hand claps); John Adams (Fender Rhodes piano); Nick Movshon (bass guitar); Troy Auxilly-Wilson, Homer Steinweiss (drums); Mark Ronson (tambourine, hand claps); Vaughan Merrick (hand claps); Sam Koppelman, Frank Ricotti (percussion).
It doesn't take much listening to Amy Winehouse's 1960s pop period piece to realize that this is a tribute with an edge--nice girls back then didn't sing about boozing and rehab. Since her 2003 debut album, FRANK, Winehouse has been a frequent presence on the gossip pages of the U.K. tabloids, and her songwriting here candidly reflects her experiences with drinking, sex, and drugs.
BACK TO BLACK's production is an artful blend of sophisticated '60s R&B and 21st-century stylistic poaching, with "Tears Dry on Their Own" incorporating elements of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," and Winehouse sounding like Billie Holiday fronting a reggae band on the old-fashioned cheating song "Just Friends." Densely packed with musical history and often conjuring a dark, Portishead-esque atmosphere, BACK TO BLACK is a sumptuous-sounding collection freighted with blunt confessionals of a lush life.
Rolling Stone (p.76) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "Winehouse is a nervy, witty songstress whom indie rockers, pop fans and hip-hoppers can dig."
Rolling Stone (p.115) - Included in Rolling Stone's "50 Top Albums of the Year 2007" -- "[W]ith a brassy, intensely personal sorrow that is true blues, not nouveau soul."
Spin (p.79) - "[A] breakthrough, producers Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson surround her with brass sections, string sections, harp, Wurlitzer, the works."
Entertainment Weekly (p.67) - "It's precisely Winehouse's lyrics...aching, flirty, and often straight-up nasty -- that raise this expertly crafted set into the realm of true, of-the-minute originality." -- Grade: A-
Q (Magazine) (p.134) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Winehouse is one of the best things to have happened to British pop recently."