AMY WINEHOUSE – Frank (2003)

Review by: Francelino Prazeres de Azevedo Filho
Album assigned by: Michael Strait

I’ve never been a fan of jazz. The little jazz I’ve came across in my life has been of the purely instrumental variety, the kind that is the darling of music critics. I’ve never listened to Billie Holliday. I probably should remedy this later, but right now I’m tasked with reviewing an album by someone who had in Billie her biggest inspiration, and I don’t have a base to talk about their relationship. I’ve also never listened to more than a few songs by Amy herself before, despite her being very popular among my generation. So I can’t compare this album to the rest of her work either.

The album itself has little variety; it consists of jazz song after jazz song, from the first song to the last two hidden tracks. Contrary to my impressions of the genre, nothing sounds corny here. I think the roughness of her voice is crucial to that. There’s a bratty, hedonistic, delinquent tone to her voice that holds the disk together. I think the producers were sure of that strength, because most of the arrangements are unmemorable, taking a secondary position. Nonetheless, the instruments are well played, the percussion is good and the sax is never musty.

It’s seriously lacking on the melodic level, thought. I guess that is to be expected, vocal jazz is supposed to be a naturally “talky” genre, but as a fan of pop and rock music, I demand some catchy hooks. Janelle could do it in Electric Lady, and Amy could have done it here too. Most of the songs are too similar too, making the listening tiresome. The first half of the album is particularly wearisome, while after track 8, “In My Bed”, it gets more interesting, as if it took a shot of musicality and drama. The best song here is “Amy, Amy, Amy”, with the title being repeated on the backing vocals, very catchy. The two hidden tracks are also better than most of the others, “Brother” is closer to soul than jazz, and “Mr. Magic” has the catchy backing-vocals-sing-the-title thing again and cool horns.

Frank is okay. Not really catchy or tasty, but there are spots of these elements here and there. I feel like I could enjoy it more after listening to the more well-reputed Back to Black. I could possibly see it as a vacillating first step towards something better, which I guess is the general critical consensus. Given that I haven’t, though, I think it’s merely nice but forgettable. This Frank doesn’t give pork rolls, much less gravy fries.
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Author: tomymostalas

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