I wish I had heard Amy Winehouse’s debut album, Frank, first before the mega-platinum follow up Back To Black.
I was sort of late to the party on Amy anyhow so I don’t purport to be the world’s biggest authority. But I liked her hits enough to buy that CD back in the day — before she passed away — which counts for something, right?!
Anyhow, fast forward to my birthday this year and a friend kindly gifted me not only Frank but also the posthumous release Lioness: Hidden Treasures — thanks Ron!!. The latter is a sweet collection of rarities. Both are two disc sets on colored vinyl, and both sound quite nice.
Musically, I won’t spend a lot of time here on the songs and the joys of Ms. Winehouse’s music as I’m sure a lot of you — perhaps most of you — know the albums more intimately than myself.
However, I will talk about the sound quality on these pressings, which is what more than a few of you come to Audiophile Review to learn about, I suspect.
Now, as far as I can tell Frank initially only came out on CD back when it first was released and didn’t appear on vinyl until 2011 (at least according to Discogs). Given that it was probably a modern digital recording, there is no doubt a certain tell-tale sonic flavor to this recording. The more I think about it this may well be an intentional vibe crafted by the producers. It reminds me a bit of the production vibe on Queen of The Stone Age’s last album, Villains. I discuss this in my review of that album (click here to read that)
Some people may like this production aesthetic I suppose, but I find it a bit annoying at times, a bit like a fly buzzing around your ear on a hot summer’s day. I suspect that sort of textural approach to the music will work at its best when heard over fidelity-limited ear buds or via Bluetooth through one of those single point wireless speakers. I’m not dissing or dismissing this, mind you. But I do feel obligated to explore the sonic reality (if you will) that some of you may encounter when playing these albums on vinyl.
Of the two albums, Lioness: Hidden Treasures is the better sounding of the two. Spinning at 45 RPM and pressed on nice dark but translucent heavy-weight (probably 180-gram) blue-green vinyl — this record is not flimsy and is happily quiet and well centered.
There is a still a bit of that digital feel evident on Winehouse’s vocals but overall the instruments sound richer and fuller than on Frank. You can find Frank streaming on Tidal in MQA format at 24-bits and 44.1 kHz resolution (click here) and on Qobuz in Hi Res (also 24/44.1, click here)
Lioness is only streaming in CD quality but it actually sounds pretty clean there with less of the digital vibe that comes across on the LP version. I don’t have a CD to compare it to but — guessing here — perhaps the additional disc mastering for vinyl exacerbated some of that digital footprint (if you will). Click here for it on Tidal and here for it on Qobuz.
One last trivia tidbit for some of you who may not know it: “October Song” (from Frank) won me over with its reference to the opening track of my favorite Sarah Vaughan album from 1954, “Lullaby Of Birdland.” If you aren’t familiar with the original version, I’ve posted it below.
Clearly, I am enjoying owning these albums and adding them into my collection. I’m looking forward to getting closer with the recordings. And I guess now I have no excuse: I need to get Back To Black on vinyl to complete my set!