Music Review: Amy Winehouse, “Frank” (Universal Republic) * * * 1/2
Before taking her stateside bow as an immensely talented retro-soul vixen and self-destructive tabloid train wreck with “Back to Black,” Amy Winehouse won over her native England with 2003’s “Frank.” Now released domestically in an expanded form, “Frank” displays a jazzier, less disheveled Winehouse vamping to torch songs and embracing modern R&B instead of the Shirley Bassey spy music of her sophomore disc.
Winehouse begins “Frank” with the electro-jazz “Stronger Than Me,” a vicious takedown of a submissive suitor, in which Winehouse’s voice lilts while Steely Dan-style horns and electronic bass hum in the background. She displays wider range here than on “Black” — “Cherry” is a great acoustic jazz ballad, and “In My Bed” turns the same Incredible Bongo Band sample that powered Nas’ “Made You Look” into suitable backing for a killer ballad.
Knock Winehouse for her bad behavior, but it’s worth hoping that the “Rehab” she abhors will eventually do the trick. “Frank” is further evidence that Winehouse has talent worth saving.
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