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Amy Winehouse 

Back to Black (Universal Republic)

With the same warm, horn-propelled soul that Cat Power's Chan Marshall copped on her last record, Amy Winehouse's U.S. debut, Back to Black, at first sounds like background music for, say, a charity fundraiser. But those well-heeled philanthropists would choke on their canapés if they listened closer to the 23-year-old Brit's lyrics, which are a mix of weed and coke references and make-yo'-momma-blush lines: "What kind of fuckery are you/ 'Side from Sammy you're my best black Jew" and "Kept his dick wet/With his same old safe bet." Black is also better than Winehouse's first release, Frank (a jazzy breakup album that was, frankly, not very good), largely because it's packed with sticky singles such as the chart-burning "Rehab" and tales of being the drunk and lonely other woman. Credit producer Mark Ronson for weaving together trumpets, flugelhorns, cellos, a Wurlitzer and more to create a classic girl-group sound that makes Back to Black feel like stepping onto the set of Dreamgirls. Only with a lot more blow and fuckery.

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