Inside the booklet that accompanies Mitch Winehouse’s debut CD there’s a multi-page family photo album, a list of the 11 tracks and exhaustive thanks to everyone from his parents to his make-up artist-but not a single mention of any musician or arranger who participated in the album. Which is a pity, since the lush, brassy arrangements, reminiscent of Neal Hefti and played with sizzling élan, are the album’s biggest asset. At the time of the disc’s spring release, Winehouse wasn’t at all coy about admitting that his chance for recognition as a Sinatra-esque crooner existed solely because of his daughter-the richly talented, deeply troubled Amy. Her tragically premature death occurred three months later, just as he was embarking on a U.S. tour.
Sadly, his musical gifts are comparatively meager. Winehouse attacks songs like an ill-trained boxer, punching too hard and demonstrating little in terms of finesse. His range is limited, his ability to sustain notes spotty at best. Perhaps most troublesome is his failure to achieve much, if any, emotional substance. “You Go to My Head,” “I Apologize,” “Close Your Eyes” and even the powerfully poignant “How Insensitive” are delivered as if he were reading from a pub menu. Producer Tony Hiller, who deserves plaudits for his valiant attempt to create a silk purse, contributed four new songs. All are good, particularly the Nashville-influenced “Nights” and melancholically romantic “Tell Me,” and deserve better handling. Hiller might want to give Michael Bublé a call.