A posthumous album by Amy Winehouse, a rough and ready assortment of alternative versions of hits, unreleased tracks and covers, has been hailed as a poignant snapshot of the singer’s troubled life.
Critics said that "Lioness: Hidden Treasures" perfectly reflects the chaotic final years of the artist, whose death in July aged 27 after years of drug and alcohol abuse shocked the music world.
"The random scrappiness of this collection of alternative takes, covers and sketchy new material is made poignant by the context in which it has been released," wrote critic Helen Brown in the Daily Telegraph.
"And — as with that exposed and emotional pavement collage of bottles, candles, ashtrays, scrawled notes and battered guitars — it lays bare what made her both such a unique and such a troubled artist."
Her fans appear to agree — almost 100,000 copies have been sold since its release Monday in Britain and the album is set to roar to number one at the weekend, according to the Official Charts Company.
But, as so often with posthumous records hastily thrown together, there were questions about its quality — and whether Winehouse herself would have approved of releasing tracks she had decided to leave on the editing room floor.
"There are early recordings that would probably never have seen the light of day had the artist lived," wrote the Guardian daily’s Alexis Petridis about the album which comprises 12 tracks recorded between 2002 and March this year.
"For someone who was seemingly cursed with fatally lousy judgment in most areas of her life, Winehouse was remarkably prudent when it came to the matter of releasing records."
Winehouse’s second album, "Back to Black" released in 2006, propelled her to international stardom and became Britain’s biggest-selling album of the 21st century following her death, although it has just been overtaken by Adele’s "21."
Petridis singled out a cover of "The Girl From Ipanema," and asked what Winehouse would have made of the wider world being exposed to a "ho-hum version" of the bossa nova classic.
Nevertheless, the critic conceded that the record did offer an invaluable insight into the life of the artist, who an inquest found was five times over the British drink-drive limit at the time of her death at her London home.
"The shift in her vocals from the careful enunciation of her early material to the smeared, ragged voice on her later recordings is pretty striking," he wrote.
Most striking for many fans will be the hints at Winehouse’s often anguished personal life, such as on the second track "Between the cheats."
"I would die before I divorce ya I’d take a thousand thumps for my love," she sings in the track recorded in 2008, a year after her marriage to Blake Fielder-Civil. The pair had a violent relationship and divorced in 2009.
The album saves the most poignant, heart-wrenching track for last. Winehouse laments in anguished tones a relationship that broke down, and appears all too aware that she may not have much time left.
"And when my life is over, remember, remember, when we were together and I was singing this song for you," she sings.