Saturday, September 22, 2007

Album Review: Mark Ronson - Version (3.5 / 5)

Mark Ronson is one of the most exciting producers at the moment. His biggest achievement in my mind is producing the better tracks on Amy Winehouse's Back to Black, but he's also done good work recently with Lily Allen, Christina Aguilera, and Robbie Williams.

Version then in his album, a collection of covers--many of them very recent songs--each featuring a different collaborator, including most of the above-mentioned artists.

Most of the best tracks are up front. The vibrant instrumental take on Coldplay's "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" is fresh and fun. So is the jazzy Lily Allen version of Kaiser Chief's "Oh My God." The Smith's "Stop Me" medley with the Supremes' "Keep Me Hanging On" featuring vocals from Daniel Merriwether is another highlight, downbeat and insistent. The retro-flavored Amy Winehouse take on the Zuton's "Valerie" is likewise a winner.

For the re-work of Maximo Park's "Apply Some Pressure," Ronson went back to the source and got the band's singer Paul Smith to do the vocal. It's also good--very similar to the other tracks. That is sort of the double-edged sword of this album. Ronson's sound is hot and great, but here, after awhile, all the songs start to sound the same. I love swirling strings and blaring horns over hip-hop beats, but I'd like to hear what else he can do. Originators Kasabian also show up on Ronson's cover of their "LSF," which is fine, but not a highlight. Better is Kenna's take on Ryan Adams' "Amy," which has a very '70s feel to it.

In the bin "doesn't work" falls the Ol' Dirty Bastard/Tiggers take on Britney Spears' "Toxic," which loses its frothy drive in a hip-hop incarnation. "Just," a funky Radiohead remake with Alex Greenwald of Phantom Planet is too long and not meaty enough. Robbie Williams sounds bored on the remake of The Charlatans "The Only One I Know."
Taken as a producer's chance to have some fun with his friends and remake some of his favorite songs into his own style this works pretty well. It's expected that it wouldn't all be great--it's an experiment after all, and when it delivers it is a lot of fun.

Best: Stop Me, Valerie, Oh My God, God Put a Smile Upon Your Face, Apply Some Pressure

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