Mark Ronson - Version
Wed 13th Jun, 2007 Music Reviewsin
Even if you’re allergic to cover versions don’t discount this release. Largely in the big band style, with a shimmering brass section, these interpretations are often unrecognisable and all add a devilish twist to the original.
The CD insert reads like a list of recording artists who are ‘so hot right now’ – Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, Kasabian… – and Mark Ronson also manages to utilise Michael Tighe (Jeff Buckley’s band) for guitar finesse and ?uestlove on percussion. The track listing here almost tells a story; ‘Oh My God!’ ‘Stop Me!’ ‘Toxic!’ ‘Valerie!’ ‘Apply Some Pressure!’ It’s been carefully constructed from every angle and the word version is contained within the titles of three instrumentals interludes composed by Ronson; ‘Inversion’, ‘Diversion’ and ‘Outversion’. Ronson himself provides the bass, percussion, organ and beats. Even his hand-claps are acknowledged – an autonomous approach indeed!
Press play and the opening drum sequence could introduce the theme song from ‘Hawaii Five-O’. It’s actually a full-blown orchestration of Coldplay’s ‘God Put A Smile Upon Your Face’. Who would’ve dreamed it were possible to make Coldplay sound so ecstatic? The sax blasts a hole through your psyche! Lily Allen transforms into a sultry chanteuse in ‘Oh My God!’ by the Kaiser Chiefs. Collaboration with Dizzee Rascal on a track from his forthcoming release also raises her credibility louder still. The first single to be lifted from the album, ‘Stop Me’, features Melbourne’s own Daniel Merriweather. Ronson cheekily throws in a refrain from ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’ to conclude the track – The Smiths vs The Supremes! Even if mash-ups aint your thang, you’ve gotta concede defeat – it works here. Morissey’s lyrics have you praying for a reunion tour; “Nothing’s changed, I still love you. Oh, I still love you. Only slightly, only slightly less than I used to, my love”.
Probably the most surprisingly tweaked is ‘Toxic’. Originally a Britney song, a whole lotta funk is jammed into the arrangement’s trunk and an “Oooh, Nigger, I’m burnin’ up!” is thrown in thanks to Ol’ Dirty Bastard. The weak link in this otherwise spectacular release would have to be ‘Pretty Green’. The vocal melody in the chorus sounds like a playground taunt and continued listens fail to elevate its status. Stoned-sounding brass and a relentless woodblock add to the grating cacophony. Relief comes courtesy of Radiohead’s ‘Just’; blissed-out guitar riffs, tambourine shakes and dulcet tones. Phantom Planet is featured here (best known for their song ‘California’ – theme to ‘The O.C’) and lead singer Alex Greenwald’s vocals are just sublime. Do I also detect the vox of Robbie Williams? It’s surprisingly okay though, and Ronson’s sense of irony perfectly selects him to deliver the lyrics; “Everyone has been burnt before, everybody knows the pain”. ‘Diversion’ and the intro to ‘LSF’ would provide perfect accompaniment for a karaoke of ‘Cocomo’ by the Beach Boys – if anyone could get away with mashing these up, Ronson could!
Do you remember Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ reinterpreted by Nouvelle Vague? Their eponymous debut album sold more than 20,000 copies and lovingly reworked 80s tracks to exude chic. In the case of Mark Ronson’s ‘Version’, who would’ve thought a CD with the names Britney and Robbie Williams on the cover could register on the cool-o-meter? If you only buy two albums this year, buy this one… twice.