To steal from the classic Ben Stiller movie Zoolander, Mark Ronson is so hot right now! After producing the latest Amy Winehouse album, Lily Allens debut, and the best bits of an otherwise awful Robbie Williams album, the New York based, London born hip-hop club DJ turned producer can do no wrong. And now, hes decided to rope in the best of the British music industry to cover his favorite contemporary and not so new songs for the wonderfully titled Version.
The album reads like a whos who of cool British indie/alternative music with the likes of Robbie Williams, Lily Allen, Paul Smith, Kasabian, Amy Winehouse, and ODB - yes THE ODB - all jumping on to add their vocals. However the album starts with an instrumental and brass heavy take on Coldplays God Put a Smile Upon Your Face. This version adds a Latin feel, which runs throughout the album, and makes a dreary song fun and enjoyable. Maybe Chris Martin will take the hint and follow suit. Following up we get the first guest appearance on vocals as Lily Allen sings Oh My God, the modern classic from The Kaiser Chiefs. The song actually seems quite lethargic and is worryingly worse than the original, if that is easy to believe.
Lead single Stop Me was chosen to be the lead single for a reason. This is one of the strongest songs on the album. Now normally I think trying to cover anything that our Lord and Savior Morrissey has touched is worse than running my mother over with a riding lawnmower. But somehow Ronson and vocalist Daniel Merryweather turn this into a fucking amazing tune, which has been rocking the nut household pretty much since the album landed in the CD player. Following it with Toxic and the late ODB wandering off the path very quickly seems like a masterstroke of good tracklisting, something lost in this mp3 generation who pick and choose and only use their shuffle function.
Ronson, with the help of Amy Winehouse, then makes Valerie sound like it was written to be a glorious Motown style song rather than a drab indie fare churned out when The Zutons released it in 2006. Later Ronson somehow manages to make Robbie Williams sound like a good Ian Brown in The Stone Roses influenced The Only One I Know in two of the stand out tracks on the album. No matter how much I want to hate a song featuring the smug Williams, I just cant find any reason to.
Sadly this album does have a few weak points, such as the lazy decision to ask Paul Smith and Kasabian to sing on their own songs. The songs are good but it just seems like Ronson didnt want to take the risks with two pretty basic songs. The Santo Gold fronted take on The Jams Pretty Green is just appalling. No other way to describe it, why it made the final cut is beyond me but Im guessing its supposed to be in a similar vein as Toxic, but sadly not nearly as fun and just has me reaching for the skip button.
Cover albums are always a risky move, made even more risky when using a different vocalist on each track and having to fit the song to their styles. But Ronson has pulled it off on Version with the odd misstep along the way. I look forward to seeing what Ronson does next.
8.0 / 10
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