Mark Ronson: Version
DJ Mark Ronson is like that really enthusiastic dude who listens to "all kinds of music, man" and tends to dork out over incongruous but compatible iPod shuffle segues. Back in 2003, Ronson released an album, Here Comes the Fuzz, that betrayed his love for stunt casting ("what if Jack White, Freeway, and Nikka Costa all played on the same song?") and pointed toward a general aptitude for genre-fuckery. So now that he's produced Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse into U.K. sensations and Gawker schadenfreude-fodder, where else should Ronson go but berserk? Ergo Version, a covers album based largely around assorted British chart fixtures of the past few decades (plus Britney): Unsurprisingly, it's a love-hate proposition, full of bad ideas executed well, and vice-versa.
Version is simultaneously reverent and blasphemous: The idea to transform standbys like the Jam's almost-funky "Pretty Green" into a way-too-funky slice of manic West End Records-style disco, and the Kaiser Chiefs' staid Britpop "Oh My God" into a brassy, Isley'd-out clavinet-driven Lily Allen number, takes a bit of chutzpah, but unfamiliarity with the source material might lead you to realize that there's a fair amount of worshipful sincerity in the retro-soul production.
Granted, the smirk sometimes outweighs the smile; there's a bit too much inherent goofiness behind turning the Smiths' "Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before" into a showcase for Daniel Merriweather to make like Diana Ross or swapping out the go-go-dancer whiplash of "Toxic" for '68 Stax horns and some cobbled-together ODB verses. But the best jokes are more about the delivery than the punch line, and though there's an irreverence in reworking Coldplay's "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" into a pushcart-upending Starsky & Hutch chase theme, or spurring Amy Winehouse to turn the Zutons' nonentity "Valerie" into an exuberant "You Can't Hurry Love," there isn't a hell of a lot of guilt.
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