Most covers albums do indeed suck. They’re almost as shameless as the attempts that go down when artists try to release those out rarities and b-sides collections. But Mark Ronson isn’t just any artist. He’s one of the fastest up and coming producers in the UK whose influence could one day land him on the same platform with the likes of Dr. Dre and Chris Blackwell. Yeah, that’s a tall order and even though Version is Ronson’s second release since his first, Here Comes the Fuzz didn’t make a sound in America when it dropped in 2003, it shows that while all the songs aren’t entirely digestible, Ronson has solidified a unique touch that is glimmering with a more crisp take on soul and funk with a sleek funky primer. After all, this is the man who made Amy Winehouse as big as she is. The sound isn’t too polished and yet it’s not too greasy either. It landed in a perfect middle ground.
Surprisingly enough, Version seems to without much reggae or dub influence, despite the fact that the music of Jamaica has had different levels of flagrant appeal in most music made by white British artists in the past three decades. Yet most forget how, in 1967, Otis Ridding, Booker T. and the MG’s and all the other artists who were part of the Stax/Volt Revue got a hero’s welcome from the moment they stepped off the plane in London while on their European tour. Sure, it all went down eight years before Ronson was even born but he obviously knows what’s up.
Coldplay’s “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face” gets the instrumental Blaxploitation car chase treatment thanks to the Daptone Horns while the late ODB shines on Britney Spears’ “Toxic” without Britney, which is a plus. Amy Winehouse gets her gospel on with “Valerie” by the Zutons (a.k.a. one of the current British bands that deserves to be huge in America) and the sleek organ spiced version of Maximo Park’s “Apply Some Pressure” features none other than, well, Paul Smith of Maximo Park, crooning to some wah wah guitars. The Jam’s “Pretty Green” is a rather dizzying and sexy Tom Tom Club-like number with Santo Gold on the vocals and, believe it or not, Phantom Planet comes through with a smoky, funkified take on Radiohead’s “Just.” This may not be Ronson’s peak career peak in the album format, but there’s evidence enough here to believe that it’ll be coming out of him sooner or later.
Galactic – From the Corner to the Block
Various Artists – Go Soundtrack
Deee-Lite – World Clique