Mark Ronson - Version
Record Label: Columbia
Release Date: July 10, 2007
I'm very much the type of person that when I hear a song, it's cemented in my mind. I've never been that crazy about hearing a song I already liked redone with new instruments by someone who isn't even in the band. It has to offer something new and genuine to still work for me. But after listening to Mark Ronson's Version, I'm surprised by how much I liked it.
A DJ, artist, and producer from London, Ronson is known for working with British songstresses Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen. But he has worked with quite a variety of different artist like Christina Aguilera, Ghostface Killah, and even Rivers Cuomo. Ronson seems to be the type of person that likes to challenge himself. The challenge he brought himself on Version was reinterpreting songs by Coldplay, The Smiths, Radiohead and Ryan Adams with a soulful/Motown tone to them, which fortunately works most of the time.
Ronson doesn't waste any time as the instrumental cover of Coldplay's "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" immediately kicks in. I wouldn't think that a funk/soulful version of this song could be good, but like a lot of things on Version, it surprising how incredibly well it works. The horn arrangement is great and gives the song a faster rhythm that gets the album moving fairly quickly. "Stop Me," a cover of The Smiths’ "Stop Me if You Think You've Heard This One Before," is a little of hit and miss. The first time I heard this song I didn't like it. Most of what made it a Smiths song is basically removed, but to Ronson's credit, the only ones who could make it work were The Smiths. But singer Daniel Merriweather does a great job. It takes some time though to appreciate the cover for what it is, but in some weird way it works. A cover of The Zutons' "Valerie" by Amy Winehouse is possibly the best song here. The arrangement is perfectly married with Winehouse's voice so a lot of magic comes out of it. "Valerie" feels like a Motown song playing during Christmas time in the 60s, and it's one of the best moments to be heard on Version.
"Pretty Green," originally done by The Jam, has the most variety. It's transformed into a playground chant while keeping the bass and rhythm of the original track. Constantly throughout Version, Ronson illustrates how much imagination it takes to turn these songs into what they are here, as shown by the cover of Radiohead's "Just." This is one most surprising songs here in terms of how great it translated. Alex Grenwald of Phantom Planet does a great job vocally. He fits in very nicely and even echoes Thom Yorke a little bit. Turning a Radiohead song into a more soulful song seems like it wouldn't work on paper, but it's one of the best songs on the album. Ryan Adams' "Amy" is also given a similar treatment as the acoustic guitar is replaced with a cool drum beat that gives the song a whole new feel to it. "The Only One I Know" featuring Robbie Williams leaves more to be desired and slows down the momentum the album had going. Version ends on the excellent "L.S.F" by Kasabian which is one of the few songs to have the actual band on it. "L.S.F" sounds completely new and the soulful horns work amazingly for the structure of the song.
Mark Ronson really won me over with this album. You can pretty much listen to it whenever you want to under any circumstance. He has shown a lot of imagination and creativity reworking these songs and it simultaneously offers something new to the songs while paying tribute to them and the great artists who made them. Version shows a new way to enjoy and appreciate these songs.