Record Collection is the third album headed up by the mid-Atlantic muso mastermind and, as usual, he’s brought a host of famous friends and former collaborators along for the ride. The follow-up to 2007’s triple platinum Version--which sold one million copies in the UK and saw Ronson score the Best Male Solo Artist gong at the Brit Awards--is every bit as impressive as it’s predecessor. This time however, Ronson has made a point of ripping up the rule book that he had written so well. So it’s goodbye to the Dap Kings and their horn-y break downs and au revoir to the innovative cover versions. Instead, Ronson is saying hello to Brooklyn b-boy sonics, swirling retro synthesized sounds and the kind of off-kilter pop sixth sense that it’s impossible not to move to.
Recorded at Dunham studios in Brooklyn and working with vintage keyboards, the album melds eighties indie to nineties hip hop beats and also sees someone rather special take to the mic... "Lose It (In The End)" was co-written by Jonathan Pierce of The Drums and features rhymes from Ghostface Killah and vocals from Mark Ronson himself. The old school flavour of the album is behind much of its charm. "The Bike Song"--co-written by the Zutons’ Dave McCabe and with laid back, but never lazy, vocals from The View’s Kyle Falconer--boasts an almost psychedelic sixties vibe while the warm doo-wop of "The Night Last Night" is brought to glorious life by former Pipette Rose Elinor Dougall.
"Somebody To Love Me" is another highlight. Jake Shears of Scissors Sisters, Cathy Dennis, erstwhile Dirty Pretty Thing Anthony Rossomando, and Andrew Wyatt all had a hand in writing what Ronson describes as a ‘bionic’ song. Then he persuaded Boy George, to sing this song of ‘earnest blue-eyed soul’ and a lost club classic with a modern twist.
He’s a handsome chap, that Mark Ronson. if you've looked at a men's magazine in the past three months, chances are you've spotted him plugging this record by wearing suits snazzier than the trumpets that so adorned Version, his mega-selling, guest-star, er, trumpeting, breakthrough second album. This time round, though, the covers are gone. As are the parpy horns. But the guests remain and, as ever, it's a contacts-book filling rump of talent that’s been assembled to write and perform around Ronson's productions.
Ronson is no ghostly Phil Spector hanging back in the distance, though – he's an accomplished multi-instrumentalist who bounds around between guitars and keys, only sometimes settling on just producing and arranging. He even sings on the title-track. The songs are written in teams containing everyone from pop machine Cathy Dennis to ex-Libertine Anthony Rossomando and Phantom Planet man Alex Greenwald – the latter sang Version's take on Radiohead's Just.
Some of the collaborations fizz with the combination of energies and experiences. Boy George sings Somebody To Love Me which, despite being written by – count 'em – eight people who are quite specifically not Boy George, finds the former Culture Clubber pouring his heart out about his troubles of the last few years. It's great. Also fun is RnB crooner D’Angelo taking the logical next step towards sounding like he's auditioning for TV on the Radio on the gaudy pop synths of Glass Mountain Trust.
The problem with having so many different voices writing and performing is that Record Collection sounds like just that – a lot of different things plonked on a shelf that have their time and place but sound distractingly disparate when grouped together. And this feeling even distils down to individual songs – variety is the spice of life, but you wonder if the world needs a song as over-flavoured as Record Collection, written by (and sounding like it) one of the Kaiser Chiefs with an intro by Wiley, a chorus by Simon Le Bon and Ronson himself doing his best to keep up vocally during the verses.
Despite that, Record Collection is an infinitely more likable record than Version – even if The Bike Song makes you want to go and kick in some spokes. The cast list is great and some of the songs are excellent. Ever the businessman, Ronson must get props for his abilities to bring so much talent together; he's probably the only pop star you'd trust to organise a booze-up in a brewery.
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