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On Version, British-born, New York-bred DJ Mark Ronson cocks a sideways glance at some of the bigger UK chart hits of the last few years, plus a couple of old favourites. Formerly producer for an all-star cast that includes Lily Allen, Christina Aguilera, Robbie Williams, and Amy Winehouse, here Ronson has cajoled some of his famous mates into repaying the favour. The result? An album of A-list karaoke that at times, struggles to transcend its novelty, but nonetheless throws up some fun reversions. The uniting factor is Ronson's band - a live-sounding band augmented with trumpets, saxophones, piano and strings which, to its credit, puts enough of a stamp on the material that no single artist steals the show. And that's quite a feat, as there's some big names here. Lily Allen tackles the Kaiser Chiefs' "Oh My God" with her token gum-chewing insouciance. Amy Winehouse proves The Zutons' "Valerie" was always meant to be a strings-swept Motown stomp. And Tiggers and the late Ol' Dirty **** tackle Britney's "Toxic" (although few Wu-Tang fans will be surprised just how far ODB wanders off script). But the most significant misstep? Robbie's take on The Charlatans' "The Only One I Know", an unexpectedly drab remake that serves best to remind you how good the original is. --Louis Pattison
OK, let's get the obvious stuff out of the way. Mark Ronson, for all his geezerish charm, is the child of a privileged background, this much we know. Let's start off by stating categorically that this should not in any way affect our opinion of him. He's a talented DJ. He knows how to produce. These are also facts and they are the pertinent ones when trying to get to grips with his latest offering. Unfortunately they're not quite enough to stop Version being a disappointment.
There's something faintly depressing about someone who has this much talent producing an album of cover versions. Such things always come with a degree of novelty that means that they don't wear well over time. After the initial thrill of hearing your favourite/least favourite song transformed from a chart-friendly sing-along to a brooding dancefloor killer, or an indie stomp made over as a disco romp where else can you go? With Morrissey's ''Stop Me'' already riding high in the charts it seems there is a market for this kind of thing. But then again maybe that's because the original song was a killer in the first place.
Ronson does do inventive stuff to these songs. Big bold brass stabs perk up songs like the Ol' Dirty ****-starring ''Toxic'' which turns Britney into a ska-ed up hip hop extravaganza, or Radiohead's ''Just'' into a sweaty, funky Maceo Parker-style workout. But for every hit there's a miss here. No amount of groovy names can turn coal into diamonds. And sometimes the originals were great not because of the songs themselves, but the performances. Not even Amy Winehouse can save the sacrilege of murdering the Zutons' ''Valerie'', and Paul Weller's ''Pretty Green'' was a stonker by the Jam because of its spitting sarcasm, not for its woefully dirge-like tune that gets horribly over-exposed in Santo Gold's attempt.
If anything this record strives too hard with its credentials. All the right names are in all the right places. But essentially, at the heart is another big beat superstar DJ, showing us he knows all the moves but forgetting to pack much originality. Having said that, it'll sound great blasting out of cars in the summer heat. However by autumn you'll have returned to the originals and be wondering what happened to Ronson's glittering career. Let's hope he doesn't give up, just give us something more substantial next time. --Jerome Blakeney