Cover versions tend to come in three types- the good (Cake- I Will Survive), the awful (Boyzone, Westlife), and the unintentionally hilarious (Shaun Ryder and Russell Watsonâs version of âBarcelonaâ- no really, it does exist).
To release almost an entire album of them is then a very brave step. Luckily for Mark Ronson, it seems to have been a good decision. The only bad vibes I heard about âVersionâ have come from die-hard Smiths fans fuming at Ronsonâs nerve at covering âStop Meâ¦â, but actually listening to the track, he has taken a classic âindieâ song and turned it into a mournful and haunting epic in the style of Massive Attack, and it works.
Elsewhere we have similar reworkings of Coldplay, Kaiser Chiefs and Radiohead tracks which use deceptively simple horn arrangements to mimic guitar riffs and feedback and then fuse them to drumbeats to make them dancefloor friendly. Due to the crossover nature of the arrangements, they should be equally friendly to dancefloors in indie, r&b, jazz and hiphop clubnights.
Using current darlings such as Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse as guest vocalists can only give this release a wider appeal, Winehouse in particular making âValerieâ sound as if The Zutons wrote it for her. However it is on âToxicâ that the magic happens, where Ronson has taken the polished, throwaway chart track and slowed it down, stripped it and let the melody really breathe, with Olâ Dirty Bastardâs contribution enhancing the loose hiphop feel.
Interspersed amongst the covers are three lovely short instrumentals of Ronsonâs own composition just to show he can write as well as tinker, but the last full track is a cover of Kasabianâs LSF which is good enough to eat.
Itâs not all perfect- the Maximo Park track seems to be a perfunctory run-through and is a bit flat, and the arrangement of the Jam track doesnât really sit quite right- but overall itâs a very welcome respite from scruffy boys and rinky-dinky guitars.
And lastly for the grumpy Moz fans- take comfort in the fact that old Stephen Patrick will be getting some royalties from it...