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Ronson makes a ‘bang’ with new ‘Record Collection’

Maija Gustin | Friday, October 8, 2010

Guitarist/musician/producer/hipster-socialite extraordinaire Mark Ronson is back with a new album after his critically acclaimed 2007 disc of cover songs, “Version.” Under the name of his new band, Mark Ronson & The Business Intl., “Record Collection” has entirely original songs that feature Ronson, his band and a slough of assorted American and British musicians, from rappers to the London Gay Men’s Chorus to ‘80s pop icons. The album is full of Ronson’s typical brand of hipster dance floor music, featuring an assortment of synthesizers and other electronic tools and eccentric instruments to supplement the more typical drums, guitars and vocals.

Ronson is perhaps best known in the states as either the brother of DJ Samantha Ronson and fashion designer Charlote Ronson or the man behind hits songs from Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, Sean Paul, Christina Aguilera, Adele, Estelle and the Kaiser Chiefs. He has also been responsible for introducing some of the most important British artists of the last five years to the public and is a popular cultural figure in the UK.

Despite his success producing for some very talented artists, it’s refreshing to finally hear Ronson on some of his own original work. While his last two albums, “Here Come the Fuzz” and “Version” have been more about featuring other talent, “Record Collection” finally gives Ronson the chance to really show off his musical chops. Most notably, this album marks the first time in a long time that he has done vocal work for his songs. He’s not a strong singer and is typically overshadowed by his guest artists, but his incredible creativity and impressive ability to craft really ingenious songs make up for any vocal missteps.

Most of the songs on “Record Collection” feature help from guest artists, usually lesser known rappers or musicians from other bands. It’s great to see Ronson working with some under-the-radar talent, and they all breathe refreshing air into Ronson’s unique blend of electro-pop-hip-hop music.

“Record Collection” opens with its first single, the uber-catchy “Bang Bang Bang.” The song features vocals by American hip-hop artist, member of A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip and American electronica duo MNDR. The chorus is awesome and “Bang Bang Bang” sets a great starting tone for the album.

Unfortunately, the album’s second song, “Lost It (In the End)” featuring Wu-Tang Clan rapper Ghostface Killah, doesn’t hold up that standard. Mark Ronson’s vocals pale in comparison to his guest artists and the song lacks the power and infectious flavor of “Bang Bang Bang.” Ghostface Killah’s rap is definitely the highlight.

“Somebody to Love Me” sounds like a nice ‘70s/’80s hybrid throwback and even features ‘80s pop icon Boy George of Culture Club. Andrew Wyatt, of The Bird and the Bee and Miike Snow, also contributes vocals to the upbeat-yet-melancholy track.

“You Gave Me Nothing” joins Andrew Wyatt and Rose Elinor Dougall, a British singer-songwriter and member of the Pipettes, together on vocals. Dougall is absolutely the star of this song, which again draws on Ronson’s apparent love of the ‘80s.

“Record Collection” is interspersed with some non-vocal numbers, like “The Colour of Crumar” and “Circuit Breaker,” that may get passed over in favor of the more conventional with-words songs. However, they deserve a listen, especially the awesome “Circuit Breaker.”

“Introducing the Business” features Alex Greenwald of Phantom Planet, the London Gay Men’s Chorus and some guy named Phil on what sounds like a really upbeat, much lighter 50 Cent or T.I. song. The chorus adds a really nice touch to the rap.

The title track “Record Collection” unfortunately doesn’t do the album justice and falls flat in comparison to some of the other tracks.

“Bang Bang Bang (Count and Sinden Remix)” is a highlight of the album and ups the ante on an already great song.

It’s easy to let the guest artists on “Record Collection” overshadow the incredibly talented Ronson and his band. While he does collect an impressive group of singers, rappers and musicians to join him on this hipster-pop-electronica album, it’s more a testament to Ronson’s incredible talent as a musician and producer than anything else. The album feels cohesive but displays a great breadth of style to create an impressive collection of songs ready for your next party, Urban Outfitters or maybe even a hip and swanky club.