The cast list on Ronson’s third LP is great, and some of its songs are excellent.
Will Dean 2010-09-24
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.
- - -