Mark Ronson may be like another famous and influential producer of the same first name, Mark Radice, whose personal style and attentiveness to each project propelled him on to influence the sounds of B.T. Express and the late Phyllis Hyman among others. My initial impression of Versions [RCA 88607 10031-2] is very positive because this album includes a few ear-openers; perky new takes on recent hits. Aptly titled as that is apparently the theme, Versions seeks to influx Stax, Memphis and Motown horns and string orchestration upon notable songs. Mark is a known assembler of talent from Aguilera to Ghostface Killah, to his live group that performs what the press release calls funk-soul-hop-pop, and it shows on this disc, beginning with a shockingly loud and banging drum lead on Coldplays God Put A Smile On Your Face. A tenor saxophone kicks-in, and then full Daptone horn section establishes the tone, albeit a bit too brash a beginning for me; yet it gets your attention. I think, okay, so now what? If you are in a mellow mood, do not dare play this one; I think he was trying for an intro song here. Track two, Oh My God (original by The Kaiser Chiefs) is refreshing after the first one, and more of a jazzy medium-tempo style with friendly female vocals from Lily Allen.
The very familiar refrain is from The Smiths on cut three, and the first version that I actually recognize. This Stop Me medley is great for air play with a nice orchestral sting arrangement and Motowns Supremes hook for added measure; it is one of the best on the album! We next take a Toxic trip revisiting Britneys hit. I still see her on that motorcycle in the video! The late ODB cameos to add the n-word, which is why I cannot recommend this one for airplay. That version is rated club only while it is slightly sexier that the original to be honest.
Track five is Val-er-aye or simply Valerie which Im sure you know. Always a cutesy song, here we have a nice re-treatment with Amy Winehouse in lead; good for radio as was the original. Inversion takes me back to the days of the Memphis Horns Section from the outset, and I have a feeling there is a reprise in our future because it is too short an interlude. Pretty Green is spirited and like seeing an old friend you havent laid eyes on in a long time with respect from Santo Gold. Radioheads Just comes next, continuing the horny-funk theme and is the third best track on here. Ill skip the next track except to feel that Ryan Adams Amy was better. The Only One I Know is, ohh so wonderful a version with an enhanced memorable hook and great pace. They really did justice to the original, with props to Robbie Will on this originally composed by the Charlatans. L.S.F. (originally by Kasbian) begins the process of bringing this album home, and is a little more reminiscent of the Atlanta Disco Band arrangements of 1976; setting up to roll the credits on (I knew it) Outversion, the curtain call set up by the aforementioned cut seven. Above-all we have a very tight production here that is worth four visionary stars. His vision is the Version and youll be able to dance to any of these with a multitude of movements or di-versions.