Mark Ronson & the Business Intl.: Record Collection

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Posted October 25, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

This time around, DJ extraordinaire kicks off a ’80’s-inspired synthpop-meets-soul album that feels like a satisfying, adventurous band mix tape.

When UK producer/DJ Mark Ronson stepped into the recording world with his ignorable hip-hop debut, driven by poor record sales, it forced him back to the drawing board. After detouring towards retro-soul on his follow-up Version and regaining success with production work for Amy Winehouse (Back to Black) and Daniel Merriweather (Love & War), Ronson has become one of the trendy go-to guys in the business. No wonder his third effort, Record Collection, is loaded once again with an all-star list resembling his first workout. The dazzling display of big names, band leaders and VH1 “Where Are They Now” candidates once again come out to compliment Ronson’s mixtape style.

While Ronson remains busy behind the scenes on the synths while teaming up with his Dap-King buddies, the real stars of the show are shaping up Ronson’s export into ‘80’s synthpop and experimental hip-hop. “Bang Bang Bang,” an infectious new wave groove drooling with the vintage synths of Devo, opens up the set using rapper Q-Tip and the electronic duo MNDR, with Amanda Warner providing lead vocals out front. Its whirlry synths, its affirmation for Japanaese pop and the catchy French line in the chorus (“Je te plumerai la, tete” meaning “I shall pluck you”) promises endless plays. There’s more on board to highlight – primarily the selections fronting the disc. The playful “The Bike Song” finds a charming way to take ‘60s psychedelic soul into some of the ‘80’s pop sensibilities. “You Gave Me Nothing” sounds like ‘80’s a-Ha and Eurythmics as Andrew Wyatt and Rose Elinor Dougall of the UK group The Pipettes dance around a duet that reveals the writing on the wall of a relationship gone sour (“And if you loved me/You never showed me…You’re not my baby/’Cause you gave me nothing to hold on to”). One of the only champions of ‘80’s pop culture on board, Boy George resurfaces, alongside lead vocalist Andrew Wyatt, delivers one of the album’s most interesting moments. The mix of synth-executed strings, reggae shuffles and retro soul could easily be lifted from the album and exported on pop radio, if the label knew how to market the bad boy.

The melodies seem to get a little unpolished and wobbly throughout the rest of the set. Simon Le Bon (lead singer of Duran Duran) buzzes with ‘80’s pop nostalgia, but the lyrics conjure a flat-out silliness. Even D’Angelo’s sudden emergence, after hiding in seclusion from recording, doesn’t live up to its inherited marquee status on the synth-scary “Glass Mountain Trust.” D’Angelo’s voice is entirely unrecognizable, borderlining Cee Lo Green and Cameo’s Larry Blackmon, and may be a stalling moment for the star desperately trying to bounce back into music.

Some will still wonder if Ronson is playing his cards safely by branding himself into a band leader over a faceless Business Intl., whose actually supported by a handfuls in Dap King royalty and the occasional guest spots handled by other English, American and world groups. But believe it or not, the Business Intl. sounds like a band rather than the one-man band/grandmaster deejay Ronson is sometimes accredited for being. Record Collection adds yet another dimension of color to Ronson’s discography. On this set, as he journeys through ‘80’s culture while finding a way to blend his love for just about any genre he’s gravitated towards during his lifetime, he comes out on the rewarding end. Certainly, the next album might be a whole different layout, probably shifting into the next decade of music history with ‘90’s hip-hop once again attached with Ronson’s synth creations, but he’ll still look back at Record Collection and see it as his becoming as an artist.

J MATTHEW COBB

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HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 27 September 2010
  • Label: Columbia
  • Producers: Mark Ronson
  • Track Favs: Bang Bang Bang, Somebody to Love Me, You Gave Me Nothing, The Bike Song

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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