The fun '80s synth charged "Bang Bang Bang" has been one of my favorite singles of the year so far, so I was very excited about what British producer Mark Ronson's third album Record Collection had to offer. And whilst it has its fair share of duds, I wasn't been disappointed. It's not perfect, but it's more well-produced and coherent than 2007's sophomore breakthrough Version, which landed the popular international hit, the cover of The Zuton's "Valerie" featuring Amy Winehouse--just an addition to the impressive resume Ronson's built over the last 3 years, which also includes producing the most part of Winehouse's Grammy-nominated second album Back to Black.
Under the music alias of Mark Ronson & the Business Int, Record Collection is an engaging mix of old fashioned pop with an electronic spin and a mash of other interesting sounds, of course it also hits its speed bumps every so often. After the fun '80s synth driven pop of "Bang Bang Bang," the album switches up '80s dance-pop for modern American hip-hop on "Lose It (In the End)" featuring vocals from American rapper Ghostface Killah. It's a fantastic track. Booming with tight production--hovering with rapid drum work and blaring horns. Following is the jaunty old fashioned pop of "The Bike Song," layered with keyboards, drums and horns--the trio of sounds really work on the chorus, prancing beneath the repetition of ("gonna ride my bike until I get home").
British veteran, Boy George lends his vocals on the slightly Afro-centric "Somebody to Love Me," layered with clobbering drum beats and distinctive guitar strings. More interesting is dizzying production of "Glass Mountain Thrust," I particularly like this because it features D'Angelo, one of my favorite soul singers ever, I haven't heard from him since 2000's Voodoo. There's a lot going on here; the distorted pitch-differing vocals, the different sections of drum beats shadowed over the screeching patch of noise beneath the drums. It's invigorating, one of those tracks that gets better after a couple listens.
"Circuit Breaker," is a riveting instrumental, clocking in those '80s influenced dance beats again--toned over with sheets of synth, keyboards, stuttering horns and soundscapes hollowing beneath dance-pop production. Fitting in some alternative hip-hop is the aptly "Introducing the Business," a track that's supposed to introduce the new 'Business' addition to Ronon's title but is overshadowed by the spacey bass driven production. I also love the bursts of orchestration and strings in the background, It's a nice touch to what would have been a pretty aggressive track otherwise.
Title track "Record Collection," I don't like so much--it's very spacey, stamped with intricate beats and soundscapes but there's not much else going on and the lyrics leave a lot to be desired. I'm not too fond of the scattering drum work that drives the most part of "Hey Boy." Closing track "The Night Last Night" is better, sporting a polished alternative rock sound, gleaming with melody. It features Rose Elinor Dougall of female British indie trio The Pipettes. She's appears before on "You Gave Me Nothing," another of the albums moments that doesn't work for me.
There are three 1 minute interludes scattered throughout the album, I don't see the point myself, they feel rather insignificant however my favorite is "Selector" wedged in between "Record Collection" and "Hey Boy." It's bass-heavy '90s hip-hop throwback, it sounds like it was recorded in a low-budget studio in someones basement which is all part of the fun, I guess.
In all, Record Collection deliverers the side of eclectic mix of sounds you would expect from a producer like Ronson--whilst the more '80s influenced tracks are fun to listen to, where the album shines most are on the more interesting left-field numbers that take a few listens before you can fully grasp and apart from the few that don't quite stick, Record Collection is a pleasing mix of songs and one that I'm happy to have in my record collection.
Best: Bang Bang Bang, Lose It (In the End), Glass Mountain Thrust, The Bike Song, The Night Last Night, Selector