ALBUM: "Version" (RCA)
Backstory: This is the moment Mark Ronson has been prepping for for years. After the DJ/NYC socialite's underrated 2003 debut album "Here Comes The Fuzz" went unnoticed by most (even with cameos from the likes of Jack White and Ghostface Killah), he returned to his native London. Soon the burgeoning producer was working with the then-unknown Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse, crafting tracks for their respective debuts. The rest is history in the making.
Why you should care: Ronson has been at the forefront of what's new and next for years, with an obvious ear for talent. His soulful productions teeter between timeless and retro (going as far back as his work on Nikka Costa's first release), and his sound has done a lot to help elevate both Allen and Winehouse to their current notoriety. For "Version," he's assembled a cavalcade of his famous friends to make an album of eclectic cover versions (hence the name).
Verdict: Ronson takes some big chances, and hits more often than he misses. Teaming up with Lily Allen, he transforms the Kaiser Chiefs' "Oh My God" into a funky, horn-blasted pop surprise. Britney Spears' "Toxic" gets slowed down into a sultry vamp augmented with rhymes from the late Ol' Dirty Bastard. Amy Winehouse's hot take on the Zutons' "Valerie" plays like an outtake from her outstanding current hit "Back To Black." Ronson even gets Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith to sing on a Motown-styled remake of the band's breakout single "Apply Some Pressure." A soulful remake of the Smiths' classic "Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before" hasn't endured him to Smiths fans, although Morrissey himself has given the version two thumbs up. Only the Robbie Williams-voiced version of the Charlatans' early '90s indie-dance hit "The Only One I Know" made me long for the original.
X-Factor: The rich, brassy tones of the Daptones Horns inject the songs with their ageless appeal. Plus Ronson's stepfather is Mick Jones of late-'70s FM rock gods Foreigner, and that's just cool.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times