To hear Mark Ronson's "The Bike Song," go to Pop Life online at tampabay.com/blogs/poplife.
ALBUM REVIEW: Mark Ronson & the Business Intl "Record Collection"
Record-spinning sibs Mark and Samantha Ronson have your night covered. Sam, who famously dated the train wreck Lindsay Lohan, is the DJ to the stars, the prime-time turntablist at all the L.A. hotspots. Mark, who famously produced the train wreck Amy Winehouse, is more of an after-party guy, his paisley, hepcat influences going far beyond the Black Eyed Peas or whatever's hot in pop.
While chain-smoking Sam has been showing up in US Weekly with her gingery gal pal, her 35-year-old Brit bro has been hunkered down among his vinyl stacks and challenging Gnarls Barkley's Danger Mouse for the title of most inventive producer working today. On 2007 masterpiece Version, a covers album that'll make your head spin, Ronson turned Coldplay song God Put a Smile Upon Your Face into a Hawaii 5-0 surf vamp featuring the bleating Daptone Horns; he also invited Ol' Dirty Bastard to redo Britney Spears' Toxic.
New album Record Collection — officially released by Mark Ronson & the Business Intl — is fat with 14 tracks and just as many bold-faced cameos (Duran Duran's Simon Le Bon, R&B shut-in D'Angelo). But the content is original this time and less reliant on retro touches — although he'll never totally abandon that '60s London soul vibe. For the most part, Ronson is not just looking to the future but trying to define it, as well.
A lover of tricky, trippy beats that chase each other in seemingly arrhythmical ways, Ronson also prefers burbling synths and a clean, classic vocal that soars high above the mix. His music is out-there, but it's also organic. A few years ago, he helped launch the careers of Winehouse and Brit brat Lily Allen; here Ronson's femme fatale is sweet-voiced Rose Elinor Dougall from indie-pop outfit the Pipettes. She commands your swoon on three songs, including the dreamscape closer The Night Last Night.
Ronson loves to spread out, making electric daydreams rather than dance jams. When he does sweat things up, however, the album becomes even more special. On the kiddie chant of The Bike Song, which winkingly nods to Queen's pedal fetish, Kyle Falconer from Scottish band the View takes the vocal as Baltimore MC Spank Rock spits rhymes. It's one of the loopiest — and best — songs of 2010.
And because Ronson adores mercurial talent — Winehouse, Allen, ODB, Robbie Williams — he couldn't resist inviting smooth-pated wackadoo Boy George to sing on intergalactic cha-cha Somebody to Love Me. It's a tremendous return for the Culture Club iconoclast and another weird, wonderful surprise on an album full of them.
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A Poison pen pal
Stuck in the '80s colleague Steve Spears and I recently had the chance to chat with Poison frontman and medical miracle Bret Michaels about his music, his roller-coaster career and his recent health problems. The 47-year-old "Rock of Love" god even revealed what was on his "bucket list": sky-diving and singing the anthem at a Super Bowl. After the interview ran in the St. Petersburg Times, I received this letter from a local reader, written longhand on lovely stationery, to pass along to Bret. I'll do that — but maybe he'll see it here, too.
I have been following your health problems and wanted to tell you I had a brain hemorrhage and a stroke in 1995. I could not speak for a few weeks and was in intensive care two weeks.
I am 77 years old. I have done everything on my bucket list except sky-dive. Also, I did the hot air balloon and loved it. I was fortunate enough to go to Ireland in 2005; went by myself, had a great time.
So on my birthday, March 17, I will be 78 and want to sky-dive before it's too late. Maybe you will come to Tampa again and we could jump together.
My best friend thinks I am nuts for writing to you. Oh well! I am young at heart.
POISON PEN PAL