Mick Ronson

Heaven and Hull

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Rightly hailed as David Bowie's high-flying guitar ace, the self-effacing Ronson had been recording only his third solo album in a 30-year career when he died of liver cancer in 1994. Undaunted, his surviving colleagues completed the project, which stands as a forceful reminder of his wide-ranging talents. Ronson's gleeful, anything-goes eclecticism holds true here. The recipe extends to bluesy pop ("When the World Falls Down"), brooding soundscapes ("You and Me"), an unlikely rearrangement of Giorgio Moroder's "Midnight Love," and even rock-funk ("Colour Me"). Aficionados of Ronson's strangled, Jeff Beck-style string-bending won't be disappointed -- especially on the thunderous "Don't Look Down" and on "Life's a River," where he squarely addresses his imminent mortality. Not surprisingly, every track boasts a different lineup, yet two key factors provide continuity. Ronson wrote or co-wrote five of the ten songs. Additionally, guitarist-keyboardist Sham Morris -- like his famous collaborator a native of the English industrial city of Hull -- provides key instrumental and production support. The all-star lineup attests to Ronson's appeal and influence. Old co-conspirator Bowie lends suitably jittery vocals to a giddy trashing of the Bob Dylan standard "Like a Rolling Stone." Additional reinforcement comes from Def Leppard vocalist Joe Elliott, Pretenders singer-guitarist Chrissie Hynde, and rustic rocker John Mellencamp -- whose 1982 hit, "Jack and Diane," benefited from Ronson's arranging prowess. The closing spot naturally falls to ex-Mott the Hoople frontman Ian Hunter, Ronson's longest-serving partner during the '70s and '80s. Hunter leads a rousing take on "All the Young Dudes," the Bowie-penned number that his band made famous. The latter track hails from Ronson's last major public appearance, at the 1992 all-star tribute to Queen's late vocalist, Freddie Mercury, which closes the circle nicely. The back cover features a shot of the Humber Bridge, in Ronson's hometown of Hull. Part of the proceeds were intended for the T.J. Martell Foundation, to help the fight against cancer.

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