Mark Ronson – Uptown Special Review

Mark Ronson in King's Cross, London.

Almost five years on from his last full length studio release, Mark Ronson returns with an album that everyone has been waiting to hear over the Christmas season. Record Collection from Ronson and his Business Intl. was very much one of the best outputs from the London producer in sticking with the idea of electronic pop, with a collective of musicians outside of the mainstream to help dismantle the tarnishing he received in the music press for his cover tracks such as ‘Valarie’. he’s spoken of the album being a very involved effort that he’s fretted over to the point of being physically sick in the case of ‘Uptown Funk’. Was it all worth it?

Just on commercial success alone ‘Uptown Funk’ was worth the stress with Number 1 successes from the UK, US to Croatia. It’s a track with an absolutely infectious and contagious handclap rhythm, brass and hanging, whirring synths. The deep funk backing vocals take over the role of a rooted bass line and is complemented with a smooth disco-funk fused riff. The set up of the instrumentals and the simple lyrics were made for an out and out pop musician such as Bruno Mars; in fact the song was pretty much made for him to exercise his vocal flair from the spoken word to the step by step build up in culminating with a vocal peak. second single ‘Daffodils’ which sees the pop producer combine his efforts with Kevin Parker: Neo Psychedelic producer and the driving force of Tame Impala as a follow up to his lead single ‘Uptown Funk’ which also featured Bruno Mars on the track. It would seem then, that much like his 2010 studio album under the title of Mark Ronson and the Business Intl.; that Ronson has set about forming another impressive and varied list of collaborators for his current project and the two names already produced are pretty different in themselves. The track opens with a washed out, analogue synth sweep which rolls off into a slick and slightly pashed out funk-like groove of a riff with crisp percussion and Parker’s spaced out, high pitched vocal just expanding the song’s space even more. The explorative sounds are reeled in a little with bass line interludes and flashing bass beat. It’s quite a novel record in producing what is effectively a neo-psychedelic-funk hybrid, but one that works with all purposefulness and style.

‘Feel Right’ features rapper Mystikal and features his throaty and gruff rap with a light rattling riff and bold brass intercessions along with a call and respond backing vocal. These three elements of the song are used to propel the song into action towards and through the chorus. A more rough filtered ‘Uptown Funk’. I can’t lose featuring vocalist Keyone Starr is a homage to a late 80’s and early 90’s electro-pop hit with it’s distorted and warping synths and the pop melodies being layered on top. ‘Summer Breaking’ and ‘Leaving Los Feliz’ feature Kevin Parker’s neo-psychedelic guitar in unconventional situations such as smooth jazz backing tracks. Tracks featuring Stevie Wonder feel frustratingly a little underwhelming as even though it puts him some sort of soul/psychedelic fusion, you feel he isn’t being maximised as a vocalist. In case of Fire is a Glam Rock influenced track before it goes off towards a funk and hazy produced track. Whilst there is enough variety in conjunction with an overall retro theme and some real moments of pop fantasia; there is a slight lack of substance and depth to the album with songs that really would suit them. The album is a great piece of retro inspired pop; perhaps not up to the standard of it’s Daft Punk counterpart Random Access Memories, but a success nonetheless.

Mark Ronson – Uptown Special = 7.5/10

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