A new venture for producer/musician Mark Ronson as he finds himself hanging up his headphones and winding down with a glass of scotch and a cigarette in a ‘80s L.A. jazz club. Uptown Special is the fourth album from Ronson and was intended to sound like a night time musical mix in New York City and it does just that. The 13 track album blankets funk, R&B and soul.
Track ‘Uptown Funk’ featuring vocals from Bruno Mars has an infectious beat. Its curvaceous groove makes it difficult not to dance along to. Not only does it add a refreshing pop twist to an old school funk bassline, it holds the record for having over 2.49 million streams online in a week. The success of the song along is enough to grab any listener’s attention for the much anticipated album release.
A third of the way in, the album changes pace. It slows, the guitars become moody like the Sun is setting on the beautiful L.A. skyline. The multi-layered album is streaking with abundant of gutsy vocals from Bruno Mars, Stevie Wonder and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker. It is clear to see the influence some of the vocalists have had on each track. ‘Summer Breaking’, ‘Leaving Los Feliz’ and ‘Daffodils’, all featuring Kevin Parker, drips with intoxicating licks of psychedelic imagination that spill into contemporary pop; infected by guitar fuzz like it was created in the dirty backstreets of the Sunset Strip.
Mark Ronson is nothing without collaborators; his middle man-like disposition brings together impeccable artists such as Stevie Wonder and Andrew Wyatt. He intertwines a unique blend of poignant vocals and airy guitar solos that feature throughout the album. ‘Heavy and Rolling’, featuring Wyatt, has a cool dynamic yet carries an allusive approach to poetic songwriting. ‘I Can’t Lose’ starts off sounding like a Spotify advert. Keyone Starr’s soulful voice sits on funk grazing, piercing trumpets and phony police sirens. Sounds odd, yet it kind of works, the repetitive nature ensures that it is instantly recognisable. Unfortunately, ‘I Can’t Lose’ may fall forgotten against the other more esteemed tracks like ‘Daffodils’ and ‘Crack in the Pearl’.
Uptown Special on a whole only scratches the surface. With all the great artists featured on the album it is kind of hard not to expect just that little bit more from it. Each song stands alone and has its own identity but having no running theme throughout makes it difficult to pin down. Whilst this is certainly not a show stopper it would be interesting to see how the album sounded if it had one point of focus.