Stevie Wonder, Bruno Mars, Kevin Parker, Andrew Wyatt and Pulitzer Prize recipient Michael Chabon. Just your average list of collaborators for Mark Ronson, all of whom feature in one way or another on his latest offering to the music world.
Uptown Special is Ronson’s fourth solo record. It’s been five years since he released his last, Record Collection, and it’s clear that he intends to break from tradition with his latest album.
The record is quite simply brilliant. Alongside smash hit single ‘Uptown Funk’, which features one of Mars’ best vocal performances to date, the album is full of hidden gems. ‘I Can’t Lose’ is the dark horse of the record, featuring a relatively unknown singer in the form of Keyone Starr, yet the song itself wouldn’t be out of place on a 1980s dance floor.
‘Feel Right’, featuring veteran rapper Mystikal, is certainly one of Ronson’s funkier songs. It has evidently been heavily influenced by the music of the godfather of soul himself, James Brown, and it is the perfect precedent to ‘Uptown Funk’.
Stevie Wonder’s brief appearance playing the harmonica on the album’s opening and closing songs is a nice touch from Ronson. It gives the record as a whole a more classic sound, which is well matched by the silky tones of Miike Snow front man Andrew Wyatt.
The highlight of the album, however, is the collaboration with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker. The hybrid of funk with Parker’s niche psychedelic sound on ‘Daffofils’ is a joy to behold, offering another stunning example of Ronson’s refined producing flair. Parker’s vocals are incredible and the song itself is perfectly placed to bring some calmness to the album after the three most vibrant songs of the record, ‘Feel Right’, ‘Uptown Funk’ and ‘I Can’t Lose’.
Uptown Special is the type of album that you will keep returning to, even when you think you’ve had enough of listening to it. My only complaint is that, with a running time of just 38:39, it is a touch too short.
It isn’t an album that heralds a revolution in funk music, being more of a funk-pop pastiche than a full on funk record. What Uptown Special does herald though is the return of Mark Ronson to our radios, which can ultimately never be a bad thing.