The ‘Uptown’ Throwback Extravaganza
It’s been nearly four years since producer Mark Ronson, last released an album. 2010’s “Record Collection” was the epitome of sounds reflective of the girl-pop tunes on the radio at the time — catchy hooks, notable featured artists, the works. In between the last album and “Uptown Special,” Ronson has been working with other artists like Lil’ Wayne, Black Lips and Bruno Mars, so it comes as no surprise to have the latter featured on the album.
Although it’s been a long four years with little side projects in between, “Uptown Special” proves to be reflective of the more recent re-surge of funk music (De Lux, Chromeo, etc). Ronson tastefully combines elements of psychedelic rock and electronic music to liven the Motown 60’s funk that he successfully re-creates in the album.
“Uptown Special” starts off in the way a musical would or at least that is how the opening track “Uptown Funk First Remake” opens: with a strong harmonica riff accompanied by choirs chanting “Vegas,” it creates a kind of rising action that dives into “Summer Breaking,” a track featuring Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, who actually appears in several of Uptown Special’s tracks.
In the midst of re-creating the Motown feel, “Feel Right” and the single “Uptown Funk” embody the epitome of funky bass here, as it is unavoidable to tap your toes and feel the need to get up and dance during these tracks. Bruno Mars particularly and Ronson work together to effortlessly create a track that you can’t help but compare fairly to Michael Jackson of the Jackson 5 era. Big bands of trumpets and snare drums make the two tracks some of the catchier bits on the album.
While Ronson successfully creates tracks identical to those of the 60’s, he still adds a flare of 80’s anachronism to the album with the help of Kevin Parker’s psych rock talents and Daft Punk’s synth elements. “Daffodils” featuring Parker proves to be another worthy single off of “Uptown Special.” With a funky bass line to kick off the song, it immediately hooks you as Parker’s reverb-accompanied crooning could easily bring you into another dimension. Elements of Tame Impala truly strengthen the track as it intensifies the last minute, creating a resonating experience as “Uptown Special” transitions into the slower tracks like the “Crack in the Pearl” reprises of the opening. Featured artist Andrew Wyatt acts as the conductor of this “musical” as he continues to chant for “Vegas.”
Overall, “Uptown Special” proves to be a strong, long-awaited follow up to “Record Collection.” Ronson mirrors the same talents of previous eras to recreate some music eras tastefully. However, he brings something new to the table by taking elements of other styles and eras of music to create an even stronger, crisp and more layered Motown feel.
The artists in collaboration on “Uptown Special” also bring elements of their own music and overall flair to make this album a memorable contrast to the current electronic dance music phase that has seemed to take over major airwaves over the last couple of years.