Review: Mark Ronson – Uptown Special

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I would recommend listening to the album though, but unfortunately at times Uptown Special can sometimes be Downtown Regular.

  • 5

Uptown Special, the latest album from music producer Mark Ronson, had incredibly high expectations, especially after the instantaneous success of a certain ‘Uptown Funk’ but could it live up to those heights?

The London-born musician is most famous for his collaborations with high-profile artists such as Robbie Williams, Lily Allen and who could forget the incredible, Ronson-produced, Amy Winehouse cover of ‘Valerie’.  His most successful album Version, released in 2007, featured the aforementioned artists and many more, entering at a high of number two in the UK Album Chart.

So on to his latest record, a funky, R&B based collection of tracks featuring, once again, an impressive array of musical talent. As a whole the record has a different feel to his previous hits, almost as though Ronson is reinventing himself, after the genre-defining (and very much inspirational to recent successful artists across the world) Version (2007) and Record Collection (2010).

The opening track, ‘Uptown’s First Finale’ introduces the album with vocals from Stevie Wonder and Andrew Wyatt, with a Harmonica backing tune. A strong start, backed up by the following ‘Summer Breaking” and the energetic and soulful ‘Feel Right’, my personal highlight of the album. The enthusiastic, albeit crude, vocals from Mystikal, such as “Grabbing on my pants, she trying to pull it out my pocket” add a great and memorable feel to the track.

Track four on Uptown Special, the record breaking smash hit ‘Uptown Funk’, featuring Bruno Mars on the vocals. Apart from possibly one of the catchiest songs to have been released in the last few years, the lyrics are what stand out for me. “I’m too hot (hot damn), make a dragon wanna retire man” is just one of a number of unforgettable lines in this chart epic.

Unfortunately the rest of the record doesn’t exactly live up to the heights of the Ronson-Mars collaboration, seeming to peter out without leaving any lasting memories on me. The album could be split into two parts: Uptown Special (tracks 1-4) and then Downtown Regular (4-whatever it finishes at). Having said this, looking just at the second ‘half’, it does flow quite nicely, with the obvious Motown roots definitely being reflected in the musical style of the record.

Overall, comparing to the all-conquering Version and the already classic single ‘Uptown Funk’, I can’t lie that although there are a couple of decent tracks on Uptown Special, the majority is just Motown-style fillers that leave a minimal, if anything at all, impression on the listener. I would recommend listening to the album though, as it does flow rather well in the second half and is a decent record – just unfortunately Uptown Special is nothing special.

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