REVIEW: Mark Ronson – Uptown Special

You know, if it wasn’t for that Uptown Funk malark, we’d have quite happily consigned Mark Ronson and his never-ending trumpets to the mid-00s pop mausoleum that also houses Mr Hudson. But the Bruno Mars collaboration was quite a surprise in its unavoidable likeability, to the point it might well be a perfectly worrying replacement for Happy which, in turn, was the substitute we all needed for Get Lucky. You get the idea.

In the context of the album, that particular sound makes a great deal more sense. Ronson has gathered quite the list of collaborators (Stevie Wonder, anyone?) for a record that is a pretty solid homage to Motown and Miami funk. There’s some genuinely exciting meshing of talent here: if Kevin Parker is sounding his most fresh and pop-friendly on Daffodils, newcomer Keyone Starr sounds like a seasoned pro on I Can’t Lose (ironically a song that now seems tailor-made for Fleur East).

But in essence, and as always, Ronson is a bit of a magpie in that the songs he produces merely sound like extensions of an LP from the people performing them. Which is why all the Parker tracks sound like more louche Tame Impala, and Mystikal is still regurgitating some sub-Outkast schtick. Not that these are bad things, of course, but it results in a struggle to isolate Ronson’s identity among his collaborators.

This isn’t helped by the looming influence of key collaborator Jeff Bhasker, who Ronson has acknowledged as quite a driving force behind some of the songs. It probably explains why the highlight belongs to him too, as In Case Of Fire shimmers with a perfectly-captured throwback sound. In that respect, this Uptown Special certainly feels as filling as the diner order it sounds like, but then that’s the thing about ordering a special: the extras make it way more exciting than the base could ever be.

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Mark Ronson - Uptown Special
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