‘Uptown Special’ Proves Unique
Erin McAuliffe | Sunday, January 25, 2015
Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Special,” released Jan. 13, features an eclectic mix of Motown funk, Tame Impala whimsy and Feve frenzy — but, unlike many at Feve, remains coherent and unmuddied.
Mark Ronson, British musician and producer for artists such as Amy Winehouse and Adele, collaborated with an array of talent on his latest album. The contributors each bring unique styles, lyrics and vocals that mesh in an eccentric R&B conglomerate.
The album was recorded over a period of seven months at Royal Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, validating its jazz-funk vibes.
Ronson collaborated with Andrew Wyatt of Miike Snow and Kevin Parker of Tame Impala to achieve a dreamy, tingly, ethereal sound on tracks like “Leaving Los Feliz,” “Heavy and Rolling” and “Daffodils.” The effects are mesmerizing and add an interesting layer to a soul-filled funk record.
The opening track, “Uptown’s First Finale,” features a groovy harmonica melody and … Stevie Wonder. Ronson reached out to him in a “Hail Mary” move, which, unlike the “Hail Mary” plays that I have seen of late, actually paid off.
“Feel Right” is a jazzy, raspy and invigorating track featuring Mystikal who brings his own New Orleans flair to the Memphis stylings of the album. His grunty rap style and the jivey instrumentals make for a James Brown-esque groove track.
The single “Uptown Funk,” featuring Bruno Mars, has garnered tons of attention and a five-time rotation at any campus party — and I’ve yet to grow sick of it. Everyone from my mom to that kid who sleeps through every accounting class has been seen jamming to it. The fact that it is perfectly suited to my signature dance move that involves “don’t try this at home” footwork and “you’ll probably have to wear your infinity scarf as a neck brace tomorrow” head movements, it may be beneficial to my health if I would start loathing it sooner than later. Listen at your own risk: Uptown may funk you up.
Ronson also consulted Jeff Bhasker, collaborator on “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and “Watch The Throne,” on the album. Bhasker and Ronson became inspired to discover a young, powerful voice that could not be found through the industry connections they possessed.
“One night, at two in the morning after a couple of whiskeys, Jeff said, ‘You and I need to drive through the south and do a trip called the Mississippi Mission. We are going to drive round all these churches and find that singer’,” Ronson told The Guardian.
That singer was Keyone Starr of Mississippi. The daughter of a preacher, Starr was banished from the church after becoming pregnant. Ronson described her to The Guardian as having, “this amazing burnt, rasping quality to her voice.” She appears on the song, “I Can’t Lose.”
Another unique contributor to the album was author Michael Chabon. Realizing a potential connection between being able to construe beautifully worded sentences and song lyrics that would convey more than “heartache or the dance floor,” Ronson reached out to the Pulitzer Prize-winner as a fan of his book “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.”
Ronson and Chabon’s work marks an exciting delve into a connection between literature and music, a seemingly integral connection that has yet to be explored. Chabon’s lyrics are featured in over half the tracks, including “Leaving Los Feliz” (a self-aware ode to the aging hipster) and “Crack In The Pearl” (a Las Vegas rumination).
This album features so many unique aspects from its lyrics to its influences; the eleven tracks are “straight masterpieces.”
Similar Artists: Tame Impala, James Brown, Bruno Mars
Recommended Tracks: “Leaving Los Feliz,” “Daffodils,” “Uptown Funk”