It’s been five years since Mark Ronson released a studio album but that doesn’t mean the DJ/producer/singer/musician has been laying low doing nothing. He has put his production onto albums by Lil’ Wayne, Paul McCartney and Lana Del Rey – to name a few. His resume is packed with names like Nas, Wale, Adele and even the late Amy Winehouse.
Ronson is more than a “DJ for the stars,” he’s a Grammy-nominated producer who’s been putting in work since the late ’90s. On his newest effort “Uptown Special” – Ronson, continues to ride the vibes of funk, dance and pop music while collaborating with various artists along the way.
The lead single “Uptown Funk” features Bruno Mars and for those who are in the mood to feel a little nostalgic, the song has a similar feel to “Jungle Love” by Morris Day and the Time. Bruno Mars is in his element on this track as his suave personality pulls off slick lyrics like: “This hit, that ice water / Michelle Pfeiffer, that white gold . . . Livin’ it up in the city / Got Chucks on with Saint Laurent, Gotta kiss myself, I’m so pretty.” The hit is infectious and once again the combination of Mark Ronson with Bruno Mars strikes gold.
Unfortunately, Bruno does not make another appearance on the album – and the rest of the songs on this album sound like “something else.”
“I Can’t Lose” sounds like a combination of “Square Biz” by Teena Marie and “Love Come Down” by Evelyn King. The vocals, which are done by Keyone Starr, are actually on point and it would’ve been nice to hear her again on this album and singing a melody that was a little more original but neither happens on “Uptown Special. ”
Some songs on the album are just mixed down awkwardly and the lyrics sung on the songs are at times unrecognizable. After a few attempts at trying to understand the words to “Daffodils,” the listener will just ultimately give up and skip the track. Kevin Parker’s voice on the song is just too light and served up with too much reverb and echo to be fully understood.
The same thing occurs with Kevin Parker once again on the track “Leaving Los Feliz” which goes nowhere anywhere and has sprinkles of a distorted guitar which is seemingly placed at the wrong spots and makes Parker’s words even that much more difficult to understand during the chorus.
The Jeff Bhasker feature on “In Case of Fire” is all kinds of bad. The music is unoriginal and the lyrics are just corny: “Break glass, don’t you look back, in case of fire/ Escape plan: Grab what you can, in case of fire.” The song talks about a break up at the hands of a cold-chick, but it seems like the cold chick may be a bad weekend in Vegas or a drug binge gone bad. . .
There is a weak attempt to re-create a James Brown feel on “Feel Right” featuring Mystikal. Mystikal hasn’t been around for a while and he reminds us that the world was a better place without him, “Calling all cars in here for the Prince of the South / Kill all that yabba-dabba-doo-sh*t, I just got out!. . . You gon’ mess around and make me knock your fruit juice loose / Ya banana, ya watermelon and pomegranate too.” Ugh, please stop.
Andrew Wyatt’s feature on “Heavy and Rolling” gives a smooth soothing feeling like a summer night’s drive over a bridge with the windows down. The reverb/echo feature works well for once on this record during the song’s bridge and the use of guitars over the chorus work perfectly over relaxing drum pattern.
The album is less than 40 minutes long so at least “Uptown Special” doesn’t drive you from being bored to being frustrated while listening. For a talented producer like Ronson, one expects more originality and not “his version” of cover songs. “Uptown Special” is more like “Karaoke Night at the Ronson Lounge,” but hey, at least there’s some cool harmonica being played by the great Stevie Wonder on the album’s outro. So yeah, there’s that too. . .
Album Rating: 4 out of 10