Album Review: Mark Ronson - Uptown Special

A brilliant, ageless album.

Rating:

We can easily cast our minds back to 2007, when Zutons cover ‘Valerie’ turned Mark Ronson into a reference-point for even the least musically inclined. The album ‘Version’ was a staple of coffee tables everywhere. But most people tend to forget 2010’s follow-up ‘Record Collection’, and with good reason: it was critically maligned, largely unsuccessful and generally quite awful. So, when you try and get your head around the outright genius of ‘Uptown Special’, Ronson’s fourth studio album, you can’t help but think, ‘why wasn’t this released in its place?’

Setting out to create his own original versions of the funk and soul jams he played out in New York hip-hop clubs in the early noughties, in ‘Uptown Special’ Ronson creates a backward-looking cosmic funk record, as quirky as it is bombastic. Cunningly enlisting Pulitzer prize-winning author Michael Chabon as chief lyricist, the hooks are unforgettable. And that holds whether we’re talking rapper-turned-actor Mystikal’s grubby gusts on ‘Feel Right’, Bruno Mars’ contagious imperative of “don’t believe me just watch”, new talent Keyone Star’s mellifluous hand in ‘I Can’t Lose’, or Jeff Bhasker’s miraculous foxiness in the urgent-sounding ‘In Case of Fire’.

Recurrent guest appearances allow a cohesion that wasn’t present on previous albums, and it’s Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker who has the best turns. While disco guitar twangs and restless bass grooves cut up ‘Daffodils’ and reassociate Parker’s trademark fuzzy vocal with a fidgety form of funk, ‘Leaving Los Feliz’ is chilled-out Parker at his best, with slinky guitar lines shadowing his vocal in a particularly vintage chorus. In fact, you can imagine songs like this appearing on a fuzzy, sepia-tinged VHS recording of an Old Grey Whistle Test, with Bob Harris certainly mumbling something complimentary in the background. Rarely entering the realm of pastiche, in all, this makes for a brilliant, ageless album.  

Read More

Unite and conquer: Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes

Unite and conquer: Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes

Over the last five years, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes have blazed a cathartic trail across the world. As they release third album ‘End of Suffering’, they dig deep for the sake of sparking hope.

The world according to Stella Donnelly

The world according to Stella Donnelly

Across her debut album, the Perth musician finds herself tackling gender equality, sexual harassment and Australian nationalism, capturing a society in transition.

Join the dots: ALASKALASKA

Join the dots: ALASKALASKA

The London jazz-pop five-piece present their dreamy debut album, but it comes along with the bite of social commentary.

Other People’s Problems: Foxygen

Other People’s Problems: Foxygen

Refusing to tour, railing against the industry and sitting on a tell-all memoir, with new LP ‘Seeing Other People’, LA duo Foxygen are teetering on the edge of collapse – or is it all just an act?