I really wanted to like this album.
I really did, because the first single, Uptown Funk, got us all up and dancing at the beginning of winter, when we needed it most.
I really liked Mark Ronson‘s TED talk and his remix of their droplet audio signature.
I really think highly of this guy, who is one of the hardest-working producers alive: he is behind some seminal records and has worked with too many big names to count, from the soulful and sorely missed Amy Winehouse, to Adele’s chart-topping debut, to Lily Allen, Kaiser Chiefs, Black Lips, Bruno Mars + so much more…
Most of all, I really like it when a fellow Canadian has such outstanding success worldwide. Good for him.

You can see it coming, there is a BUT.

For this album, Mark Ronson has partnered with some world-class collaborators, from Stevie Wonder, to Kevin Parker, leader of the brilliant psych-rock Australian band Tame Impala, to Andrew Wyatt from the indie-electro outfit Miike Snow, and we all know THAT incredible chart-topper featuring Bruno Mars:

He also managed to squeeze in a few unknowns, such as  Keyone Starr, an choir singer from Mississippi and the New Orleans rapper Mystikal, with whom he has crafted the 2nd best song on the album: Feel Good, a song so funky and reminiscent of “The Godfather of Soul” that it might make James Brown’s feet twitch in his grave.

It’s one of the problems with this album, Mark Ronson is so good at capturing the essence of each artist he produces an album with – or the era he is trying to recapture – that even when producing a record with his own name on it, you do not get a sense of his personality. While this album could have gone a long way to showcasing Mark Ronson’s personal take on music, and reinventing the soul era sound he so clearly adores, all we seem to get are songs that sound just like what he listened to on the radio when he was young.

The opening and closing songs with Stevie Wonder could have been pulled straight out of any if his Motown b-sides, with Mr. Wonder’s distinctive harmonica but none of his voice, I Can’t Lose (featuring Keyone Starr) with it’s full-on synth and brass sounds like it could have been released in 1982. The three Kevin Parker collabs are simply… tame (excuse my pun). Take Dafodills for example: the groovy bass line will likely expose Parker to a more mainstream audience, but it’s a massive compromise on his usual space-rock panache.

From this point on in the album, the remainder essentially sees Parker and Wyatt taking turns at voice-tracking funky soft-rock type songs, while Stevie wonder making a comeback to husher us out with his chill harmonica tune. All of which is crafted and produced to perfection, but disappointingly unoriginal.


Uptown Special
(Columbia Records, 2015)

-Genre: Funky motown with a dash of 80’s
-In the same field as Amy Winehouse, James Brown, Stevie Wonder

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About The Author

Collaborator - RREVERB

Julie was born from a trumpeter dad and a drummer mum with music written in her DNA. She is from this generation that went from listening to vinyl, to creating mixtapes on cassettes, to splurging her early savings on a CD player, to discovering Napster, the iPod and so on... In 2005 she took part in the launch of Radiolibre, Quebec's first music streaming service and in 2006 started Palmares.ca, a francophone MP3 store. She spent 10 years looking after over 80 Canadian radio websites and has a ticket stub diary of over 300 shows.