O2 Tracks review: Mark Ronson Uptown Special

After a few years out of the limelight, Mark Ronson’s back to funk you up with his new album, Uptown Special, which features on the O2 Tracks Centre Stage this week.

The 39 year old Grammy Award winner enlisted the help of fellow producer Jeff Bhasker and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon on the record, which is dedicated to the late Amy Winehouse (whom Ronson was close with). Throw in a few industry pals including Mystikal, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, Bruno Mars and Stevie Wonder playing harmonica, and you’ve got yourself all the makings of a slightly bizarre but well-crafted pop masterpiece.

We took a listen and picked out our highlights.

Feel Right (ft Mystikal): This track summons best of the dirty south in the form of rapper Mystikal, who provides a sharp shot of James Brown style delivery, barking lyrics such as “Rhyming kung-fu that split bamboo” against an old-school funk beat. Not the most radio friendly track on the album, but lots of fun nonetheless.

Uptown Funk (ft Bruno Mars): Move over Jay and Bey, Ronson and Mars have been dubbed ‘pop’s new power couple’. It’s no surprise since they gave birth to Uptown Funk, the high-energy stand out chart-topper and catchiest song of 2014 (with no signs of slowing down in 2015). The track actually took six months to finish due to Bruno’s hectic schedule. It was worth it.

I Can’t Lose (ft Keystone Star): Ronson actually discovered Star singing in a bar in Mississippi and signed her up for this track straight away. Channeling her inner Chaka Khan, the soul siren shows she’s got the goods to make this 80’s boogie inspired banger one of the album’s highlights.

Leaving Los Feliz (feat Kevin Parker): Get past the fact that the bassline sounds a little bit like 80’s children’s programme Grange Hill (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), and this psychedelic sounding track about an ageing scenester, featuring Parker’s trademark Tame Impala sound, is actually quite catchy.

With the global success of Uptown Funk, there’s always the danger that the follow up album falls short of the lead single’s success. Ronson shouldn’t be too worried as Uptown Special shows a return to form, and with the help of an all-star cast, he’s delivered his most accomplished work to date. Don’t believe him? Just watch.

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Full tracklist
01. Uptown’s First Finale (feat. Stevie Wonder & Andrew Wyatt)
02. Summer Breaking (feat. Kevin Parker)
03. Feel Right (feat. Mystikal)
04. Uptown Funk! (feat. Bruno Mars)
05. I Can’t Lose (feat. Keyone Starr)
06. Daffodils (feat. Kevin Parker)
07. Crack In the Pearl (feat. Andrew Wyatt)
08. In Case of Fire (feat. Kevin Parker)
09. Leaving Los Feliz (feat. Jeff Bhasker)
10. Heavy & Rolling (feat. Andrew Wyatt)
11. Crack In The Pearl II (feat. Stevie Wonder & Jeff Bhasker)