Mark Ronson (DJ Set)
Uptown Special, the fourth album by producer-songwriter-musician Mark Ronson, is a tale of several cities, a wide range of collaborators, and a road trip deep into the American South. However the story of Ronson’s latest project really starts back when he was New York’s hottest DJ.
In the late 1990s into the early 2000s the New York club scene was percolating with booming hip-hop and glitzy R&B. In those days before he emerged as a multi-talented musical force Ronson manned the turntables of many great parties. “It was a fun time to be playing music,” he says. “At clubs like Cheetah you didn’t have to play a hip hop record until 1a.m. You could play early ‘80s classics by Chaka Khan, Boz Scaggs and Michael Jackson and rock the crowd. I’d play Steely Dan’s ‘Black Cow’ at 11:30 and it world work. Then, at 1am you’d play ‘Hypnotize’ by Biggie and the crowd would go wild. I come back to those memories.” This mix of vintage R&B and pop with contemporary hip-hop is what made Ronson a star DJ. “I never get tired of hearing records like Earth, Wind & Fire’s ‘Can’t Hide Love’ next to 'Rock the Boat' by Aaliyah,” says Ronson. “I wanted this record to feel like hearing that kind of musical mix on great New York club night.”
Uptown Special has all of the flavor of a night with Mark rocking the ones and twos with funk, soul, and psychedelic pop in a style that echoes classic productions by Quincy Jones and Steely Dan, and funneled through its creators sophisticated understanding of arrangement and melody. Of his three previous albums Mark feels like Uptown Special is closest in spirit to his 2003 debut, Here Comes the Fuzz, which came directly out his DJ experience. “The difference,” Mark says “is I was reaching for things musically I wasn’t quite ready to execute. With all the experience I’ve gained over the years I had the maturity and knowledge to really pull this together.”
The first single, “Uptown Funk,” features GRAMMY® award-winning superstar Bruno Mars on vocals and drums, who sings with passion and plays drums with fire that will bring funk back on the radio. Joining Mars on the track is Mark on guitar, Mars’ bassist Jamareo Artis and Jeff Brasker on keys. Mark produced Mars’ massive hit single, “Locked Out of Heaven,” where they developed a close musical kinship. “As a live performer no one out here now puts on a show like Bruno,” says Mark. “This record has that same intensity. When you hear him sing you are always aware of how much he puts into a performance.” Mark was so taken with the single’s power that it inspired the album’s title.