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Uptown Special is Ronson’s most inventive and vibrant work to date. Taken as a whole, the album is inspired by his musical beginnings. As a teenager growing up in New York City in the early 90s, Ronson gravitated towards hip-hop, funk, soul and R&B. Those were the records he lugged around in boxes in the early days of his club DJ career and that scratchy, inspiring vinyl was what he returned to when creating the album.
"No matter how my taste in music and DJ-ing veers over the years, I always find myself coming back to that music I would play out in hip-hop clubs in NY in the late 90s/early 2000s”, Ronson elaborates. "Biggie, Chaka Khan, Amerie, Boz Scaggs, Missy, Earth Wind & Fire, N.O.R.E….Those songs would set alight the dance floor. The NY club scene was filled with girls, boys, dancers, drug dealers, rappers, models and skateboarders who came mostly for one reason: to dance. And regardless of genre or era, if the song was good - if it had dope drums, if it had soul to it - they danced. Before smart phones, bottle service and smoking bans, people came to the club, found their spot and stayed all night, absorbed in the music. With Uptown Special I set out to capture the feeling I remember from those New York nights".
Uptown Special, Ronson's fourth album, was written and produced with GRAMMY® -winning producer Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West, Drake, Alicia Keys) over 18 months in studios in London, Memphis, Los Angeles and New York City. The majority of the album’s lyrics – although not the lead single with Mars - were written by Pulitzer-winning American novelist Michael Chabon. Ronson's favourite living author, Chabon became a part of the songwriting process early on and was fully immersed in the album’s narrative creation, often working with Ronson and the vocalists in the recording studio.
Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker plays a huge role on the album, lending his signature, woozy vocal to three songs, as well as laying drums, guitars, synths and background vocals on other tracks. Longtime collaborator Miike Snow's Andrew Wyatt also added his wonderful vocals and songwriting talents. Ronson & Bhasker's great friend producer Emile Haynie (Lana Del Rey, FKA Twigs) also provided some glorious sonic landscapes to the tracks, as did some of Ronson’s favourite producer-peers: Simian Mobile Disco's James Ford (Arctic Monkeys), TNGHT's Hudson Mohawke and DJ Zinc. And, as always, there is Ronson's invaluable group of musicians: the Brooklyn-based genius players Homer Steinweiss, Nick Movshon and Tommy Brenneck.
Prior to the start of the recording, on a mission to discover the young female vocalist they had been imagining in their heads while writing these songs, Ronson and Bhasker set out on a vast road trip across the US, driving through New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Jackson, Memphis, St. Louis, Little Rock and Chicago. Whilst visiting gospel choirs in Jackson, MI they discovered 23-year old Keyone Starr and were blown away by her impressive range and presence. They immediately invited her into the legendary Royal Studios in Memphis to record. Starr provides lead vocals on three tracks on the album.
At the 2008 GRAMMY® Awards Mark Ronson was named “Producer of the Year” for his breakthrough second album Version along with his work on Winehouse’s Back To Black and Lily Allen’s Alright, Still. He shared two further Grammy Awards with Winehouse that year, taking home statuettes for “Best Pop Vocal Album” and “Record of the Year” for “Rehab”. The same year he was named “Best British Artist” at the UK’s Grammy equivalent BRIT Awards. Ronson received another GRAMMY® nomination in 2014 for his production work on “Locked Out Of Heaven,” the single from Bruno Mars’ multiplatinum Unorthodox Jukebox that topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks in winter 2012/2013.
The international success of Version's 2010 follow-up, Record Collection, was followed by series of high profile production gigs for acclaimed