By Jeremy Loewer - 2015/16 WARC Web Technician and cool Dude Who Knows His Music
Throughout the entire release I could feel the lack of cohesion between the rhythm section players that is so clearly present in 70s funk. One cannot simply put a bassist, rhythm guitarist and drummer in the same room on different tracks. Nowadays it's likely these parts were recorded at separate times and interlaid rather than performed as a unit. This process destroys the underlying feel which is only created by live performance. The complex and often surprising interactions between these three instruments is critical for a good groove.
Areas of the album approach this standard. Track 3: Feel Right, reminds me of a modern James Brown tune. Although it utilizes a similar loop-based style of James Brown, if you compare it to Papa's Got a Brand New Bag you'll notice the difference - The bass radiates deeper and fills the empty space rather than simply repeating a pattern. In addition, Brown has a melodic voice that is lacking in this rapped track.
Uptown Funk suffers from a similar problem. There is simply too much empty space, and it's almost as if today's listening audience doesn't have the attention span to reach a sustained groove - they simply want the beat to drop (albeit predictably). By leaving no empty space, traditional funk gives the audience things to latch onto. If they used an actual bassist instead of a baritone vocal, I believe the foundation could be stronger. Notice for example how Midas Touch by Midnight Star leaves no opportunity for silence. There are layers of juicy surprises!
Track 5: I Can't Loose was my favorite on the album because of it's use of a nice synth chord progression and female vocal. It reminded me a lot of Melba Moore's Love's Comin' At Ya except yet again we fail to see a bass line different than a lead accompaniment.
In a face-palm moment, track 8: In Case of Fire, achieves the groove I was looking for but doesn't have the vocals to match! They had so many talented artists on the album but really didn't use them properly. Tame Impala is great on it's own – but it's sleepy haze music is not funk.
Some critics have rated Ronson's album highly, calling it fresh and progressive. While I appreciate the modernization of old tricks, I cannot justify giving this album the label of Funk, when it is missing the irreplaceable soul of the past.
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