July 6, 2009

My Gut Reaction: Various Artists - Wu-Tang Chamber Music (June 30, 2009)

I've been sitting on this one for almost a week, as circumstance and a lack of motivation have prevented me from having the time to sit and actually listen to the goddamn thing. Here are some observations that I had while opening Wu-Tang Chamber Music for the first time.

-After frequenting other blogs, I know I'm not alone in believing that this project literally came out of fucking nowhere. Especially since it was marketed as the Wu-Tang Clan as backed by a live band, The Revelations (yeah, I had never heard of them, either). Not that this was unwelcome, mind you: I was certainly looking forward to this more so than U-God's Dopium. I am a bit concerned with the El Michaels Affair though: weren't they suppoosed to be the go-to for live Wu-Tang instrumentation?

-This is not an official Wu-Tang Clan album (as evidenced by the fact that Method Man, Masta Killa, Gza/Genius, and the late Ol' Dirty Bastard don't appear at all), but, rather, a collaboration between the Clan and other New York rap artists who may or may not have played a huge role in defining the rhyme styles of the group. Even though The Rza is listed as the executive producer, I imagine the title was an honorary one: other than garnering much-needed publicity, spoken-word interludes (seriously), and a couple of tracks, the input of Prince Rakeem is slim, which makes sense when you realize that Wu-Tang Chamber Music is the pet project of, among other contributors, Fizzy Womack, also known as Lil' Fame from M.O.P. Yes, one-half of the Mash Out Posse is responsible for trying to bring the Wu-Tang Clan back into prominence. Which is kind of cool.

-I suppose Koch Records got sick of the phrase "Koch graveyard" when describing their talent roster, as they have since officially changed their name to E1 Music. Which is a subsidiary of E1 Entertainment, who actually produces the show Hung for HBO. I caught the pilot episode last week (the one directed by Election's Alexander Payne...that movie is funny as shit, by the way), and I didn't find it as good as it could have been. I don't fault star Thomas Jane, though: he just wants his kids back.

-Wu-Tang Chamber Music remains pretty limited in its scope when it comes to guest stars. Kool G Rap? M.O.P.? Saw them coming (especially the M.O.P. spot, thanks to Fizzy Womack's interference - did you really think M.O.P. wasn't going to appear?). But Cormega, Sean Price, and Masta Ace? Those are some power moves right there. It's not enough to make me forget that Method Man isn't on here, nor does it make the exclusion of nearly every other New York rapper from that time period (early 1990s) excusable, but at least its heart is in the right place.

Anywho.

1. REDEMPTION
A kung-fu flick-sample combined with some instrumental work. This is a promising start.

2. KILL TOO HARD (INSPECTAH DECK, U-GOD, & MASTA ACE)
The Revelations do an admirable job of aping a Wu-Tang Clan beat that didn't actually exist until now. Deck and Masta Ace sound as good as you would expect, but U-God, continuing his Dopium winning streak, strings his words together quite nicely.

3. THE ABBOT (THE RZA)
A mostly instrumental interlude, with some useless one-sided interview answers from Robert Diggs. Entirely unnecessary.

4. HARBOR MASTERS (GHOSTFACE KILLAH, AZ, & INSPECTAH DECK)
This was the only leaked song from this project that I paid any attention to, and it's fucking fire, thanks to the simple-yet-banging 1970s-style drum work that dominates the beat. The hook is weak (did you expect anything less?), but Ghost and Deck rock shit, and AZ sounds at his most Doe or Die-esque. Which is meant to be a compliment. Anthony Cruz has worked with the Wu in the past (specifically with Raekwon and The Rza), but this is officially his best collaborative work with the crew.

5. SHEEP STATE (THE RZA)
The Rza leads the march into pretentious obscurity. This would have been more interesting as a strictly instrumental affair. Sigh.

6. RADIANT JEWELS (RAEKWON, CORMEGA, & SEAN PRICE)
Raekwon sounds downright lucid on here, but the appearances of both Mega Montana and Sean Price (from Heltah Skeltah) are much more interesting. I'm glad to see that a song with this appealing a lineup actually lives up to expectations, and the beat manages to make you feel nostalgic for something that never happened. My only complaint is that the song simply ends after Sean's verse.

7. SUPREME ARCHITECTURE (THE RZA)
Wow, another interlude with The Rza? I hope these don't become a recurring theme or anything.

8. EVIL DEEDS (GHOSTFACE KILLAH, THE RZA, & HAVOC)
Hearing Ghostface threaten to leave your body looking like it was raped is actually pretty fucking frightening, right up there with being impaled by that giant golden bird he used to carry on his arm. Good thing Prince Rakeem comes in with quasi-religious psychobabble that cuts the potency down significantly, not unlike adding Coke, Pepsi, and RC Cola to a glass of Jack Daniels. Havoc (the not-imprisoned half of Mobb Deep) doesn't sound like himself at all: I had to re-read the liner notes to confirm his presence. This track should have been a lot better. Then again, I don't understand why you would include Havoc on a song and not have him work behind the boards, but maybe that's just me.

9. WISE MEN (THE RZA)
Groan...

10. I WISH YOU WERE HERE (GHOSTFACE KILLAH & TRE WILLIAMS)
So if Ghost had the time to appear on three songs on Wu-Tang Chamber Music, why was his last Def Jam debacle such utter bullshit? (The world didn't need to hear a Ghostface Killah fucking Christmas carol.) This comes off as one of the slower Pretty Toney tracks trhat I would listen to once and never again (at least, not until I had to write about it), but for what it is, it's not bad, and I liked Tre Williams (a Nasir Jones affiliate, from what I understand) and his voice, and not just because this is more his song than that of Tony Starks.

11. FATAL HESITATION
A kung-fu flick-sampled interlude. These are always welcome, but I'm sure they'll run out of movies to cull from soon, and will have to resort to Roger Corman-produced flicks. Some of which are really good: Death Race 2000 is my shit (R.I.P. David Carradine).

12. ILL FIGURES (RAEKWON, M.O.P., & KOOL G RAP)
No surprise that Fizzy Womack produces this track, and it is fucking dope. It fits Rae's sleepytime flow perfectly. The Mash Out Posse bring much more energy than the track deems necessary, and G Rap doesn't sound at all like himself (maybe he and Havoc recorded their verses after consuming nothing but helium for three days straight), but overall, this shit is fucking nice. It's waaaaaay too short, though: this begs for a remix featuring the rest of the Clan.

13. FREE LIKE ODB (THE RZA)
At least Rza is doing his part to keep the rap name of Russell Jones alive.

14. SOUND THE HORNS (INSPECTAH DECK, SADAT X, & U-GOD)
You almost hope that Inspectah Deck enlists The Revelations for at least a few tracks on is eventual next solo album, as they seem to bring out the best in him (save for what passes for the "chorus"). I don't recall anybody asking for the Wu to pair up with Brand Nubian's Sadat X, though, and this song is pretty much the reason why: Sadat sounds boring as fuck. Hell, even Baby Uey comes off better over the beat, and writing that sentence just made my eyes roll back into my head, and I'll move on now.

15. ENLIGHTENED STATUES (THE RZA)
Fuck, we get it already: The Rza likes to talk!

16. NYC CRACK (THE RZA & THEA VAN SEJEN)
This is the only track on here featuring any production work whatsoever from The Rza, so of course he's the only rapper to appear on here. (Um, what happened to the overall theme, guys? Hello? Bueller?) However, with the exception of the, well, exceptional bonus track "Don't Be Afraid", this one song is better than all of the last Bobby Digital album. No, it really and truly is.

17. ONE LAST QUESTION (THE RZA)
A useless outro.

THE LAST WORD: With only eight real songs, Wu-Tang Chamber Music plays as more of an EP than a full-on album release. The Revelations do a great job with the musical backing, and although they don't always succeed with evoking the vingate Wu sound of yesteryear (as The Rza claimed they would while doing his press for the disc), what they do create is consistently entertaining. The project veers into pretension fairly early on, thanks to the "contributions" of Prince Rakeem, but Wu-Tang Chamber Music is easier to swallow if you look at it as the soundtrack (and the score) of a nonexistent film, with Rza's spoken word interludes doubling as snippets of dialogue. Or, better yet, upload only the songs onto your iPod and leave everything else by the wayside. Either way, Wu-Tang fans (like myself) will be enamored. With the entertaining Method Man and Redman album, a surprisingly interesting U-God solo disc, and now this, a Wu-Tang revolution may very well be upon us. God, I hope Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2 doesn't fucking suck elephant testicle. The ball's in your court, Raekwon: stop having your fucking album pushed back!

-Max

13 comments:

  1. HALF SHORT TWICE STRONG
    -gsm00th

    don't know who he is but he's the mutafuckin man.

    ReplyDelete
  2. AnonymousJuly 06, 2009

    Good Review, might have to check this out now.

    Hey everybody, check out NovaBlast.Blogspot.com
    for the ultimate hiphop experiance!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Good review, the actual songs on this shit bang, hard. If only it werent for all those damn skits...

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  4. No offense, but I have NO clue how you didn't call Raekwon narcoleptic on here. I just reviewed this album, and found his verses way more boring than his more recent work.

    Actually, for that matter, I felt like the lack of energy was a problem for almost all of the Clan appearances here. If you listen to Protect Ya Neck and then a song from here there's no comparison...which is why I felt like Lil Fame's verse wasn't too much energy, everyone else just weren't energetic enough.

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  5. AnonymousJuly 07, 2009

    haha hey max, that anonymous dudes link pretty much jacks your reviews and makes them his own, check his cuban linx review. straight jacking!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. AnonymousJuly 07, 2009

    hey man, that was only one review, and plus that wasn't meant to be on there. anway max, i apologize for the confusion, and i deleted it so no harm done.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Nice review, I really gotta check this out since I'm a huge Deck fan, and it seems that he's actually GOOD here.

    This is unrelated, but I really hope you review Dah Shinin' or Below the Heavens soon, as both are very dear to me.

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  8. that refuse to come wack kid bites max all the time too

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  9. I Like this album...
    BTW Mega ripped RADIANT JEWELS...Nice promo for his upcoming album.

    Keep up the good work Max!

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  10. Oh sorry protoman...I guess noone informed me that reviewing Chamber Music 2 days before Max was biting.

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  11. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessJuly 10, 2009

    I just wanted to say that Cormega put everyone else on this album in a bodybag. Then he burned the tips and sold that shit to their momma. But that's to be expected.

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  12. You know, when I first bought this album, I thought to myself, "I should've just bought the songs from itunes and saved myself a few bucks instead of buying the whole album." Unfortuntely, I bought it the morning it was released, so I had no warning. Then again, even if I didn't buy it the day it was released, and I was warned about all the skits, I STILL would've bought the entire album. I just wouldn't feel like a Wu-Tang fan without buying the actual album.
    FANTASTIC album. This year belongs to the Wu.
    Let's just hope Rae doesn't phukk things up.

    P.S. Listening to Masta Ace on a Wu related album almost made me wet my pants.

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    Replies
    1. lol Keeshawn you're such a sucker and you sound gay also haha

      Delete