Wu-Tang Clan – Wu-Tang Chamber Music
By Mike Callahan Friday, 31 Jul 2009

Take a look at the artist and album of this release. Rather peculiar…! This is a “compliation endorsed by “Wu-Tang Clan” but not actually by the “Wu-Tang Clan;” It is actually by Wu-Tang. What the hell does this all mean? This isn’t the Wu-Tang Clan core group we all know and love – Method Man, GZA and Masta Killa are all missing from this album. Who’s left on this album embodies who survived the fallout of the 8 Diagrams album and the criticism RZA (as producer and architect of the album) received about it – overly ambitious, weak rhyming and lyricism, over-produced in the hopes of hipster snap, all of which fell flat. Not a solid base for a new album, nor one to carry on the tradition of the Clan – yet, RZA’s aimed for a new goal here – the raw samples of 36 Chambers and even those of Wu-Tang Forever – the essence of the gritty funk and soul bands of the 70s that have been Wu-Tang Clan production stalwarts, but an excellent backing to the streets rapping of the mostly urban NYC Wu-Tang Clan members. As the group has progressed through their album releases, their albums have gotten more and more slick, more and more as well-produced, artificial renderings of the magic they captured on their first two albums and their many “album featured special” guest spots produced and mastered by RZA. Obviously, Chamber Music harkens back to the seminal, group defnining first Wu-Tang Clan release – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) with its name alone – RZA himself notes that with Chamber Music, “The goal of this album is definitely paying homage to our early sound.” RZA has recruited the wonderful, seminal band The Revelations to do chain gang duty of recreating the classic soul samples that he’s noted for, and to try and bring the Wu-Tang members back to those early 90s days of classic, piano, guitar, bass and drum-kit based samples of old, instead of the 2000+ era of RZA going overboard with orchestrated samples and a more cinematic based backing. In that respect, The Revelations do a wonderful job. Check out the vibratoed organ on I Wish You Were Here, the excellently mastered descending grand piano scales on Evil Deeds, the brass hits on Sound The Horn – these were all recorded live by The Revelations and do they ever show it.The drums don’t ever do anything experimental, usually keeping a steady 4/4 to the rhymes, and despite the fact that sampling has grown leaps and bounds since the early days of Wu-Tang, just knowing a live band is behind the vibratoed organ, the steady, snappy drums, the reliable bass and keyboard based strings and synths is an aspect of comfort rarely available on 21st century hip-hop record. Exhausted by sampling the classics, RZA made a magical choice in bringing an excellently talented multi-instrumental band to record his ideas of legendary samples “live,” as

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it were – and it shows. A Wu-Tang Clan hallmark has been the snappy, catchy, expertly produced hooks – there are few of the well-trod vocal variety here, but listening to the superbly placed live bass line on Sound The Horns will make you a believer of the live band on a hip-hop album, which is as it should be. The flow and lyricism of the rapping is fine. There’s nothing really outstanding here, but whoever’s left of the Clan does exactly what they’re expected to on Chamber Music. U-God delivers his oft imitated bass thump and smooth flow on Kill Too Hard and Sound The Horns. Those of your familiar with Jurassic 5’s Charlie Tuna, check out these tracks – this is

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the man who popularized the deep bass, butter smooth basics of the bass rapper. Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon all feature on two tracks a-piece and all still have what they’ve shown on both Wu-Tang Clan and their various solo albums. Raekwon raps, “Drug shop, I’m sorry, Atari in the Ferrari / Next see the Lex A Shallah, La Tam’pa / Eating yo, all of us, scamma gangstas / You know we honor, tip the Kangol, cooling in the brown Vengos.” It isn’t anything like that of Triumph, despite the nod to golden arms the line before, but you’ve got the trademark merchandise shoutout covering old and new – Ferraris, Ataris, diamonds, caps and shoes. You’ve mostly got to hear it, because Raekwon has the same flow he had in ’93-’97. Covering for the missing Clan members are possibly-reknown rappers Cormega, Kool G Rap and Masta Ace. On one track Cormega spits, “The witness savages, snitching was hazardous, now it isn’t / Shit is embarrassing, fuck a flow, this is a lyrical aqueduct” and does it with the beat matching, percussive flow that is expected from the regular members (and especially guest stars) to land on a typical Wu-Tang Clan album. However, this album does suffer from setbacks. Literally, half the album is composed of instrumentals and spoken word/meditating skits. Instrumentals are fine, especially from RZA, but not something I want to hear on a Wu-Tang Clan, nor a “Wu-Tang” album. To boot, most of the actually rapped songs clock in at around three minutes (barely), a far cry from the mid 90s when the Clan would regularly top five minutes with their songs, and sometimes even seven or eight minutes when fitting everyone with a verse, who each absolutely blew the track away. These days it seems hard for the Clan to get three to four people on a track, plus an intro, plus intro samples and hooks and even make it to four minutes, which is a shame. All in all, the album is very, very short and seems to suffer from the rush-to-shelves factor. Obviously RZA caught some backlash from 8 Diagrams and recoiled a little, but this album isn’t exactly the answer fans have been hoping for. No doubt the Clan is getting old, but that’s no excuse for a bare average of three minutes a track, “old-school” production and well over half an album composed of recycled vintage Japanese martial arts vocal samples, sampled kits and weak voice overs. Rappers like U-God, Masta Ace, Sean Price and Sadat-X should have petitioned for more and/or longer verses and made themselves heard – long known NYC rappers or not, a Wu-Tang

(or Wu-Tang Clan, however you want to think of it) album is a time to shine and make a mark. There’s no Protect Ya Neck, C.R.E.A.M., Can It Be All So Simple or Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’ on this album, but RZA’s production and The Revelations’ live “sample” playing is quite close to those mixed days of yore. Despite the excellent live band backing, and the guest stars, as good as they are, there is a relative flatness on the album that even the stalwart Clan members succumb to. If you’re a longtime Wu-Tang Clan fan you’ll see this as an improvement from 8 Diagrams, but nothing that touches the older stuff – despite RZA absolutely solidifying his production, sampling and recording skills to the Nth level of the hip-hop music business. Nevertheless, only a small margin of these tracks would be considered for a Wu-Tang Clan greatest hits – let alone actually put on one. If you’re a new fan of the Clan or looking to break into both old school and modern hip-hop, check out this album – it is a decent, if depressing starting point to the 90s heydays of rap. If you do hear it , certainly check out all the classics from the early 90s; just let this album be your echoes of greatness, a brief decade old primer to what was. Skip all the tracks without the word “featuring” in them and you’ll have, all in all, a short, yet sexy and pounding hip-hop album, a rarity for this first decade of the 21st century.

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