Wu-Tang Clan

Chamber Music

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Continuing to frustrate fans with packaging that must be deciphered, the Wu-Tang 2009 release Chamber Music arrived with only two months notification, that big "W" logo/endorsement on the cover, no GZA on the track list, and no sign of "Clan" on the cover. Crack it open and there are enough short interludes to suggest this is a mixtape -- which it really isn't -- plus there are three themes if you look even closer. First, the backing tracks are all created by a live band, the versatile Revelations, who provide everything from dubby funk for the great "Harbor Masters" to no wave dance beats for the creeping highlight "Ill Figures." Next, the guests are veteran rappers like AZ, Kool G Rap, Masta Ace, and Sean Price, plus production is left to the second- and third-tier of affiliates with RZA only contributing beats to "NYC Crack," a noir cut right in line with his Digi Snacks album. A line about having "more G's than Sicily" (the superb "Evil Deeds" with Ghostface and Havoc), the kung fu-talk interludes, and his conceptual vision for the set are RZA's main contributions, but on the latter he fails to follow through. Chamber Music, with all its throwback collabos, only faintly reminds the listener of yesteryear, but track by track it satisfies with the core Wu members sounding purposeful and sometimes even united. In the large hall of fringe Wu releases best left to loyal fans, this one at least places in the top third.

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