Monday, 24 March 2003

Album Review: Wu Chronicles Volume 1

Essentially Chronicles is a collection of sixteen tracks that feature Wu members but that were originally released on other artists albums. Some of the tracks were originally featured on Wu-Tang solo albums, but others come from releases by artists such as Notorious BIG, Tha Alkaholiks and Mobb Deep.

The collection begins with4th Chamber', which is lifted from Gza's peerless Liquid Swords LP. It remains a superb track. The fuzzy guitar meshes uncomfortably with the razor-sharp beat making the track one of the Wu Tang's crowning moments. Cold World is also lifted from Liquid Swords and its Rza remix is included here. In truth it isn't too far removed from the original, the production is slightly sharper and there are now added gunshot samples as well as an added verse from soul crooner D'Angelo. The ensemble track, Wu Gambinos, lifted from Raekwon's seminal Only Built 4 Cuban Linx album also finds its way onto this collection. It is another timeless piece of Rza production and it sounds just as fresh today as it did in 1995.

The What was previously found on Notorious BIG's debut, Ready To Die. The track features BIG back when he was actually a decent rapper, not the wheezing asthmatic he would later become, along with an on-form Method Man. It's hard to believe that the track is nearly a decade old. The combination of Biggie delivering his best ever line, ("Biggie Smalls is the illest / your style is played out like Arnold when I'm what you talking bout Willis") over an atmospheric beat joined by some vinyl crackling serve to make The What an all-time classic hip hop track. Other highlights include, The End which was released on Ras Kass' slept on debut album Rasassination and features the Rza and Ras Kass delivering some decent black political rhetoric. Elsewhere, The The Alkaholiks and ODB carve up a typically raucous slice of hip hop on Hip Hop Drunkies over a funky piano sample and some decent scratching and the previously unavailable 96 Recreation has Cappadonna, Rza and ODB drop weighty verses over a typically minimal beat. The track is only a demo and the accompanying tape hiss only adds to the track's austere feel.

Unfortunately, it's not all of such a high standard. The Cocoa Brovaz are unusually ordinary on Black Trump and the accompanying sample is highly annoying, making it the worst track on the album. Killarmy continue their track record of creating only mediocrity on Wake Up and Young Godz by Shyheim is incredibly bland. Overall though, the quality of the tracks is above average.

It's a hard collection to give a grade to. The music is generally good, but most hip hop fans will own most of the tracks already. Certainly there is a degree of convenience to be had in having these tracks on one CD and the artwork is amazing, but it is a fairly redundant purchase for all but the most hardcore Wu Tang enthusiasts.

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