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Ghostface Killah is one of many, many members of NYC Hip Hop Collective, The Wu Tang Clan and is in my opinion, one of the groups strongest members, both vocally and lyrically. His real name is Dennis Coles and he takes his stage name from a character in a kung-fu movie, 'The Mystery Of Chessboxing.' This film is also the name of a track by the Wu Tang Clan although I must admit to never having seen it.
Ghostface released this album in 1996, three years after Wu Tang's first album and Ironman was very well recieved, with two fairly successful singles, reaching number 1 in the US Hip Hop Charts and number 2 in the overall billboard charts. The album is primarily a Hip Hop album, so inevitably, there's lots of rapping. Although it is heavily influenced by Soul and Funk and is also heavily influenced by film and media references. Ghostface has a very lively and confident presence as a vocalist and feeds off the energy from his fellow Wu Tang members when they join him. He takes the album's title from the comic book character of the same name and frequently references the character in the album and in his other, subsequent solo releases. he actually made a cameo in the movie version of Iron Man in 2008 starring Robert Downey Jr. Ghostface played a Dubaiian Sheik but his scene was cut from the film but appears in the DVD extras.
=== The Album ==
[Track 1 - Iron Maiden]
The song title is nothing to do with the heavy metal band or the medieval torture device. It begins with a long sample from a 70s movie called 'The Education Of Sonny Carson' which explores a young boy's involvement in criminality and the sample is of a young boy arguing with a group of hoodlums as he delivers them a message. When the beat does finally kick in after about 60 seconds it is a decent opening. It serves as a very good instrumental. Not for the only time, the sample on the track is lifted from an Al Green track. The vocals feature Cappadonna and Raekwon of Wu Tang Clan.
[Track 2 - Wildflower]
Another movie excerpt opens this track, this time taken from a 1970s blaxploitation horror called 'J.D.s revenge.' the beat is a little slower with a simple but resonating twang and kickdrum backbeat with quite a skillful flow from Ghostface but quite an inflammatory style of delivery. A decent track but not as good as the first.
[Track 3 - The Faster Blade]
No samples this time, no movie lines, just a beat from the start and Ghost and Raekwon on the mic. Quite a bare beat, with mainly drums as its structure. Typical Wu raps, plenty of rhymes, a few cult references and a pinch of aggro. Unfortunately this track is a bit uninspiring and doesn't really have too much to offer if you aren't going to appreciate the lyrics. Even though i can appreciate them I tend to skip this track.
[Track 4 - 260]
Pronounced 'Two-Sixty' this track opens with another quote from 'The Education Of Sonny Carson' and its sample is another Al Green soul beat. It translates into hip hop unbelievably well and its obvious from the outset taht this is one of the album's strongest tracks. A dramatic and drawn out bass sample with tempered drums and a pacey flow to the lyrics. The song tells a story of a drug dealer being robbed, presumably by Ghostface and Raekwon. Untrue of course but no harm in a bit of imagination and fantasy is there.
Link to the song - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SO35_WbNAeM
Best Lyrics: Raekwon
We Walked in, both of us looked like terrorists
Masks on, second floor done, yo! I'll handle this,
Kick in the crib the whole s**t looked graphical,
Natural, he was f***in' a white b**ch, actual,
Fiends chantin', 'Do you're thing Chef, handle him!'
I shot him in the neck it ricocheted and hit Carolyn...
[Track 5 - Assasination Day]
Ghostface is obviously a movie fan, this time the track opens with lines from 'The Usual Suspects' and the beat starts quite tamely until the very sinister, chilly bassline starts. The lyrics are decent, delivered quite slowly but fit the beat very well. The track follows on quite well from the previous one but is quite different really. The vocals come from Inspectak Deck, The RZA, Raekwon & Masta Killa, in that order. Ghostface doesn't actually feature.
[Track 6 - Poisonous Darts]
'The Mystery Of Chessboxing' provides the quote again as a pumping beat rages in the background and the track opens with a vibrant but powerful feeling to it. Just Ghostface and Raekwon which seems to be the most successful formula on the Microphone. Ghostface flows well throughout the track and makes this another noteable reason to listen to this album.
Link to the song - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdBKCKdwpE8
Best Lyrics - Ghostface
The segment, rare fragment comes together...
like magnets, attract heads, capture like Dragnet,
Goin through mad phases, of all ages
Killa beez locked the f**k up behind cages
The Genovese swallowed this line and caught a freeze
Press call ID for me to quote more degrees
The fortune teller Tucker sleepin gas umbrella
A war where they're gunnin' in the back of Armanbella
[Track 7 - Winter Warz]
This song is a big crew tune, with five different MCs from Wu Tang present. The song is minus the film samples but it is more than strong enough to stick by its musical credentials. The beat is reminiscent of an alarm, albeit a pleasant one and the lyrics and hype are pulled of brilliantly. This is possibly the strongest track in rap terms with quick delivery and intelligent vocal styles.
Link to song - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUAwdXRbyWM
Best lyrics - Ghostface
more than a thousand times, one, snatch up my styles get done
I hold the title and here's how my belt was won, Check It!
Slick majestic, broke mics are left infected
Germs start to spread through your crew, drew like an epic
You asked for it, shot up the jams like syringes
My technique alone blows doors straight off their hinges
Masked avenger, i appear to blow your ear like wind,
With a freestyle sharper than an Indian spear..
[Track 8 - Box in Hand]
A very soulful vocal, reminiscent of sublime opens the track before atepid yet dramatic hip hop beat slips and leads the way to what is a mediocre track in comparison to much of what can be found on this CD. the track is still decent but it just feels a bit bland considering what is has followed.
[Track 9 - Fish]
The only beat not produced by the RZA, and quite a simple but reasonable beat by 'True Master' an affiliated producer of the Wu. The vocals are from Ghost, raekwon and Cappadonna. The track is pretty good and the instrumental blends well with the previous track as well as the vocals being fairly strong.
[Track 10 - Camay]
A very strange and somewhat eerie bassline with a sharp sample give the track bad vibrations. A different approach to the vocals in terms of structure but the same line-up on the mic as in the last track. A bit better than the last, the quality is improving again since the drop after Winter Warz. This track is quite chilled for the album and is probably the most withdrawn so far but overall there are still less aggravated tracks yet to come.
[Track 11 - Daytona 500]
This track is the first single from the album and features a long list of samples from other tracks in the structre of the beat. the vocals come from Ghost, rae and cappadonna once again, plus 'The Force MDs' join them on this one. The track opens with an innocuous acapella and suddenly breaks out into a furious beat with a heavy twanging bassline and bumping drums with plenty of cymbals. The rapping is practically at double time and sounds great. The lyrics and rhymes link up thick and fast and the vocals are very enjoyable. A great track.
Link to song - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPKJZJITZHw
Best Lyrics - Raekwon
Say peace to cats who rock mack knowledge
Knowledgists, street astrologists
Light up the mic God, knowledge this
Fly joints that carried your points
Corolla Motorola holder
Play it God, he pack over the shoulder
Chrome tanks, player like Yanks, check the franchise
Front on my guys, my enterprise splash many lives...
[Track 12 - Motherless Child]
The song is full of samples from two songs by cult soul icon 'O.V. Wright' including one song of the same name as this track. The beat is made of a prominent but simple drumbeat with a lone sample for variety. the lyrics are fairly good but the track fails to maintain the energy and intensity of the previous track.
[Track 13 - Black Jesus]
There is a strange conversation fills the first sixty seconds until a vocal chorus harmonises over a heavy drumbeat. The sample is fair and is taken from a song called 'Riot' by soul group 'The Blackbyrds.' the vocals are delivered well and the harmonies in the background give the track an interesting atmosphere. A good track.
[Track 14 - After The Smoke Is Clear]
The bass drum is easily the most prominent part of the beat in this track which actually features studio vocals from another soul group, this time 'The Delfonics.' there is also a resonating bassline which backs up the drum, this track isnt fantastic but would make good use of your bass boost.
[Track 15 - All That I Got Is You]
Another single here, quite a typical song. Whilst this track is quite an open and personal story of Ghostface's childhood, it is a bit of a laboured angle of poverty and simplicity. A nice track with a much more human aspect to it. This about as soft as rap gets. Violins in the background, pianos and emotional lyrics. A reasonable tracks but may not appeal to more dedicated hip hop heads. The vocal on the chorus is sung by Mary J Blige.
[Track 16 - Soul Controller]
A very bizarre beat with strange percussion and an aged vibe to the back beat. the beat and chorus comes from a track by 'Sam Cooke' which is titled the same as this one. It feels like this could have been left off the album, it would not have been missed. It is also very long at nearly seven minutes.
[Track 17 - Marvel]
I've hardly heard this song as I usually stop at Track 16. the lyrics are good and well written and delivered with skill. this track is the only one that features the RZA as a vocalist which I suppose is its strongest point.
=== Overall ===
Altogether, this album is a very solid offering. It has some very strong tracks, the best being '260,' 'Poisonous Darts,' 'Daytona 500' and 'Winter Warz.' These stand out tracks are not all the album has to offer and most of the tracks are individually strong. The soul influences are evident in almost all of the tracks and give the album a cultured flavour. RZA uses his samples and keyboard to maximum productivity and creates some really enjoyable and funky beats and the Wu Tang Clan and their affiliates bring another dimension to the vocals. Only two tracks feature Ghostface as a solo vocalist.The lyrics are revealing and delivered impressively and the beats range from haunting to thumping.
This is clearly one of the best solo Wu Tang albums and is possibly Ghostface's best, or at least one of them. It serves to mark him out as one of the more talented and dominant memebers of the group. The album runs long at over an hour, 67 minutes I think and has 17 tracks so is very good value for money. It can be bought from the likes of Amazon and Ebay for under £5 and in some cases i have seen it for £1.99 on the trade features of these sites.
I recommend this to any fan of Wu Tang, anybody who fancies themselves as a Hip Hop connoisseur, anybody who is is to soul or funk or just people with a diverse music taste. Ironman is a very strong album and its strong points greatly outweigh its flaws.
also posted on www.ciao.co.uk
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Iron Maiden - Cappadonna, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon
2 Wildflower - Ghostface Killah
3 Faster Blade - Ghostface Killah
4 260 - Ghostface Killah, Raekwon
5 Assassination Day - Ghostface Killah, , RZA, Raekwon
6 Poisonous Darts - Ghostface Killah
7 Winter Warz - Cappadonna, Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa, U-God
8 Box in Hand - Ghostface Killah, Method Man, Street
9 Fish - Cappadonna, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon
10 Camay - Cappadonna, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon
11 Daytona 500 - Cappadonna, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon
12 Motherless Child - Ghostface Killah, Raekwon
13 Black Jesus - Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, U-God
14 After the Smoke Is Clear - Ghostface Killah
15 All That I Got Is You - Mary J. Blige, Ghostface Killah
16 Marvel - Ghostface Killah
17 Soul Controller - Force M.D.'s, Ghostface Killah