Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Adrian Younge presents Twelve Reasons to Die starring Ghostface Killah album review

Twelve Reasons to Die is the tenth studio album from founding Wu Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah. It is a concept album based on a comic book of the same name, it is based around Ghostface Killah's alter ego, Tony Starks as he reads the comic and writes songs to it.  The story is set in 1960s Italy, in which Starks fights against a crime organization, falls in love with the kingpin’s daughter, and seeks revenge when he is murdered. The album is entirely produced and composed by Adrian Younge, and executive produced by the RZA. The album was released on April 16, 2013 by the RZA's Soul Temple record label. It is a relatively short album made up of 12 tracks and coming in at just under forty minutes. Ghostface has been my favourite Wu member since he dropped his first solo album prior to that he was really just another background voice on the multitude of Wu albums. With Ironman I really started to take notice of Ghost but Supreme Clientelle I became a major Ghostface fan and this has continued ever since even including the off beat soul poetry album Ghostdini: Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City. Therefore I not only get excited for a new Ghostface album but there is also an expectation from me (and many other Wu fans too I expect) that this is going to be another strong album. Some members of the Wu have failed to produce strong albums without the Rza's direction and production however Ghost is not one of these and he has shown he can produce a strong track despite who produces it. Adrian Younge, the producer behind this project has in the past produced film scores with a distinct hip-hop influence on his music. He has produced scores for a number of projects, most notably his soundtrack for the recent film Black Dynamite.

The album has a distinct sound that harks back to the soundtracks of late 60's Hammer horror films and weird 70's Kung Fu flicks.  This is a good thing.  The album begins with the "Beware the Stare".  This song starts off with a somewhat haunting yet somewhat soulful intro before jumping into a mid tempo track with a heavy bass-line, crisps snares and dusty piano chords.  However this is not a regular track and after the first verse we return to the soulful singing from the intro before stepping into another beat and melody for the next verse; a similar beat but this time with a more ominous piano loop accompanied by a double bass sample hanging around in the background.  The singing returns again after the second verse but the beat has picked up a harpsichord sample this time that works really well especially when the singing comes in again for the ending of the track.  Ghost sounds relaxed and confident like only he can and although he may not be a story teller of Gza's calibre his rhymes are on point on this joint.  "Rise of the Black Suits" is the second track off the album and it is a slower track than the first but again features nice drums and this time a simple but effective organ loop.  When Ghost comes in with his lyrics he is joined by a nice simple piano sample but his lyrical skills are more evident on this track although the subject matter falls into the Ghetto Kingpin category than Ghost does so well including his trademarked slang.
The third track of the album is " I declare war" and features Masat Killa.  The beat is of a marching tempo and features a nice orchestral sample that would not seem out of place on a spaghetti western soundtrack conjuring up images of a Sergio Leone epic.  Its nice to hear Mastat Killa again and the beat changes for his verse using something that sounds like a pipe organ sample.  As the song comes to an end The Rza adds a short vocal epilogue. The next track up is "Blood on the Cobblestones" and features U-God and Inspectah Deck.  Its a fast beat with snappy drums and and some nice horns alongside some subtle strings.  All three emcees represent superbly dropping exciting fast veres that remind us that few can match the chemistry of the Wu when they come hard.  Cappadonna joins Ghost for the fifth track of the album, "Center of Attention" which starts off with rain falling and a vocal sample before dropping into a mellow ode to a lost lady.  This track reminds me of the Ghost classic "Camay" from his first solo album, Ironman.  This track however has the lyrics played out between Ghost and Cappadonna as a conversation between friends ; one trying to convince the other of the value of their lady whilst the other tries to tell him she is no good.    It works well, the beat is pleasant enough and the interplay between Ghost and Cappadonna has always worked well.

Half way through the album and Ghost gives us another ghetto talke over a more mellow beat with someone called William Hart providing a nice vocal sample for the chorus on "Enemies All Around Me".  The beat, like some of the others on this album changes throughout the song, introducing new samples as it moves along.  A nice joint which fits in well on this album.  The seventh track on here is "An Unexpected Call [The Set Up]"  and features Inspectah Deck.  Its a good track with a nice harp sample over a upbeat drum track with Ghost and Deck each dropping a verse.  The track is good and would make a nice album track however its too short, coming in at only two and a half minutes.  The subject matter is again Ghetto warfare  ut they do it so well that its not boring but interesting.  The eigth track of the album is "The Rise of the Ghostface Killah" which was also the first promotional single released to the radio from this album.  Its a Ghost solo joint and he is on point evening taking the opportunity to pay tribute to ODB utilising the "Ghostface Killlahhhh" chant from "Da Mystery of the Da Chessboxin".  The beat is faster than the majority of the album up to this point and features a nice bass guitar sample and crisp snare drums.
"Revenge is Sweet" if the ninth track of the album and features Masta Killa & Killa Sin (of Killarmy of course).  The song starts off with some off key singing which I am not particularly fond of but it is somewhat short lived in comparison to the rest of the track although it does return fo the chorus.  Ghost represents first with a nice verse and MAsta Killa and Killa sin drop the second and third verses respectively.  the beat varies from verse to verse never changing too much but enough to differentiate the verses.  "Murder Spree" featuring U-God, Masta Killa, Inspectah Deck & Killa Sinis the album's tenth track.  Although this track has more emcees on it than any other on the album it only comes in at two minutes fifty one seconds.  This means of course that each emcee drops a very short verse over a fast paced beat.  A shame really as all of the emcees on here have enough skills to represent nicely but in the limited bars they have it is difficult to really get a feel for their lyrical depth before the next emcee comes along.
The albums penultimate track is "The Sure Shot, Pt. One & Two" which is another track featuring an evolving beat which starts off as a sparse fast paced beat for Ghost's first rapid fire verse.  Then for the second part of the track te beat slows down somewhat with some really nice drums and an electric guitar riff.  Ghost also slows down his rhymes to match the beat.  A strong track, which as the title suggest is really two songs both pretty strong in their own right.  the album's last track is an instrumenatl joint showing off Adrian's production skills.   It starts off with another monologue from The Rza and then a nice piano loop comes in.  Flutes and electric guitars join the piano in this cinematic ending to the album.  It builds to a crescendo of horns and strange noises although never really taking off into a full Hip-Hop instrumental but more of a piece of atmospheric music from a strange 70s film.
This is a very strong but short album.  All emcees represent nicely giving their fans exactly what they would expect; hard rhymes and stark Ghetto stales.  Adrian Younge's production is enjoyable and unique although he clearly has been influenced by The Rza, Havoc,  Ennio Moricone and probably the men behind some 70's horro films and Cop shows.  The tracks are often too short leaving you wanting another verse at least.  The project as a whole could be beefed up to make it longer however there is a deluxe version of the album but that only includes instrumental versions of the whole album.  I would like to give this album a higher rating that the four out of five i have given it but its length is simply too short.  It only leaves me wanting for "Supreme Clientele Presents... Blue & Cream: The Wally Era" the next project from Ghostface.  However this album is enjoyable and original in its concept and should fit nicely into any Wu Tang fan's collection.  Ghostface does not disspoint and Adrian Younge has sparked my interest in his production style which means I will check out anything else he drops.

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