CD reviews we couldn’t fit into Saturday’s paper — ‘The Man With the Iron Fists’ soundtrack, Shiny Toy Guns, Ryan Leslie
“The Man With the Iron Fists” soundtrack (Soul Temple Records/STAX/RED Distribution)
One can’t blame RZA for assembling an A-list roster for the soundtrack of his directorial debut, “The Man With the Iron Fists.” Kanye West, The Black Keys, Pusha T, Corinne Bailey Rae and his Wu-Tang Clan bandmates Ghostface Killah and Method Man guest star on this 15-track gem, with some of the songs re-orchestrated picks from Wu-Tang’s back catalog. With more than a decade of producing soundtracks under his (black) belt, RZA uses a deft hand to create a homogenous yet distinctive sound for a cross-cultural martial arts period film that sees him acting opposite Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu.There’s tension within the songs, there is emotion and nuance in sound, a bit like a full-scale assault on one’s imagination. Call it a friendly takeover. Songs like “Rivers of Blood,” “Built for This” and “Tick, Tock” walk a fine line between atmospheric Western tunes and steam punk hip-hop. RZA and Flatbush Zombies’ “Just Blowin’ in the Wind” is disturbing in the way its deconstructed sound hisses threateningly, but the eerie-sound song is still a winner. “White Dress” finds West rapping with auto-tune about a damsel closely resembling his own girlfriend, and it’s the album’s only misstep.
RZA’s works have always had a distinctive cinematic quality, but this record digs for iron and comes up with gold. It’s kinetic, mesmeric and chimeric.
— Cristina Jaleru, Associated Press
SHINY TOY GUNS
“III” (Five Seven Music)
From its opening track, the runaway love jam “Somewhere to Hide,” to its closing number, the piano tune “Take Me Back to Where I Was,” Shiny Toy Guns delivers a flawless collection of tunes on its third album, “III.”
The beats throughout are flavored with dance, rock and synth-pop sounds enhanced by vocals from Chad Petree and Carah Faye, who has rejoined the Los Angeles quartet after leaving the band and missing out on 2008 album “Season of Poison.”
Her voice — light and satisfying — blends magically with Petree’s on songs like “Waiting Alone” and the outstanding “Carrie.” Faye also brings on the swag on the rock-charged “Speaking Japanese” and “Fading Listening,” with its summertime hip-hop beat. Her return is much appreciated — and much needed, helping make “III” one of 2012’s best.
— Mesfin Fekadu, AP Music Writer
“Les Is More” (NextSelection Lifestyle Group/BDG/RED Distribution)
Ryan Leslie, whose production credits include Cassie’s “Me & U” and Fabolous’ “You Be Killin Em,” proves he’s a modern-day maestro with his third album, “Les Is More.”
It’s the follow-up to his Grammy-nominated R&B album, 2009’s “Transition,” and it’s a fine demonstration of the singer’s skills — his rap skills.
Kicking off with some rock star momentum, Leslie gives us “Glory,” a humble, but epic track speaking directly to those who underestimate his musical ability. Frankly, he doesn’t care, and it sounds good.
Leslie wrote and produced the entire rap album, which includes high-profile guests like Kanye West and Fabolous, who appears on the remix of the first single, “Beautiful Lie.” The piano intro is one you could listen to over and over.
As the Harvard graduate gets deeper into his new sound, he doesn’t hold back on his modesty. On “5 Minute Freshen Up,” he spits: “And it feels good, that’s how I know I made it, overpaid at the same time as I’m underrated.”
Another highlight comes from “Dress You to Undress You,” which samples Sharon “Terea” Robinson’s “Pretty Bird.” Leslie’s sensuous voice accompanied with guitar riffs make a seductive match.
— Bianca Roach, Associated Press