The soundtrack for 2012's kung-fu epic The Man with the Iron Fists starts and ends with two of its strongest tracks. Produced by RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan – who also wrote, starred, and directed the film – it sounds unsurprisingly amazing. Given the fact that the rapper had produced nearly every Wu-Tang release, as well as the various related side projects, anyone picking up this up would know the man's name.
Movie fans will recognize the producer's film score work beginning with Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai in 1999, continuing through both of Quentin Taratino's Kill Bill films, and the animated series Afro Samurai. Suffice it to say, RZA knows beats and RZA knows kung fu. The movie is entertaining enough, with some strong performances from Russel Crowe as well as an early role from Dave Bautista, but it's the soundtrack which stands up six years later.
The Music On Vinyl / At the Movies repress features the same artwork and layout as their original release, but is now on a much more appropriate silver vinyl. The first pressing from the label was either on black or limited pink, for some reason, and the silver really plays up the artwork and, obviously, the metal of the film's title.
As stated though, the opening and closing tracks are what really knock this soundtrack out of the park. The first track, a collaboration between blues rockers the Black Keys and RZA, takes the band's always-present bounce and thump and makes it go through the floor. It's dark and moody, and immediately sets the tone for the score.
Surprisingly, however, the cuts which fare the best aren't straight hip-hop, but the ones which take a little more from jazz and soul. The two cuts produced by the hip-hop influenced jazz act BadBadNotGood – Idle Warship's “Get Your Way (Sex Is a Weapon)” and “Rivers of Blood” by Kool G Rap and Wu-Tang Clan – have a late-hour nightclub feel, which is what Kanye West's ultimately disposable “White Dress” is aiming for, but fails to achieve.
Mable John's classic soul cut, “Your Good Thing Is About to End” shows up Corinne Bailey Rae's “Chains,” but honestly, how could it not? The same goes for RZA's pairing with Flatbush Zombies, “Just Blowin' in the Wind,” which contains a harshness and element of menace lacking from the Wu-Tang Clan's “Six Directions of Boxing.”
The final cut, “I Got Hard,” by Wiz Khalifa, Ghostface Killah, and Boy Jones, manages to finally walk the line between more recent hip-hop and the sparse production and delivery of the Wu-Tang's '90s heyday, and it does so with some aplomb. Given that every cut on these two LPs feels like it's hitting hard enough to potentially knock the needle loose of the groove, ending on a track which soars along soulfully, while still hitting hard lyrically is a great decision.
The only downside to this compilation soundtrack is that it leaves no room whatsoever for RZA's score he did with Howard Drossin. If nothing else, The Man with the Iron Fists' opening titles would've fit in snugly with this collection of soul and hip-hop, replete as that track is with Wu-Tang samples and big brass. It's a small issue, though, and one can possibly hope for that to make its way to vinyl sometime in the future.
THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS / ARTIST: VARIOUS / LABEL: MUSIC ON VINYL / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW