Jim Jarmusch, the brilliant American director behind trademark flicks like "Dead Man", "Coffe & Cigarrettes" and "Broken Flowers", made one of his most interesting movies in 1999 with "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai". The film is about a contract killer (excellently played by Forest Whitalker) living by the ancient Samurai code and studying Hagakure: The Book Of The Smaurai by Yamamoto Tsunetomo. At the same time he's living a very lonely life only accompanied by his pigeons and building an unusual French speaking ice cream man despite they have no clue what they are saying to eachother. There's also a little girl who he meets early in the morning that he's becoming very fond of in his own twisted way. Jarmusch, who's a huge Wu-Tang Clan fan, wrote the script quickly realizing that he needed the Wu's master producer The RZA to score the film to give it the right mood. The RZA''s music always had a cinematic quality to it and "Ghost Dog" was the perfect introduction for him as his scoring debut because of of the Samurai aspect of the script that Jarmusch had written. This lead to Jarmus presenting the idea to The Abbot in '98 or early '99 and they just clicked and RZA said yes.
Today, RZA has scored and acted as a music supervisor in plenty of movies, including "Kill Bill Vol. 1 / 2", Blade Trinity, "The Protector", "Soul Plane" and many more. But for "Ghost Dog" this was something completely new for The Abbot and once he took up the offer it would be the beginning of a totally new career that would change his career forever. The score for his first foray into the film world might just be his finest however;; an atmospheric soundtrack, often with hardhitting beats, that "underscores both the hitman's Zen-like qualities and the lurking menace of his enviroment". If I remember correctly, RZA originally brought Jarmusch a batch of music of stuff he thought would please rhe director alás more traditional film music. The director told him something a long the lines of: "I wanted you to score this flick because you are The RZA of The Wu-Tang Clan; I want you to create atmospheric but Wu sounding beats for the score and it'll be perfect". Said and done; the final movie bears plenty of music that has all the trademarks of classic Wu-Tang beats and perfectly embodies the actions, thoughts and overall character of Whitaker's different but outstanding portrayal of the engima that is Ghost Dog.
One of the most intersting thing about the soundtrack was that it was released in two completely different, but both superb, versions fully produced by The RZA. In late 1999, the original score featuring all the instrumental passages created for the actual film (fleshed out with a couple of bonus tracks) released as a Japan exclusive only on both CD and LP. Clocking in at forty monutes, this edition of "Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai" is a great listen front-to-back and will be even iller if you have seen the actual movie. In the USA and Europe, a completely different soundtrack was released in the early 2000 under the same name but with the added extra title "...The Album". This bore very little resemblance to the Japanese LP. Instead it featured twelve RZA produced vocal tracks, rounded out by clips from the movie set over the "Ghost Dog Theme". Very few of the songs were featured in any way in either the film or the released score. Instead it played more like a fully RZA produced The Swarm" / "The Sting" album(s) with a host of guest apperances from Wu-Tang Clan, Wu members, Wu affilliates like 12 O'Clock, Sunz Of Man, Blue Raspberry and Black Knights Of Teh Noth Star. One very interesting track rhere is "East New York Stomp" which features the reunion of Jeru the Damaja and Afu-Ra oover a gritty reversed version of "Shadowboxin'". Overall this was a great album but it had very little to do with the actual movie, despite some references to the storyline..
But this post is of course about the Japanese import, if you haven't heard this before and you're a fan of instrumental hip-hop and RZA this is a must hear to say the least. Most downloads you'll find of this album has the fourteen first songs but in fact the album actually had sixteen songs, featuring an additional instrumental called "Free Jazz" as well as the classic "Wu World Order"with RZA and LA The Darkman dropping a couple of hot sixteens. The Lost Tapes of course don't do anything half assed so of course I'm bringing you the full 16 tracks version and as if that wasn't enough, I'm adding a rare instrumental that appeared on the vinyl version at the end of US version - "Ninjastep". Enjoy this shit and TURN IT UP!!
01. "Ghost Dog Theme (w/ Dogs & FX)"
02. "Opening Theme (Raise Your Swords)"
03. "Flying Birds"
04. "Samurai Theme"
05. "Gangster's Theme"
06. "Dead Birds"
07. "Fast Shadow #1" (w. Wu-Tang Clan)
08. "RZA #7"
09. "Funky Theme"
10. "RZA's Theme"
11. "Samurai Showdown (Raise Your Sword)
12. "Ghost Dog Theme #2"
13. "Fast Shadow #2" (w. Wu-Tang Clan)
14. "Untitled #8"
15. "Free Jazz (Untitled #12)"
16. "Wu-World Order" (w. Wu-Tang Clan)
c7 bonus track:
17. "Ninjastep" [*]
RZA - "GHOST DOG: WAY OF THE SAMURAI"