Neil Conti's Funky Drums From Hell
That Neil Conti knows funk there can be no doubt; demand for him as a session player who can get behind a groove is high and getting higher. Bowie, Prefab Sprout, Mick Jagger, Annie Lennox, Primal Scream, Tom Dolby - the list is long.
But does the funk stand up stripped of its accompanying parts - the bass lines, the guitar, the attitude? Is hell its source or is it just the whimsy of the marketing boys at AMG? Select Reveal...
The 95 tracks on this collection are each devoted to a single idea developed according to whether they are listed as 'grooves' or 'loops'. In Conti's words, the grooves are "little musical snacks with a few fills that might be useful". Loops, on the other hand, comprise "a few choice bars selected and edited together".
Further subdivisions split the collection into 'Hard Funk', 'Mellow Antique', 'Natural Room' and 'Dry Studio' according to the overall drum sound, and two additional sections provide some rather more off-the-wall percussion excursions - 'The Basement Tapes' - and a varied selection of hi-hat patterns - 'Funky Hi-Hats'. Rounding things off there's a piece of - gasp - music taken from an album entitled Backstage and copyrighted to Backstage Records. Are we to assume this too may be used as a sample source? No matter; the samples which are intended for public consumption provide us with very palatable fare indeed. In fact, this compilation represents the coming together of everything that has been learnt about drumming in the last thirty years - taut performances, impeccable recordings, skilful tuning and above all, the value of the groove.
Notwithstanding the categories into which the kits are divided, the overall sound of the drums on this collection is heavy and uncompromising. Really, we're well into John Bonham territory here - undamped and very ambient. Stylistically, the collection sticks to dance, but reflecting the funk emphasis, the tempos hover around the 85-105 bpm mark. The repetition of the rhythms over a number of bars makes it possible to get a real feel for them before sampling, and assigning each to a separate track is also of great help when cueing up (though it does place a ceiling on the number of tracks included). I certainly approve of the variations on each rhythm; no longer is it necessary to base an entire rhythm track on a two-bar loop. If you have the memory you can string a number of samples together (intros, fills, etc.) to produce a more varied and - dare I say it - human effect.
Unlike other sample CDs (particularly those using existing tracks as their source) there are no quick fixes here - no instant songs. But if you're looking for a source of fresh, new rhythmic ideas I can recommend this CD wholeheartedly; the only reason I can't recommend it unreservedly is that the sheer weight of some of the grooves really could be the undoing of a track that isn't in A1 physical shape. If these funky drums are from hell, the Devil still seems to have all the best music.
Price: £49 inc. VAT and free copy of 'Now That's What I Call Sampling' CD.
More From: AMG, (Contact Details).
Review by Nigel Lord
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