reviewed by Chris Sanchez
Great 70s sounds, and not just for Funk!
I’ve been writing music for television shows and commercials since 1999, and in this line of work it’s invaluable to have a strong library of royalty-free loops and samples at your disposal. I’ve purchased dozens of such products over the years, and two of my all-time favorites are “Mick Fleetwood: Total Drumming” and “Drums From The Big Room: The Mixes,” both of which are published by Sony Creative Software (SCS). In terms of sonics, performances, and ergonomics, these two products have proven themselves time-and-time-again across a wide variety of genres and moods. They are also a great value. Those of you who follow my blog Preservation Sound know that I have a fondness for the sounds and studio techniques of earlier days, and when I saw that SCS had a new collection called ‘What it is! 70s Analog Funk’ I was excited to dig in.
I am currently producing a set of television-library tracks in a sort of ‘country funk’ style. While this cross-genre term may suggest some unfortunate hybrid of beats and banjos, it’s actually a pretty accessible form that owes its heritage to such great artists like Tony Joe White, Link Wray, Jim Ford, and The Band. It’s essentially the vibe and instruments of country-rock but with more active rhythms of soul music. Owing to my particular influences it’s also distinctly 70s in nature, and I am happy to report that the rich tape sounds and uncomplicated performances of “What It is” have fit in perfectly alongside my vintage 1970s Gibson and Martin guitars and Hohner Pianet electric piano.
Since I play guitar, bass, keyboards and percussion fluently, I mainly used the drum loops of ‘What It Is” but my investigation of the other tracks revealed the same high quality. The drum sounds have a definite tape-richness, and although the room-character is similar on each of the 15 songs (and you do in fact get 15 full arrangements of complete songs to work with), the drum sounds are very varied. This is no one-trick pony. The drums seem to have been uniquely tuned, and mixed, for each song. Although the sound is a bit less roomy than I prefer, this is the historically-accurate sound of 70s soul drumming, and it’s certainly easier for me to add reverb to a sample than it is to remove it! 10/10 for sonics.
In terms of performances: again, 10/10. Drum loop producers have to walk a fine line between over-quanitizing the performances (thereby removing a great deal of the production value that comes from an actual performance) and under-editing the performances (which can leave the consumer with the task of having to clean-up the loops in order to make them easier to play/arrange over). SCS’s producers did a great job here: I definitely get a live-feel from the loops, and I never needed to do any surgery to either get the loops to fit a tempo-locked timeline or make them easy to play over.
Ergonomics, or user-friendliness, is the final factor in determining the usability of any particular sample-set. File management is a big part of this. Since “WHAT IT IS” is a construction kit, rather than a drum loop collection specifically, the audio files are arranged by SONG, not instrument type. Although this is not my preferred system, it makes sense given the nature of this particular product. Next, Tempo and Key indications are not given in each file name, or even in the subfolder headings of each song. Instead, the user needs to consult an XLS or TXT file (included with the software) for this information. While this is not a huge problem, it’s not ideal. Finally, in terms of the usability of drum loops, it’s a huge benefit when sample collections come with ‘one-shots’ of each drum hit and/or combination. This makes it possible for the user to construct their own intros fills, outros, and the crucial rhythmic ‘drops’ that give tracks good dynamics. “What it is” does not include one-shots, and this is a real shame considering the great sound vibe of the drum sounds. I would give this collection a 6/10 for ergonomics.
Overall assessment: I would recommend this collection without hesitation to anyone who wants to bring some 70s flavor to any kind of production, be it rock, pop, or funk. Lots of variety, well-crafted tones, and files that drop easily into your timeline with a minimum of fuss.