Big Fish Audio | Keyboard Ken Hughes | R&B Backline Product Review
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R&B Backline | Keyboard

Reviewer: Ken Hughes Back to R&B Backline product details

Pros: Full-range bass tone lets you tailor the EQ the way you want it. Drums expertly recorded without excessive processing.
Cons: Four-bar phrases don't offer superb variety right out of the box. Range of drum tones limited.
Bottom Line: A tightly focused product that will serve R&B/hip-hop producers a hearty helping of old-school tone and vibe.

Put together by Chicago recording veterans Chuck Webb (bass) and Khari Parker (drums), R&B Backline is a solid collection of rhythm section grooves. Webb's resume reads like a Who's Who of jazz and R&B luminaries. Parker currently occupies the drum throne behind R&B divas Destiny's Child. Both men are blessed with great feel, and they play together extremely well. Either they've worked together extensively, or are just very sensitive musicians who listen really well.

The 63 tracks are not organized by tempo or key, but thankfully both are given for each track. All tracks start with the two fellas playing together, and then present the bass and drum tracks separately. For the most part, the four-bar patterns don't move through any chord changes; they stay anchored to one pedal tone. Occasionally the bass line is intended to underpin a 7th chord, and this is noted in the key reference. Obviously, with the Acidized .WAV files, matters of key and tempo are less of an issue.

Tone quality throughout is extremely good. Individual taste always plays a role, but I for one appreciate that the drums don't sound hyped or overprocessed. Second-listener John Krogh saw it differently. "I've heard better 'naked' drum tones before," he said. "Track 46 sounds like it was recorded in a basement." Webb's bass tone is done right for a sampling CD, in my opinion. There's lots of frequency bandwidth there, which gives you the option of tailoring the tone. That's harder to do when the samples are more "produced." John wished that "a bass multisample audio track was included, and maybe a few individual drum hits."

On some of the loops, prominent effects make themselves known. They're tastefully used, adding coolness to the proceedings rather than sounding gimmicky.

I can level few real criticisms at R&B Backline. I'd like to have longer phrases with more variation, I'd like to hear a slightly wider stylistic variety, and it might have been nice if there were multiple bass tones and drumkits used. As it is, however, the collection lets you mix and match tracks and parts and have everything hang together as a cohesive whole, which wouldn't be possible if there were more tonal variation.

Though it has a pretty narrow focus, within that focus this is a great collection, and I'd recommend it without hesitation to anyone looking for vibey, deep-pocket R&B grooves.

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