Big Fish Audio | Sound On Sound Magazine Paul Sellars | Soul City Product Review
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Soul City | Sound On Sound Magazine

Reviewer: Paul Sellars | Rating: 5 out of 5 Back to Soul City product details

This 'hot-buttered collection of construction kits' cites as inspiration artists including Isaac Hayes, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Barry White, Stevie Wonder, Macy Gray, and Erykah Badu, so the producers have set themselves something of a challenge. The collection ships on a single DVD-ROM of 16-bit, 44.1kHz stereo files. Each of the 27 different construction kits is presented as a complete mix and as a collection of the component parts. The kits range in tempo between 80bpm and 110bpm, which seems reasonable for the genres concerned. Unlike some other Big Fish Audio libraries, there are no extra loops or other samples thrown in for good measure: the construction kits are all you get. You're unlikely to be too disappointed, though, as these are very good indeed, and there really isn't a dud among them.

The material includes some pretty convincing 1970s soundalikes, as well as some more up-to-date R&B-flavoured efforts. The arrangements are intelligently put together, with proper attention paid to the details, so the more 'retro' kits feature live drumming and rasping wah-wah guitars, while the more contemporary kits use programmed drums with plenty of swing, and fat, punchy electronic snares.

The remaining instrumentation is mostly live, with various musicians credited for congas and bongos, guitar and bass, piano, sax, trombone, trumpet, miscellaneous percussion, scratch effects, and additional keyboards. There are some very nice Rhodes, clavinet, and organ sounds to be had, and some funky but tastefully restrained guitars, horns, and bass lines.

Many of the kits feature a couple of different drum fills, providing some useful variation, although it would have been nice to have had some extra single-hit drum or percussion samples included, for programming extra fills and the like. That said, ten minutes with any half-decent sample editor is all it takes to make your own.

While you're under no obligation to follow the construction-kit blueprints, the 'complete mix' examples included with each kit do an excellent job of demonstrating how the various different pieces fit together, usually with plenty of space left in the mix for a vocal to be added. If you do decide to try a bit of mixing and matching, each of the kits has its tempo and key included in the folder name, which is a time-saver.

To sum up, Soul City is a very well-put-together library which quite convincingly recreates the overall sound and production values of the records it pays homage to. The loops are unfailingly usable, and should appeal to hip-hop, pop, soul, and R&B producers alike. Paul Sellars

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