CD of the Month
The Essential, Sony
Few rock bands have stood the test of time like the colorful quartet from Rockford, IL — Cheap Trick. With nearly three decades behind them, Cheap Trick has amassed a legendary body of work. Their relevance to the rock community is as vital as ever. No collection punctuates this point more effectively than the new 2-disc retrospective on Sony Music, The Essential. From their breakthrough hits to their latest hook-rock single “Scent of a Woman,” the collection delivers smash after smash: “Surrender,” “Ain’t That a Shame,” “Dream Police,” “Way of the World,” “Tonight It’s You,” “She’s Tight,” “The Flame,” and more. Also included are live versions of “Mandocello (with Billy Corgan), “Gonna Raise Hell,” “Hard To Tell,” and perhaps the band’s biggest hit of all, “I Want You to Want Me.” Plenty of other great music rounds out the double-set, including the under-recognized gem “Woke Up With a Monster.”
Contact: Cycling ’74, www.cycling74.com
Format: 1 audio CD, 1 WAV DVD
Sustained Encounters encapsulates the bizarre and beautiful audio experiments of veteran sound designer Ron MacLeod, whose name you might recognize as the mastermind behind the Poke In the Ear sample libraries from the early ’90s.
His latest offering is the first in a series from Cycling ’74 called Cycles. As the name suggests, Sustained Encounters is a collection of long, evolving environments and soundscapes. It’s a refreshing change from the beat-dominated titles being pumped out these days.
The DVD includes material presented several ways: 24-bit stereo WAV files (44.1 and 48kHz) and 5.1 surround versions (saved as six separate mono files). The audio CD is intended for auditioning tracks. Files are organized into categories and subfolders such as Other Realms, Textural — Environs, and Immersion. Track names and lengths (in minutes, seconds, and milliseconds) are provided in the PDF documentation. I appreciate that actual names were used instead of simply saying “Track 1, Track 2,” etc. because I find it’s easier to remember specific names when trying to recall a favorite sound as I’m racing to meet a deadline.
Sonically speaking, SE covers a lot of territory: throbbing low-frequency drones, LFO-modulated sound effects, jarring mechanical textures, atmospheres ranging from eerie and chilling to molten rich, harmonic “events” with identifiable tonal centers, and whispering ambiences — there’s a wealth of raw fodder that composers, sound designers, and post production houses should find invaluable.
I can’t find fault with Sustained Encounters — it’s expertly produced and thoughtfully organized. If you’re looking for an immediate injection of cutting edge sound design, look no further. —John Krogh
ProSamples, Vol. 8
World Vocals from Deepest India
Contact: East West, www.soundsonline.com
Format: Audio, Acidized WAV, AIFF, EXS, FXP, Akai
Sting’s mega hit “Desert Rose” was a great example of multicultural pop fusion — Middle East meets United Kingdom with fantastic results. Want to stir up some international stew yourself, but don’t have the funds to fly to India for a recording session? ProSamples Vol. 8 from East West serves up over a dozen Indian singers, both male and female, for less than 50 bucks. An amazing bargain. Solo multi-bar phrases are the main event on this disc, but spoken phrases and group vocals are provided as well. Some of the group performances have hand-claps mixed in, which may or may not be a good thing in a production context. “These original samples reflect the timeless splendour, tradition, and heritage of the Punjab,” say the disc’s producers, “It embodies the widest variety of singing styles in the field of Indian music.”
My favorite vocalist of the lot is the crisp and airy Maani. Her passages are beautifully sung — laced with intricate riffs, and all masterfully executed. I appreciate that all of her material (and everything on the disc for that matter) is presented bone dry. Also, tempo and key signatures are provided for each performance in the liner notes.
In general, the recording quality is good, but there are a few tracks that sound as though they were recorded off a cheap TV or radio. Listen to the third, fourth, and fifth phrases on audio track 30, for example, or the noise-laden offerings on track 43. The plosive pops on track 47 are another lowlight. Luckily these are the exception, not the rule.
The biggest fear or question about this collection is what the lyrics translate to. We’ll assume that they’re well localized and devoid of potentially offensive content, but non-native speakers must surely wonder what exactly they’re singing and speaking about. A translated lyric sheet, either printed or online, would have been a nice touch.
The demo track on the audio CD beautifully demonstrates the exotic and rich potential of this collection. If you’re in similar shoes as EQ’s own John Krogh, who cranks out a very wide range of commercial music, and who has to span a universe of sounds and styles, this CD will surely be a valuable resource. On the other hand, traditional Western pop music producers may have fewer opportunities to use this disc.
A final note for buyers: For $149, you can get an expanded version of this collection in either Akai or Giga formats. —Greg Rule