Sony, Chicago Fire: Dance Music Anthology

The video producer calls. “We’re doing a movie where this senator’s daughter is on the run, and melts into the underground club scene. We need a bunch of music — some deep house, some electro, drum ’n’ bass for the big car chase, a little progressive, and some old school for a couple love scenes. We need it in a week. Whaddya say?”

If you have Vince Lawrence’s Chicago Fire, take the gig. This ambitious, beautifully packaged boxed set has one CD-ROM for each of the musical styles just mentioned. The CDs average around a couple dozen “themes” (except for progressive, with a whopping 73), which are basic construction kits. Each kit has at least one full mix, which makes auditioning easy. But you’ll also find lots of additional sounds in other folders, like looped licks and phrases, some vocals, and one-shots (mostly drum sounds and effects) so you can throw in your own accents. Acidization is up to Sony’s usual high standards, so mix and match is a given. Even the example files, which include additional “promo” loops, provide value.

Deep House and Progressive are outstanding. Give me Ableton Live, the Progressive CD, and a laptop, and I bet I could keep a clubful of dance fanatics entertained for hours. Electro is a little house-ish for my taste; I prefer the harder, Kraftwerk-style machine soul. But once I accepted it wasn’t as robotic as I’d hoped, I could make some fine music on its own terms.

Drum ’n’ Bass is the least consistent. It has its moments; when it’s on, it’s really on — I just don’t quite feel it like the others, which pretty much hit a home run every time up to the plate. On the other hand Old School is sheer delight, especially the vocal phrases (which work pretty well with the other genres, too). While House lays the groundwork for mating ritual mode and Progressive oozes late night club vibe, Old School is just plain feel-good irresistible.

You might blink at $249.95, but this set is great value for money if you need all the genres represented. Even if you just need some of them, the quality of the individual CDs make the entire package a cost-effective contender.

Bottom line: A lot of my other sample CDs just got retired.