Rating: ***** 5/5 Stars
At £60 per disc, or all three discs for the price of two, you have to say that Keith LeBlanc's Essential Trilogy is top value for money. Almost four hours of superbly recorded, full‑phat loops, beats, hits, scratches and soundscapes providing everything you need to get an authentic hip‑hop and 'old skool' feel to your work — unless, that is, you're into hip‑hop and old skool.
What do I mean by that? Well, hip‑hop as an underground movement of music, rap and lifestyle has been around for over a quarter of a century. Only recently has it found its way into the mainstream. Five years ago you would never have heard a hip‑hop beat on a TV ad or theme tune, whereas today you can detect the influence of Afrika Bambaataa on tea‑bag commercials and the theme music of daytime chat‑shows about marital problems in transsexual relationships. To get the truly authentic sound of hip‑hop, you'd probably be better off looking out a copy of DJ Swamps' Never Ending Breaks on vinyl, or spending your weekends at boot sales looking for copies of Don Covay or Sam and Dave records at 50p each. Then all you need to do is get yourself a decent turntable, learn how to scratch, re‑evaluate your lifestyle and approach to music, and you'll be down with the Longbeach/Compton/ Inglewood crew in no time.
Or do you just want access to the style and flavour of the modern world? If so, look no further than this sample CD set.
Before going into detail about Essential Trilogy, I will just point out to potential purchasers that AMG have a different system for licensing their samples than other producers. The common system is that the buyer is deemed to have purchased a licence to use the samples when they purchase the CD from the producer. The sleeve notes on AMG CDs direct the buyer to complete an enclosed licence agreement, if they want to use the samples commercially, and return it to AMG. Anyone who doesn't obtain this licence (which is free of charge) and uses samples from an AMG CD commercially, on a chart hit, for example, may find they are taken to court. According to the company, their approach is designed to reduce sample piracy. Now, back to the review...
Volume 1: Hip Hop Hard Phat and Volume 2: Old Skool Beats, Class Of 2001 are armed with over 100 loops, broken down in various ways for a range of uses, dozens of cool scratches, drum hits and dubs, plus a few shouts. The majority of the beats are made up from a mixture of live drums and machines, processed in the lab and served up in slices of full mix, dry mix, FX mix, with/without hi‑hat mix, and so on. Just loop 'em up and off you go. It's worth pointing out that the science of scratching records requires the same kind of adroitness as playing lead guitar, and these discs have the equivalent of Jimi Hendrix at the deck, scratching tones, beats and top lines. The results are all incredibly usable and authentic.
Volume 3: Out There contains an amazing array of soundscapes which, in truth, have more to do with Hollywood movie underscores than retro dance music, but are nonetheless superb. They range from ambient waterscapes to sitar backdrops, plus a few drumscapes from hell that could easily be part of an Arnie blockbuster soundtrack. The majority of these are between 90 seconds and three minutes long. There are a few drum breaks and percussion tracks, but after the onslaught of the first two volumes, they seem a little out of place surrounded by the vast soundscapes on this volume.
What this trilogy doesn't offer is the same old hip‑hop beats that have been circulating the globe for the past couple of decades. What it does offer is a blueprint for the future of modern backbeat. Big George