distortionBy John Pellegrini

It’s the age-old dilemma of anyone associated with radio creative: trying to find that just exactly right music bed, or stinger, or sound. Many of us have been driven up the wall by this problem, endlessly searching through dozens of CDs, infinite numbers of tracks, often just for a 3 or 4 second sound. Some of us in this insane business are lucky and have some musical ability. This advantage allows those folks to grab an instrument of choice—usually keyboards—and they create the sound themselves. Some of those people have even gone so far as to put some of their creations on CD and sell them to the rest of us without the musical ability. The best of these are great additions to anyone’s music libraries, and here’s one of the best: Distortion.

Rich Van Slyke is Production Director for the Clear Channel group in Atlanta, working on Mix 105.7, 96 Rock, and Wild 96.7. He’s also one heck of a guitarist, playing for over 20 years, along with working in MIDI programming. For many years he was making his own stingers, sweepers, and punch tracks for imaging purposes, because he found himself many times in the position above, of not being able to find exactly what he was looking for on the station supplied libraries. Finally, the entrepreneurial bug has bitten, and Rich has released a major chunk of his private stash on a buy-out CD entitled, Distortion. All Rock formats, Sports Talk, and independent imaging people should take a serious look at this CD.

The CD contains 251 cuts and is as kick ass as anything I’ve heard--guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards in fully mixed compositions. One thing that impressed me right off the bat was that even the :02 second cuts have a lot of musical thought behind them, and weren’t just a second or two of noise. There was some real composition happening here. Several cuts mimic the styles of famous rockers, and this gives me a chance to address something important. Rich mimics the styles of Van Halen, Sabbath, Metalica, some famous Grunge stuff, and other bands, but he doesn’t make outright note-for-note copies of any of their songs, which would be THEFT. Too many times I’ve heard imaging discs that have note-for-note copies of famous tunes, and it’s only a matter of time before these producers will be sued for  infringement, if they haven’t already. There’s nothing wrong with mimicking an artist’s style, but make sure it’s your own music that you’re using.

As I mentioned in a pervious paragraph, Rich is a guitarist, and as such, most of the tracks are guitar oriented. To me, that’s wonderful because more often than not prod people tend to be keyboardists—understandable because keyboards are cheap, they have a lot of effects available, and with MIDI you can add even more stuff easily. The problem though is that it gets a bit redundant after a while when all that’s ever being released on CDs like this is keyboard stuff. Keyboard players will probably object to this point, but I’m a former semi-professional guitarist and bassist myself, and it’s nice to hear six and four string stuff featured for a change. That’s not to say it’s exclusively guitar; there’s plenty of drums, bass, and keyboards added to the mixes. In fact, until he told me he did it all himself, I thought Rich had a drummer and keyboardist come in to back him up on the tracks.

The over-all sound of the CD is excellent. I’m not sure if Rich had a stack of Marshalls in the studio, but it sure sounds that way. These cuts are as well produced as any hard rock band release. Most of the short cuts leave you wanting more, which is always a sign of good work. There are also some beds, intros, and closers that would make great fully developed pieces. Another nice feature, there are several mixout tracks that are different stylistic versions, rather than the usual “rhythm” mixouts you get with other libraries. One track in particular, number 4, gives you a guitar version, mellow version, melody version, and organ version of the same piece. But they’re all fully performed cuts, with bass and drums backing each track. There are also some great Strat guitar licks, such as chicken scratches, chuckas, and power chunks. One track, #27, is a collection of four wave pads, two of which reminded me of the sound my car makes when I’m trying to drive out of a snowbank. Maybe it’s just the current weather conditions here in Chicago, but sometimes a good sound effect library will inspire your imagination in ways the creators never intended.

Rounding out the disc are some “Slammers,” great sound effects that are multi-tracked events, again not just a blip of white noise. Some of them will leave you laughing, and then immediately searching for a place to use them. They’re as funny as some of the better cartoon sound effect samples.

Distortion is a buy-out CD for $395.00. This makes it an ideal all-purpose CD that’s not only a great addition for anyone working in radio stations, but also perfect for independent producers out there who aren’t able to buy libraries due to licensing restrictions and trade agreements. Paying fewer than four hundred bucks for a CD that you’ll be able to use pretty much for the rest of your career is a decent bargain. For more information, email Rich at rvsproductions @mindspring.com, or you can call Rich direct at (404) 962-7117.

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