Lenovo PC with PreSonus interface running Steinberg Cubase with various plug-ins and virtual instruments for keyboard parts; drum parts played on Roland electronic drum kit, triggering sounds from XLN Audio Addictive Drums; Ibanez guitar through custom amp miked with Shure SM57 mic.
Production Notes & Credits:
"Nicole" is a jazz instrumental recording. With the exception of the guitar, which was played by Shin Kawasaki and recorded at his home studio, Kenwood did everything else, including all keyboard parts, drums/percussion, mixing, and mastering.
Reviewed By: Marty Peters
Recording: This month's Spotlight is an ideal example of a track deserving the title "radio ready". So what does "radio ready" mean, exactly? Well, in our estimation, it is a recording in which all of the individual elements -- from the composition and arranging, through the programming and performing, as well as the tracking, mixing, and mastering -- combine to deliver a finished project that is equal to or better than commercial efforts in the same genre. Does this mean that all "radio ready" songs actually wind up receiving airplay? Sadly, no, although in a perfect world they certainly would. The workings of contemporary radio are infinitely complicated and well beyond the scope of the space allotted here. Nevertheless, in our humble opinion Kenwood's submission wouldn't take a back seat.
So you've guessed by now that we were rather smitten by "Nicole". Let's find out why, shall we?
In Hollywood they often talk of a certain actor or actress having an "it" factor, and this is what we immediately felt with Kenwood's track. We love the faux Fender Rhodes keyboard sound, along with the funky drums generated from the Roland/Addictive Drums setup. In our experience, programmed drums usually fall short, with the cymbal sounds usually taking the brunt of it. But in this case, the both the tones and the performance sound like "real" drums, if you get our drift. By combining a live performance played on a kit (albeit an electronic one) with tasteful and careful use of the excellent Addictive Drums sounds, Kenwood has given us a comparatively rare beast in these one-man-band projects: a believable drum track that wasn't played on acoustic drums! The sounds, samples, and programs out there have the potential to do this; we just don't hear it often enough.
While we are not sure exactly which of Cubase's virtual instruments was used to generate the bass track (we're guessing the excellent HALion sample player), it sounded awesome through our monitors, with just the right amount of low-end depth and counterpoint growl. Additional standouts include the solidly orchestrated percussion and with Shin's 1970s-era soul guitar licks.
Ultimately, though, the real shining stars here are the composition, the beautifully balanced mix, and the excellent mastering effort. Every sound source in Kenwood's economical mix has a voice and purpose, providing a clarity that we rarely hear in home/project studio submissions, and the robust artifact-free mastering is the icing on the cake. Well done, sir!
Suggestions: Balance is a critical element of any successful mix and "Nicole" has it in spades. We can all "go to school" on this one, irrespective of genre.
Summary: Don't it sound good!
Contact: Kenwood Anderson, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.kenwoodsmusic.com