It’s no secret that LP works with some of the best players in the industry, so whenever the company releases new signature products, I’m always intrigued (and, to be honest with you, I’m also hoping my UPS guy will show up with a box or two … or three). The latest bunch of signature bangables from the LP folks includes a set of Raul Rekow drums, Giovanni Hidalgo’s Compact bongos with stand, and a new mounting system for their larger siblings, the Compact congas.
If you’re at all familiar with Raul Rekow, you know that he’s not only an incredible player but also an incredible showman. And the perfect match for his energetic performance style is the not-so-subtle finish on his new set of drums. The three congas and set of bongos come wrapped in a Tiger Print finish with gold glitter accents; even the lugs and rims are outfitted in gold. Sound bold to you? Well, as I pulled the drums out, each individual piece drew some vastly mixed reactions and comments from my bandmates. It wasn’t until I got the complete set of drums next to each other and I stood back that it sunk in: These instruments definitely look good onstage. Up close, the finish can be a bit much for those used to seeing plain-Jane, natural-wood congas. But from a distance, the finish really becomes fetching. And dare I say that the tiger stripes even manage to enhance the sexy shape of a conga shell? (Yeah, you know congas are sexy.)
The shape and construction of the congas appear to be the same as what we all know as the LP Classic series drum. The 30" tall, 3-ply wood shells come with Comfort Curve II rims, hand-selected rawhide heads, heavy-duty 5/16" lugs, and the familiar LP triangular lug plates. A carrying handle and a special badge sporting Raul Rekow’s name top off the drums. The conga sizes in this series are standard – 11" quinto, 11.75" conga, and 12.5" tumba. The bongo diameters measure in at 7-1/4" and 8-5/8" with a depth of about 6.5". These drums also had the same high-quality lugs, heads, and Comfort Curve II hoops as the congas, and I give bonus points for the nearly invisible shell protectors that keep these tigers’ coats scratch-free.
The sound of the drums is very identifiable and totally LP – the perfect blend of crisp highs and deep bass tones. The congas had plenty of volume and sustain to keep up with any live performance situation, and the bongos were all poppin’ as expected.
I know what you’re thinking, “Compact bongos? Do we really need to make bongos any more compact?” That’s what I thought too at first, but playing these great little guys made me a believer.
First off, these drums are just about impossible to play seated without a stand, so they come with the top half of a mounting system that can be clamped to almost any existing piece of drum hardware (a complete stand is optional and sold separately). As a regular-old set of bongos, they are still valid instruments, producing all the sounds of a traditional set, except with a little less body on the hembra [the large head] when played with your hands. But that doesn’t matter when you’re playing them with sticks! They have synthetic heads that you won’t mind whacking with wood, and because the bongos are only about 2" deep and stand mounted, even a prog player can find room for a pair in a cramped 15-piece kit.
I brought the bongos to a gig, and I found that the shallow depth allowed me to mount them just below my main crash and overlapping my first rack tom. The music on the gig was timba fused with Latin funk, and as a drum set is an integral part of this style of music, I planned on playing the bongos just a little to fill in parts behind piano solos and in percussion breaks. I actually surprised myself, though, with the musical mileage I got out of the lil’ guys. In the second tune, there was a drum-set solo that nearly ended up becoming a Compact bongo solo. Just one stick smack on the Compacts, and I was hooked. They sounded great, and they were frickin’ loud! I was poppin’ slaps (otherwise known as “rimshots” for you stick people) that I thought must have done some damage to the drums, but after the gig, aside from some stick marks on the heads, there was no evidence of them having been beaten with a set of 5As.
So are the Compact bongos any more compact than regular bongos? Well, not in a literal sense, but being able to throw the mount in with your hardware and throw the bongos in your cymbal bag is pretty dang cool. Plus, these bongos are tuned with a standard drum key. That means no extra tools to bring to a gig.
If you’ve read my past review of the Giovanni Compact congas (see the April/May 2004 issue), you already know how much I love them. But when LP asked players just to mount both drums on snare stands, I wondered if lugging that setup to gigs was really any more convenient than carrying full-sized congas. But now LP has developed a mount to cradle both the 11" and the 11.75" drums, and all I can say is, “Thank you!” The whole assembly consists of a very sturdy clamp mount that attaches to an existing stand and two three-armed baskets with rubber tips to cradle your drums. The piece bolts together and has two mounting options – one for tilted and one for flat playing positions. It takes a few minutes to put together, but hey, you only have to do it once. The unit doesn’t fold for storage or transport, but that’s okay because it’s just as flat as the drums.
A lot of new percussion products are introduced every year, but with eye-grabbing finishes like Tiger Print and innovative offerings like the Giovanni Compact congas and bongos, LP still stands out from the crowd.
LP Raul Rekow Signature Series Congas & Bongos