Until the 80 of the last century, Remo Belli was the name on the world’s most popular drum heads. Remo still is, but since the mid 80, the company has also manufactured drum kits, and during the 90 they added a colorful range of world percussion that has been a great success. Let’s see how it was.
The shells for the REMO kits and for the various items of percussion are all made from a synthetic material called Acousticon. This is produced from crushed wood fibers, pulped in similar fashion to paper and then tightly rolled in continuous lamination to the required thickness. The resulting shell is hardened by heating and impregnating with silica resins. One advantage of this process is that it is possible to make any size and thickness of shell and any shape hence the suitability of Acousticon for sculpting congas, , and similar instruments. Remo had scored an earlier hit back in the 70 with the shell less Rototoms. They showed that the drum head generates most of the sound without any need for a shell. Rototoms had been conceived by Al Payson, percussionist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, in 1968. Remo manufactured Rototoms in a wide range of sizes, from 6 to 18 inches in diameter, and they could be instantly tuned to different pitches by rotating the cast metal frame. For this reason, the larger Rototoms were also used as cheap substitutes for timpani.
Rototom frames without the heads were later adapted in 1988 by Remo’s Rick Drum to be played in a bell or hi hat like fashion. Terry Bozzio, at the time a Remo endorse, made brilliant use of these so called Spoxes. In the early 80, Remo went beyond the Rototom concept to produce PTS Pretuned heads. These heads were tensioned on their own hoop and could simply be clipped onto PTS kits 1982 without any further tension adjustments. Although the PTS idea had limited success, it prompted Remo to make drum kits. The first proper kit was called the Encore and appeared in the mid 80. Liberator and Innovator PTS kits were marketed later in that decade alongside conventionally tuned Encore and Discovery lines. Then there was the easily transportable single headed Legero. The top line Master Touch series was introduced in 1988. The kits were covered in a colored plastic material called Quadura. By the mid 90, the professional Master Touch kits had bowed to drummers conservatism by bonding a veneer of real maple, called Ven Wood, to the outside of the Acousticon shell.
The monochrome Quadura wraps were rather plain in comparison with some of the more luxurious finishes of other manufacturers. Added to this, Remo made its own hardware, which was a disappointment. It was heavy and lumpy and not particularly user friendly certainly no match for the ergonomic designs coming out of Japan and elsewhere. It may be that if Remo had sorted out their hardware and had fancier finishes, the drums may have fared better. In recent years, Remo drums have appeared to take a back seat to the massively popular world percussion and, of course, their industry leading heads. But two notable long term endorsers have kept the flag flying the great Louie Bellson, and the brilliantly musical Jeff Hamilton Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Natalie Cole, Diana Krall, Milt Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Mel Torme, Dr. John, and so on. Today’s Remo Gold Crown drums and Mondo snare drums, with shells made from Advanced Acousticon in a limited range of sizes and finishes, are good. Perhaps Remo has too much going on with greater success to have time to push the drums harder, but they really should be more popular.