Monday, 21 December 2009

More Christmas Music

I love Christmas music and will listen to all sorts of stuff at Christmas that I wouldn't normally entertain. For example, I am quite happy to Step Into Christmas with Mr John and sometimes I will be simply, having a Wonderful Christmastime with Mr McCartney. (I do however draw the line at stupid songs about travelling spacemen with Mr De Burgh - everyone has to draw the line somewhere!) As far as I'm concerned, you cannot hear Merry Xmas Everybody by Slade often enough - despite a claim by the Performing Rights Society that almost half the world has heard it! In case you are in the 58% who have avoided this gem so far, here are the boys from Slade showing how to do the perfect Christmas single:

If however, you are looking for something a bit different in the last few days before Christmas, the radio station XFM could come to your rescue. This year, they have links to what they call the Twelve Videos of Christmas. This list includes U2, The Killers and The Darkness - excellent! Last year, they provided an alternative Christmas playlist with some interesting, not to say downright bizarre choices. (One of my favourites from this list has to be Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas from Eels.) Unfortunately, the player widget doesn't seem to be working so I created a Spotify Playlist with as many of the tracks as I could find. I've shared the playlist, so feel free to add your own off the wall Christmas tracks - you may get some ideas on the BBC playlist from 2006.

What are your Christmas favourites?

Friday, 18 December 2009

Free Download Friday #40: Final Friday in Advent

Here are a few Christmas tracks from a variety of sources. I hope you enjoy them.

First up, I make no apologies for linking agan to Joe Bonamassa's version of Merry Christmas Baby. The man is a genius and one of the greatest Blues guitarists alive (in my humble opinion).

Next is a jazzy take on Jingle Bells from Ayiesha Woods. If you like what you hear, there are another couple of tracks for free download from Aliesha on the same page.

And finally, a link to the NME Daily Download page for Christmas which gives an interesting mix of indie, rock and downright weird Christmas tracks. (As an added bonus, they link to last year's Christmas page - I don't think all the links are still working but there's still a good few that are.)

So, from Blues, to Jazz, to Indie, to weird... hopefully you'll find something to enjoy.

This is the last of my Advent Friday downloads this year. I hope you have enjoyed the music I've posted links to and that you enjoy the Free Download Friday posts. Let me know what your favourites are and I'll try to find more like that for future posts.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Free Download Friday #39: iTunes Holiday Sampler

I'm not sure how long this will be available but the UK iTunes store is currently offering an eight track Holiday Sampler as a free download.

331/365: Lights
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
It does its best to provide something for everyone with artists ranging from Classical (Charlotte Church) to Country (Rascal Flatts) and Gospel (Aretha Franklin) to... er... Glaswegian (Glasvegas)! I must admit that I found it hard to dislike any of these tracks. Even the ones I didn't think I would enjoy have something to commend them. For example, I was not familiar with the name Rascal Flatts but I found their version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen to be surprisingly good. Similarly, Charlotte Church's Dream a Dream is a bit over-cooked for my taste, but it's Christmas, and if you can't over-cook things at Christmas, when can you?

The stand-out tracks for me are Aretha Franklin's Angels We Have Heard On High and Glasvegas with A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss). However, as I said, just about something for everyone, so, what are your favourites?

iTunes Holiday Sampler (UK only?)

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

My new iPhone - Music to my ears

"I don't know why you are so smug. You just bought your iPhone, you didn't invent it!"

Ge Wang playing Star Wars theme
using Ocarina on his iPhone

Originally uploaded by Steve Rhodes
...And yet, I remain smug. Sorry.

Here are some of the music apps that I've been playing with.

First up, is the app and the Spotify app - listen to your favourite streamed music on the move. Both are applications that I used for a long time before I got my iPhone and both work just as you would expect. And talking of streaming music, there are a bucket load of "radio" apps out there. The first one I tried (and so far I've stuck with) is Streamitall - streamed radio stations from around the world that cover pretty much any musical genre you can think of.

So much for listening to other people's music. What about creating your own? Two apps I've enjoyed playing with are:
  • Dog Piano Jr - A piano keyboard that woofs! Singing dogs. Excellent! Comes with three different woof sounds. It drives my family daft and our spaniel Colin looks confused when I play with it. Great fun!
  • DigiDrummer Lite - Unleash your inner Neil Peart! I tried a few free drum apps and I liked this one the best. Nice big drum pads that are easy to hit and a record function even on the free version.
And to finish, two apps that are just great fun.
  • Shazam - Various people recommended this app and at first I wasn't convinced - I couldn't see the point. Then I tried it and was hooked. The idea is that you hear some music, say on the radio, and want to know what it is. So, you fire up the app, let it record a few seconds of audio which it then sends off to a database (AI system?) somewhere and within seconds it comes back with the name of the track, links to where you can buy it, a discography of the artist, a biography of the artist and a link to YouTube so you can watch the video. Stunningly brilliant. In my initial testing, it coped with everything Rock Radio threw at it!
  • Tap Tap Revenge 2 - This is simply a fantastic game and what makes it even more impressive is that it is free! It's a bit like Guitar Hero - you have to tap different areas on the screen as markers fly past in time to the music. Different levels and extra tunes for download - loads to keep you going. Best of all, a two player game where the two people play, at the same time, on the same screen - one at either side of the device - literally head to head! Probably my favourite game at the moment.
What are your favourite music apps? Also, I've deliberately only listed free music apps but are there any that are worth paying money for?

Friday, 4 December 2009

Free Download Friday #38: Classical Christmas

Second download Friday in advent and this time it's gone all classical. Magnatune is giving away a free Christmas compilation with 24 tracks. There are some great classical guitar tracks from James Edwards, some beautiful choir pieces and some tracks that on first listen I thought was a cello but is apparently a viola da gamba.

What's your favourite track?

Magnatune Compilation

P.S. If you want something a bit more contemporary, can I suggest the following? It's not a download, but it is a suitably festive music stream. Thanks to Jim from Aye Tunes, I found that Miss The Occupier did a version of Christmas Wrapping for Radio Scotland's Vic Galloway Show. Enjoy!

Monday, 30 November 2009

Miss The Occupier: Free Download

I have talked about Miss The Occupier before and once again I should declare an interest: the lead singer/bass player is a friend of my wife.

I really like this band. One reviewer said that Roz, the lead singer, "...has a voice somewhere between Clare Grogan from Altered Images and Justine Frischmann from Elastica". (Sorry... I've lost the source of the quote!) I can see what he means but it doesn't really acknowledge the unique nature of her powerful and passionate vocals. ...And she's a jolly good bass player to boot!

I follow them on Twitter (@Misstheoccupier) but somehow missed this Tweet posted nearly three weeks ago:
The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things available to download here NOW for a limited time:
Given that there was limited time three weeks ago, I thought I'd better post it here as soon as possible.

They are not quite the out and out noisy guitar rock that is my usual taste, but they have an energy and an attitude that appeals. This track is my favourite out of all the stuff I've heard from them so far. Roz's vocals sound great in it and the guitars start off strong and get better as the track develops. (And do I detect a hint of strings in there too? Possibly the most ambitious production they've put out so far.)

The video is not as good as a the song but can be viewed on YouTube and it may be available longer than the download.


Miss The Occupier: The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things

P.S. Special no-prize available for spotting the literary reference. :-)

Friday, 27 November 2009

Free Download Friday #37: It's Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Christmas...

"A Christmas download? But it's still November!" I hear you cry. Yes, this is true and I normally have a rule not to play Christmas music before December (well it's more of a guideline really...) but I realised that there are now only four Fridays to Christmas. By my reckoning, that makes this the first free download Friday in advent. :-)

For the first Christmas download, I offer you John Wesley Harding singing I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. It's a fairly traditional take on a Christmas classic. In fact it starts with a sample from the Phil Spector version - and it doesn't get more classic than that. He drives it along at a fair lick and, while not exactly wall of sound, it is well produced and it sounds like he had fun recording it.

Normally, I'd link to the artist's site rather than directly to the download. Unfortunately, the navigation of the site is not reflected in the web addressed displayed, so I can't link directly to the page. However, if you go to the Music page, click on the LIVE MP3s & RARE SINGLES ARCHIVE link and then use the triangular arrow at the bottom of the left hand navigation panel, you will find other, non-Christmas links to sample and hopefully enjoy. Remember to let me know if you find any tracks you particularly like.

Disclaimer: Having announced that this is the first free download Friday in advent, I realise I have created the expectation that there will be four free Christmas download between now and Christmas. While that is my intention, at the moment, I only have one other up my sleeve at the moment. I'll do my best, but I may just resort to my old trick of stealing some ideas from Jeff (sometime contributor to this blog, good chap and maintainer of the Free Christmas Music blog - which is outstandingly good).


John Wesley Harding singing: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

When musical worlds collide #4

This is is nothing short of genius!

Queen + The Muppets - I'd pay money to see more of that.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Jamming With Tommy Lee

Would you be interested in downloading raw tracks created by Tommy Lee, use these tracks record your own ideas and then upload your contributions for a chance to have your work appear on his album? He calls it the project the Public Record and it sounds like a really interesting idea.

Tommy Lee
Originally uploaded by Drew "Rukes" Ressler
He is releasing every song from the upcoming album in this way. Every week, he posts the “skeleton” of a new track and allows people record their own parts, using any instrument they choose, to accompany material he has released. If you don't have a suitable piece of software to help you mix the tracks and add your own work (such as Garageband) Tommy even provides a link to RiffWorks T4 for you to download... for free.

I am only sorry that I did not discover this project earlier as six of the eleven tracks have already been released (although they are re-opening these tracks for a few days each, for further contributions - but this time with some direction about what they think they still need).

He claims it is the first time that this has been done with a whole album, on such a massive scale, for a recording that is intended for commercial release and. In addition, some of the contributors will be invited to play live with Tommy in Los Angeles when the album is released.

It's difficult to judge whether it is magnificent or mental but I hope he pulls it off.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Free Download Friday #36: It's all gone a bit Gothic...

If you have teenage daughters, you cannot have failed to notice that the second film in the Twilight series was released this week. New Moon will have girls squeaking with delight in cinemas up and down the country. It seemed appropriate therefore to post some suitable music to download.

Flyleaf have been compared to Evanescence and so seem appropriately Gothic. In exchange for your email address, they will send you a link to download I'm So Sick - a dark, brooding and shouty track. Enjoy... certainly I've enjoyed this download significantly more than I enjoyed the film!

If you want to hear more, you could check out their YouTube pages.


I'm So Sick email sign up page.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Free Download Friday #35: Back to Wolfgang's place!

I visited Wolfang's Vault once before (Free Download Friday #15: ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead) but since I got a message that he'd cracked open the vault and made even more concerts available for download (currently 763 items!) I thought I'd go back to see what was new.

There are loads of concerts that interest me and most are reasonably priced. For example, you can get 52 minutes of B. B. King from 1971 for only $7.98 or a whopping 1 hour 39 minutes of Stevie Ray Vaughan from 1984 for $9.98. Brilliant!

However, this post is called Free Music Friday, not Reasonably Priced Music Friday and two free downloads caught my eye. In alphabetical order... first up is Carly Simon from October of this year. Her voice is not as powerful or as clear as it once was but the emotional depth is still there and the simple arrangements works really well on the four tracks offered. I especially like the sound of You're So Vain.

Second is a band I mentioned in a previous Free Music Friday (Free Download Friday #20: The Gutter Twins). Wolfgang has made a concert from March of last year, with twenty tracks, available for download. The track that featured in Free Download Friday #20, Idle Hands is, I think, the stand out track from this concert but I also like The Station, Live With Me, Down The Line, and Methamphetamine Blues.

Two very different but equally interesting downloads from Wolfgang and both are free! Which of these tracks stand out for you? Are there any other free downloads in the Vault I should check out?


Carly Simon Oct 27, 2009 from Daytrotter Studio.
The Gutter Twins Mar 1, 2008 from Bimbo's 365.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

But is it still Aerosmith?

Aerosmith is diebanding, or Aerosmith are continuing without Mr Tyler, or maybe nobody is leaving anything, or... who knows what's happening!

{Note: This started off as a comment on Layla's Classic Rock blog. If you haven't already been to her blog, it is well worth checking out. However, it was a fairly long comment, so I decided that a bit of editing and a few additions would make it worth posting here too.}

Aerosmith 01
Originally uploaded by Serjao Carvalho
I've been following the reporting of Aerosmith, Tyler and Perry on Classic Rock Magazine's site for a wee while now and I'm not sure what to make of it all.

First news item I noticed was Are Aerosmith Headed For A Permanent Vacation? where it seemed to be about Mr Tyler wanting to do his own thing. At the time I wondered if falling off the stage (and by some accounts off the wagon too) hadn't jumbled his thinking a touch. Then came Aerosmith: Split With Tyler Moves Closer where Perry is quoted as saying "As far as replacing Steve, it’s not just about that, it’s also four guys that play extremely well together, and I’m not going to see that go to waste." To an extent I can see where he's coming from and sometimes a band can pull it off. For instance Deep Purple Gillan era to Deep Purple Coverdale worked (IMHO). However, at what point does a band get broken? Is the band currently touring as Deep Purple really Deep Purple? When does it become something new? For example Black Sabbath without Ozzy... tricky but Black Sabbath with Dio becoming Heaven and Hell - yes, I can see that. However, as Liggy points on Layla's blog, Steve Tyler has been with Aerosmith since they formed in 1970 - that's an awful lot of history with a very distinctive (not to say flamboyant) vocalist and it is difficult to see how anyone could pick up where he has left off. Having said that, Queen + Paul Rodgers seems to have been fairly well received. See what I mean when I say I'm not sure what to make of it?

However, the stories didn't end there because in quick succession Classic Rock Magazine published Aerosmith: Perry Announces Search For New Singer! and Tyler Announces He's Staying With Aerosmith. The last announcement in particular takes me back to my first thought about what damage was done in the stage fall!

So, as I said, I'm not sure what to make of it all. Aerosmith without Tyler would, I think, still be a great band but would it be Aerosmith? Perhaps they just need to do their own thing for a bit. ...Or maybe if we wait another couple of days it will all just go away. :-)

What do you think?

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Them Crooked Vultures

Not a free download Tuesday this time, but a return to Them Crooked Vultures. As I mentioned last time, the band consists of John Paul Jones (Led Zepplin) on bass, Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) on drums and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) on vocals and guitar. If that didn't sell it to you, I directed you to a free download and some YouTube content to reel you in.

However, they've now done more than just release a few bits and pieces to whet our appetites... They are now streaming the whole album a week prior to its release. Will I say that again? The whole album!

I've embedded the stream below, or you can go to their YouTube channel if you prefer.

What do you think? Is the "super" in "supergroup" merited in this case?

Friday, 6 November 2009

Free Download Friday #34: Nine Inch Nails

Before I had started this music blog, I wrote about a crowd sourced video of Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson playing at a Foo Fighters concert. Today's Free Download Friday takes that concept and adds rocket boosters!

An extended quote from the This One's On Us site will fill in some of the details:
When I first heard about the TDS set the band performed at Webster Hall on August 23rd 2009, I pretty much, like everyone else in the entire world, went apesh*t. Part of it was my epic failure of choosing to see the Bowery Ballroom show the night before instead (which was still mindblowing in its own right). But then I remembered Trent tweeting the night before about the show not being officially filmed due to Live Nation charging them too much dough. Trent also mentioned this would be the first and last time they'd ever play that set... I immediately got on it and used the @thisoneisonus twitter feed to get the ball rolling.
So what ball started rolling? The ball was to collect together video taken by fans in the audience and edit it together to create a multi-angle DVD release of the concert. Brilliant!

I must admit, it never occurred to me that venues charged bands to allow them to video a show. Clearly they are not making enough money just charging for the hire of the venue and the free publicity from the Nine Inch Nails Live From [Insert Venue Name Here] DVD title is clearly not worth anything. The poor lambs have to make their money somehow. It's like the ticket chaps - I use my machine, my time and often my printer to order tickets for a concert and then they charge me a fee on top of the ticket price! Why? "Because we're the only place you can buy the tickets from so like it or lump it. Mmwwa, ha, ha ha!" Bah!

Anyway... thanks to NIN's open camera policy, the chap(s) at This One's On Us have managed to create a DVD that captures the energy and the excitement of the gig. The site notes that the audio is not perfect, and that it "...has some nasty moments due to one over-excited fan screaming in the microphone." To be honest, I think this adds to the atmosphere rather than detracting from it. It feels authentic.

The full DVD release can be downloaded as a bit torrent. This is slightly more complex than a standard point and click download but is appropriate for such a massive file. If you want a smaller, more straightforward download, This One's On Us has links to an iPod friendly version and a YouTube version.

Not the usual Free Download Friday today but I thought it was worth sharing. Is it OK to do the occassional non-audio download or would you prefer it if I stuck to audio files?

Update: If you want an mp3 download, I've just noticed that the NIN Hotline have a link to an audio version of the concert.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Bonfire Night

It's Guy Fawkes - Bonfire Night here in the UK. I noticed that Classic Rock Magazine had suggested a soundtrack for the night, and I thought it would be fun to start a Spotify list on the same topic.

Only eight tracks just now. Feel free to add more tracks on the bonfire/fireworks theme. :-)

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

When musical worlds collide #3

I thought it was a one off... then I found some more... and here we are with the third When musical worlds collide. Do you enjoy these odd pairings as much as I do? Would you like to see more?

Collision 1: I'll start with the one I'm least sure about. I love the video but I'm not sure it counts as a collision as I'll explain below:

My memory of Gary Numan is of a early pioneer of Synth Pop whereas Nine Inch Nails are the founding fathers of Industrial Rock. Surely no connection there - a clear collision. But when you watch the video - it works. What do you think? musical collision or is there is a clear line from Numan to NIN?

Collision 2: I'm not convinced that the embed code for this next video is right. However, you should be able to see it in the original ill doctrine post. If it doesn't work here, check it out there... as long as you promise to come back here afterwards. :-)

Update: I really like this video but I can't get it to load reliably either here or on the ill doctrine site (which is a pity). I've edited the embedded video out because the page just hangs when it fails to load. :-(

I think this Blues/Rap mashup works well. John Lee Hooker and 50 cent - two very different artists and two different attitudes to money but one interesting musical mashup.

Collision 3: Next up is a musical duo that featured in Free Download Friday #33: - Rodrigo Y Gabriela:

Listening to the free download of Orion, it was clear that they were very good but watching them perform with Robert Trujillo is just stunning.

Collision 4: Finally, something that's more than a little bizarre. When I hear the term One Man Band, I picture a chap playing a guitar, with a bass drum on his back, cymbals between his knees and a kazoo on a bit of wire round his neck... that doesn't come close to describing this chap:

The drumming is good - that he's doing it one handed is brilliant! If you had only heard the track without seeing him perform, would you have guessed that he was doing it live and all by himself?

I can't quite remember who directed me to these videos but feel free to claim the credit in a comment. I can't see that I'll have another of these posts in the near future but if you want to make some suggestions...

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Free Download Tuesday... Again!

This is getting to be a habit! For the second week in a row, I decided to post a music download early rather than wait until Friday.

Today's download is from the latest supergroup to hit the Rock world - namely Them Crooked Vultures. The band consists of John Paul Jones (Led Zepplin) on bass, Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) on drums and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) on vocals and guitar. To be honest, they had me at John Paul Jones! Can't remember where I first heard about this band but I've been listening to the stuff they've made available on YouTube with interest.

However, today's Track of the Day from Classic Rock Magazine is Mind Eraser, No Chaser from Them Crooked Vultures. Brilliant. The Classic Rock site links you to iTunes where the track is available as a free download to anyone who finds their way there. (When I tried the link, for reasons unknown, it took me to the iTunes site in the USA, so here is a link directly to the UK iTunes page in case you have similar difficulties.)

This a strong track, but not my favourite, so I offer you the New Fang video from the official channel as well. Which track do you like best from the material available so far?

In closing, what's with supergoups and birds? First we have Chickenfoot and now Them Crooked Vultures. All suggestions for the next bird themed supergroup (name and line up) will be welcome. :-)

Friday, 30 October 2009

Free Download Friday #33: Rodrigo Y Gabriela

I was very tempted to keep Rodrigo Y Gabriela for a When musical worlds collide post. I may still feature them again at some point in the future but I decided the downloads available were too good to miss for a Free Download Friday.

Rodrigo and Gabriela are two Mexican musicians who are currently living in Dublin. They play a style of guitar that is normally described as flamenco metal. However, I don't feel this is fair to either flamenco or metal! What ever you call it, they are stunningly talented guitarists, playing a fast, percussive and powerful style on classical guitars.

I heard them on the radio ages ago and thought they sounded interesting but for some reason I did not seek out any of their recordings. However, when I went looking a couple of weeks back, I was pleased to discover three of their tracks were available on the rcrd lbl site. (I've talked about rcrd lbl once before and always meant to go an see what else of interest I could find there.)

The three downloads are:
  1. Diablo Rojo
  2. Buster Voodoo (Radio Edit)
  3. Orion
Of the three, my favourite is probably Diablo Rojo:

What do you think? What's your favourite track?

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Free Download... er... Tuesday?

I really wanted to keep this until Friday for a Free Download Friday post but I'm not sure exactly how long the offer will be available. The first time I read about it, I thought it was only going to be a week but Tom Russell seemed to suggest today that it was going to be available for a fortnight...

What am I taking about? Rock Radio are currently offering the new GUN single - Let Your Hair Down as a free download. Follow the link, enter your email address and download their new single. Excellent!

I generally like GUN's stuff but I must admit that on first listen, this one is only OK. Three stars on my iPod - which means it's earned it's place but isn't particularly special. However, as I say, it's only had one listen so far. It may be a grower...

The other reason I wanted to keep this until Friday is that the Rock Radio link takes you to the Townsend Records' site, which is currently offering a thirteen track sampler album as a free download. I've not had a chance to listen to more than a couple of tracks yet, but the names of the artists I recognise makes it look promising. For example, it has two tracks from Thunder and one from Ian Hunter. Interested?

Update: I added the following in a comment...

On subsequent listens, I decided I did like the GUN track and I'm not sure why I was so grumpy after the first listen. Of the Sampler album, I'd say the two Thunder tracks are the best but I really like the Toby Jepson track too.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Free Download Friday #32: Black Math Horseman

Following my Paint it Black post, I went looking for more bands with Black in their name. I found that I had a track on my iPod from Black Math Horseman - which I had more or less forgotten about.

Black Math Horseman
Originally uploaded by jeremiah3
I've mentioned Classic Rock Magazine's Track of the Day before and it turns out the track on my iPod came from there: Tee Pee Tuesday: Black Math Horseman. It's a great track, dark, brooding, progressive, noisy guitar - what's not to like? :-)

I decided to go and explore the Tee Pee Records website and was pleased to find a great deal available to download. For now I'll just offer a couple of Black Math Horseman related links.

First, an old news item with two Tracks for download: Black Math Horseman to release "Wyllt" on April 21st. The two tracks are Tyrant and Deerslayer. I love the guitar sound from the start of Tyrant - discordant and disturbing... and then an ethereal vocal kicks in which intensifies the discomfort. Then some grunged up guitar takes over... Excellent stuff! Deerslayer has a similarily dark opening as befits the title before a driving guitar picks up the pace. However, don't get too settled because the track continues to develop and challenge.

I'll explore the site further and see what else can be uncovered but I thought I'd finish with a link to the Online Sampler. Nineteen tracks (including Tyrant again) in a single zip file. I've only had a chance for a quick listen so far but there was plenty that jumped out even on the quick once through I gave it. I suspect that before too long, I'll be featuring Tee Pee records again in a Free Download Friday.

Let me know what tracks you like from the sampler. Who catches your ear?

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Teach Yourself Guitar: Progress So Far...

Back in the middle of August, I said I was going to try and teach myself guitar using computer based and online tutorials. Initially, I said I'd report back in a month.

Unfortunately, progress has been slow. If I had been trying to match Ortis's achievement, I think I would have failed miserably! However, I thought I'd better show you where I am... prepare to be disappointed!

Mostly I've been using the Learn To Play feature in GarageBand. I think it's really good. Each lesson starts with the tutor taking you through the stuff you need to know (chords, strumming patterns, guitar tabs etc.) before giving you a backing track to play along to. So here are three videos, with some commentary. All constructive criticism gratefully received.

As I listened back to this video, I became aware of the way I was strumming. It was a chunka-chunka-chunka-pause, chunka-chunka-chunka-pause, chunka-chunka-chunka-pause,... style. The pause happened every time I changed chord. Clearly this isn't good. Yet I was completely unaware that I was doing it until I heard this video. I guess this is one place a where a face to face tutor would score over a virtual tutor as this would have been picked up much earlier.

A few weeks ago, I was browsing the Guitar Savvy site and I realise that when forming the D minor chord, my thumb was slipping down and lying along the neck instead of staying at right angles to it. Again, not good and again, probably would have been spotted by a face-to-face tutor. Another bad habit that has to be unlearned. And again, the pause in the strumming pattern just about every chord change. :-(

Disastrous! Constant, driving strum - fail! Muted strings to give cool, percussive sound in verse part - fail! Elbow not tucked in to avoid awkward wrist position - fail! Add to that my inability to play at anything like the full speed and the extreme pain caused by trying to play these power chords and we are talking unbelievably pathetic fail. Sigh!

So, am I learning anything? Am I getting better? I think so. I do like the GarageBand lessons. I especially like the way you can slow the playback speed down until you learn what you're doing. You can also put sections on repeat to practise them over and over again. It works. I'm enjoying myself. I think I'm getting better.

A feature that I haven't used yet, which may help me improve, is that GarageBand can record you playing along to the backing track. Given how much I learned listening to these videos, I think this is a feature I will have to use from now on.

Finally, I want to mention the guitar I'm playing. It's the one Daughter Number 2 built at Bailey Guitars - the one I won from Rock Radio. It is gorgeous to look at, sounds great (when played by someone that knows what they are doing) and easy to play - much easier to play that the Squire Stratocaster that I practise on. I cannot recommend Bailey Guitars highly enough.

Update: Just posted some reflections on the learning process on my Education blog.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Paint it Black

I think it was the chaps on the Classic Rock Progcast that first brought Crippled Black Pheonix to my attention. I was pleased to discover that some of the work was available for download from eMusic and so I acquired 200 Tons of Bad Luck. This is a great album. I would describe it as progressive rock but other descriptions I've seen include ambient and post-rock. Probably my favourite track is 444 which includes samples of Donald Sutherland as Oddball from the film Kelly's Heroes. "Crazy! I mean like so many positive waves maybe we can't lose! You're on!" Brilliant.

Black Rainbow
Originally uploaded by The Kozy Shack
Then, I discovered The Black Keys. I'm not sure where I first heard about these chaps but, again, I was pleased to discover them on eMusic. I downloaded Rubber Factory and really like it. Stripped back, lo-fi Blues that sound a bit like The White Stripes in approach and feel but much more blusey.

It struck me as I listened to these two albums that both bands had the word black in their name, not a particularly profound observation I realise but I started thinking of other artists with the word black in their name.
I realised that I couldn't think of a single group with the word black in their name that I didn't like. I thought I'd discovered the secret to musical success... just use the word Black in your bands name!

And then with crashing horror, I remembered Black Lace and my theory was blown completely out the water!

Over to you
Is that the exception that proves the rule? Can you think of any other examples either for or against the proposition that bands with the word black in their name are worth listening too?

(Small Print: I've talked about eMusic before. Please note that if you sign up after following the links on this blog, I get a few extra downloads for sending you in their direction. You can get fifty free downloads just for checking them out and, as long as you remember to cancel your subscription, those fifty downloads are yours to keep for free. However, I think you will find plenty of music to download if you choose to pay your money and sign up fully.)

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Free Download Friday #31: Alestorm

Anyone for True Scottish Pirate Metal? Now I appreciate that this is not a question you hear everyday, so perhaps some explanation is required...

Originally uploaded by Seldaek
Alestorm are a band from Scotland who produce what describes as Folk Metal. However, for reasons that are not entirely clear, they make pirate themed folk metal. Perhaps they were enjoying Talk Like A Pirate Day, when all of a sudden, the wind changed and they were stuck like that.

There are a couple of videos on Naplam Records' pages that will give you a feel for their look and their sound. There is also a three minute sound clip for download on their promo page, but, to get a whole track, in all its awesome silliness, go to where you can download Captain Morgan´s Revenge. Six minutes and forty-two seconds worth of true Scottish pirate metal. Brilliant!

Finally, I can't resist some pirate themed jokes:

Why are they called Alestorm? They just aaarrrrr!

What is Alestorm's favourite shop? Aaarrrgos!

How do they get their gear from one gig to the net? By aaarrrticulaed lorry.

What do they call their fans at a gig? A vast aaarrrmy.

Perhaps not the best pirate jokes in the world, but can you do any better?

P.S. If anyone from Naplam Records reads this, can I say I'm impressed with the amount of audio and video that you have made available on your website. However, the three minute music clips are extremely frustrating. If you don't want to give away a full track, that's fair enough; a short sample of thirty seconds or so will give the flavour of the track. Three minutes though is enough to really get you into the track - enough to make it annoying when it suddenly fades beore the end. I may be a lone voice here, but I would rather have a very short sample than a frustratingly truncated three minutes worth. Actually, I'd rather have a whole track for download... but I'm taking that as read. :-)

Monday, 12 October 2009

The Times Giveaway

This Saturday, The Times newspaper gave away an R.E.M. live album as a free download from iTunes. They claim it is a first for a British newspaper... and who am I to disagree? They also say that the paper will be giving away more free songs all this week.

R.E.M. @ Doctor Loft
Originally uploaded by Quique López
I have talked before about sponsorship as a model of distributing music free to fans while still generating revenue for artists and it seems to me that a download model must be more cost effective for newspapers than cover mounted CDs. I expect therefore that, although the giveaway from The Times may be a first, it will not be the last. I'm guessing that iTunes is sharing some of the cost of this distribution in some way and that the hope is it will bring new business to both the Times and iTunes. And, although R.E.M. are already a major band, I guess they hope it will generate interest in their new live material.

I'm not sure yet what music the Times will be giving away this week as I can't find any information on their website. The only thing I could see is a post that Mr Hudson's Supernova is currently on offer as a download from their website However, this seems to be download in exchange for signing up to a mailing list rather than an iTunes link.

I'll let you know what the downloads as and when I find out myself.

What do you think of sponsorship as a model for distributing music? Do you know of any other examples?

Update: It looks like it is single downloads rather than whole albums this week. Unfortunately, you only have until 23:59 to download the track, so I missed the Monday download because I only got around to checking the paper just after midnight. Scunner! (The R.E.M. download window of opportunity was longer - I had from Saturday until Monday.) In case you want to buy the paper and get a download, the downloads for the rest of the week are:

Tuesday: Newton Faulkner "If This Is It"
Wednesday: Placebo “Battle For The Sun”
Thursday: Seasick Steve “Didley Bo”
Friday: Speech Debelle “The Key”
Saturday: David Gray “First Chance”

Friday, 9 October 2009

Free Download Friday #30: The Answer

After last week's more mellow free downloads, I thought something more straightforward was in order this week. So I've found some no nonsense rock.

The Answer are a Blues Rock outfit from Northern Ireland and they have featured in a Free Download Friday before (Free Download Friday #16) because they had a track in the ReverbNation offer. This time, the link is from the band's own site and, in exchange for your email address you can download Highwater or Hell.

Highwater or Hell is a belter of a track. A great opening riff that keeps on coming to hook you in and a great solo about 2 minutes in.

I was convinced enough by these tracks to get their current album. What do you think?

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

When musical worlds collide #2

When I wrote When musical worlds collide a couple of months ago, it never occurred to me that I'd be writing a follow up...

To break you in gently, how about some swing?

Mike Flowers had a fairly big hit with this cover but perhaps Richard Cheese is better known in the US:

Some of Richard's Christmas songs are awesome and worth checking out if you are looking for an alternative to Wham's Last Christmas. :-)

Stepping up the pace a bit is the genius that is Ade Edmondson and various Folk music worthies doing bizarre things to punk classics.

I heard them live on the radio and I suspect you have to see them live to appreciate their true genius.

Ramping it up again, but still just about clinging on to easy listening are the Red Hot Chilli Pipers:

Really not sure what to make of these chaps. It almost works but it almost makes me ashamed to be Scottish too!

And finally, to blow away the cobwebs, an a cappella group. If you are a certain age, perhaps you are thinking Swingle Singers. If you are a bit younger, perhaps you are picturing The Flying Pickets. If so, hang on to your hats and prepare to be assaulted by Van Canto.

Thanks to Mosher for bringing this one to my attention.

That's all I can add just now... unless you know can think of some others...

Friday, 2 October 2009

Free Download Friday #29: Mellow Metal

I remarked to a student recently that I couldn't see the attraction of Slipknot. My preference is for classic, progressive and blues oriented rock, though I'm not adverse to a bit of metal now and then. What little I've heard of Slipknot hasn't impressed. However, the student suggested I should give Stone Sour a try, a band founded by the lead vocalist from Slipknot.

Stone Sour Download

Originally uploaded by Andy_Pattison
To my surprise, I discovered that I had a Stone Sour track on my iPod already. It came from a Classic Rock magazine cover mounted CD. I'd given it five stars. To be honest, it had never occurred to me that there was any connection with Slipknot as the Stone Sour track has a very different feel to it. The track is called Through Glass and is beautifully melodic with a an acoustic beginning and a great noisy rock climax.

I decided to look far something else of theirs to listen to and found my way to their label's site - Roadrunner Records. Roadrunner Records featured in my very first Free Download Friday post and so it is about time I checked back there to see what was new. I was pleased to see a Stone Sour track available for download. The track is off their Come What(ever) May album and is called Zzyzx Rd. The best description I can come up with for it is: power ballad. Piano features heavily at the start of the track and Corey Taylor sounds lost and vulnerable as his vocals join the piano. I must look for the lyrics to see what this track is about because even as the other instruments kick in and Corey's voice becomes stronger, the sense of vulnerability remains. The guitar solo that features towards the end is well worth hearing. It is loose but controlled in a way the fits perfectly with the mood of the song - beautiful. As I said, I'm not sure what the song is about but it reminds me a bit of Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb - in tone at least. It has the feel of a song by someone who has reached the bottom.

Re-reading the last couple of sentences, it doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement but I like this track (four stars on my iPod) and I strongly recommend you check it out.

Black Stone Cherry Download
While you are at the Roadrunner site, you should also look for Black Stone Cherry. Currently they are offering Things My Father Said for download, another ballad. A bit different from the Southern Rock sound that has made them famous but a track that's had a fair bit of airplay on Rock Radio and one that's definitely grown on me.

And Finally...

I don't know whether to be pleased or worried that Jeff (from Totally Free Music) also headed over to Roadrunner Records to recommend a free download this week. Is it that great minds think alike or a case of fools that seldom differ? First Suburban Home recordings and now Roadrunner. Hopefully next week we'll end up in different places. :-)

Sorry that things have been so quiet in this blog but I was too busy over the last week with education stuff. I'll try to do better next week.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Free Download Friday #28: Lita Ford

I think I have mentioned Classic Rock Magazine's Track of the Day before. Relatively recently, they gave a link to a free download from Lita Ford.

Lita Ford 24
Originally uploaded by Shadowgate
The download is of a track called Crave. It sounds quite dark and brooding.

Perhaps Lita's vocals don't quite have the right level of menace for this track, however, they've brought in a backing vocalist (not sure who) with a good metalish growl. I think it works - it certainly gives a good contrast to Lita's voice in this track.

I hope you enjoy it too. Let me know what you think. Also, have you discovered any of Classic Rock's downloads that are especially worth listening to?

Download: Crave

Monday, 21 September 2009

More Sponsored Music

I have posted before on sponsorship as a way of rewarding the artists while allowing fans to download music for free. To that end, I probably should have noted the Coke Zone promotion over the Summer where Coke were giving away a free iTunes download with every bottle of coke purchased. The downloads were from a very limited subset of iTunes downloads but there was plenty there of interest. Among other things, I managed to download an entire Wolfmother album. :-)

キットカット Kit-Kat
Originally uploaded by kamoda
Unfortunately, with the summer fading already, the Coke summer promotion seems to be over too. However, just as one sponsored free download offer closes, another opens up!

Now it is Kit Kat that is offering free downloads (In the UK and ROI at least). Inside every clearly labelled Kit Kat Perfect Break wrapper is a unique code number that can be entered into the Perfect Break site and turned into a free download. It appears that you are limited to five downloads per account but the downloads are high quality MP3 files with no DRM in sight. :-)

The site claims to have hundreds of thousands of tracks available for download, and although I haven't counted them all, there is certainly a wide range of tracks available, so I have no reason to doubt them! I'm not sure why they have gone for such a low limit of five songs but apart from that quibble, I am impressed with what Kit Kat have made available for free.

First Coke, then Kit Kat. Who's next?

Friday, 18 September 2009

Free Download Friday #27: More from Suburban Home Records

It seems a bit of a cheat to feature Suburban Home Records twice in the one week (see Suburban Home Records) but they have so much stuff available for free download, I couldn't resist highlighting a couple in a Free Download Friday post.

Austin Lucas 8.6.09 - 02
Originally uploaded by elawgrrl
Of the tracks on the media page that I've had a chance to listen to so far, the band I've liked the best is On High. They don't seem to have an album on Surburban Home Records but they do have a demo EP with three tracks that can be downloaded for free.

I especially like the track Pain You. A real classic rock/metal sound but a track that goes beyond the standard fare and it has definite leanings toward prog rock. Aparently they hoped to release an album in the spring of 2008 but for whatever reason, it doesn't seem to have come together.

I gave a link to the media page on my previous post but Jeff also found a free sample album they made available earlier this year which has a number of tracks not available for download elsewhere.

There are hours of material available! Brilliant! I hope the chance to access all this material for free broadens and expands Suburban Home Records fan base and that they find giving away samples like this pays off in the long run.

Certainly, I'll be keeping an eye on the Suburban Home Records and checking out some of their roster more thoroughly - especially since much of it seems to be available through eMusic.

(Small Print: I've talked about eMusic before and provide the link here for you if you want to check it out yourself. Please note that if you sign up after following the links on this blog, I get a few extra downloads for sending you in their direction.)

Monday, 14 September 2009

Suburban Home Records

Suburban Home Records is celebrating its 14th birthday by offering everyone a free album. You give them your email before the end of September and they let you choose any album from their back catalogue. Call me old-fashioned but I thought on your birthday, people gave you gifts! ...Not that I'm complaining though.

I thought about keeping this until Friday and I may revisit it on a Friday, but it is such a brilliant deal and there is so much to chose from, I thought letting you know earlier was better than later.

It was Jeff at Totally Free Music that alerted me to this one but we both have the same problem... we don't know enough about the artists to decide which album to get. (Not the worst problem to have!). In his post about this offer (Free album from Suburban Home Records), he has asked for people to give him suggestions. I thought I'd have a go with Google forms.

Over the next few days, I'll be listening to tracks from their regular download page and posting reviews. The form I'm using is shown below, so feel free to add your own reviews. The results can be seen in this Google Doc spreadsheet. Hopefully, before the deadline of the end of September, there will be a few reviews of the free tracks to help guide you to the right CD for you.

Why not choose a couple of tracks you like the look of and add some reviews?

Friday, 11 September 2009

Free Download Friday #26: Dave Arcari

Another short and sweet post today and more free downloads from

The artist is called Dave Arcari and I came across his name because he writes a blog for Rock Radio. The tracks available on are Got Me Electric and Soul Of A Man. They should give you a good idea of what Dave sounds like. Essentially we are talking dirty slide guitar, gruff and gritty vocals and a style of blues that borrows heavily from punk, country and rockabilly.

Check him out and let me know what you think.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Concert Memories #01: Hawkwind

My first ever concert was going to be to see Rush. I think I may even have bought the tickets. Then my friend said we should go and see Hawkwind. I was 14 years old, I had only just been introduced to rock music and I had never heard of Hawkwind... but I agreed to go anyway.

I suspect it was the first concert any of us had ever been to. You can see how little we knew about concerts because we bought tickets for the Circle. (We thought that was the posh seats and that we'd have a better view!) The tickets cost £1.50, which seems unbelievably cheap by today's standards. However, I earned £0.80 a week from my paper round, so it cost me two weeks' wages!

As I found out more about Hawkwind, I did get slightly concerned. I was worried that we'd be surrounded by drug using hippies. And when I heard about Stacia, I started to panic that my parents would hear about her too and that I wouldn't be allowed to go. (Actually, since I was only 14, I am amazed I was allowed to go at all. We went in on the train and came back late at night on our own. Different times!)

Needless to say, Stacia had left the band some time before and when we got to the concert, as far as I could tell, there were no drug using hippies anywhere in sight (or scent).

To be honest, I remember very little about this, my first concert, and my first experience of the legendary Glasgow Apollo. I remember thinking it was one of the best events that I'd ever attended. I remember that it was loud. I remember enjoying the music and afterwards, I bought the album they were promoting: Quark, Strangeness and Charm - an album I still really enjoy listening to. And I remember that I couldn't wait to go to more concerts... lots more.

I loved it! I loved the spectacle. I loved the noise. And most of all, I loved the excitement generated by the live event. I was hooked.

How much do you remember about your first concert? What is it about live music that makes it so exciting?

Monday, 7 September 2009

7 Digital: Free downloads

This was almost a Free Music Friday post but the downloads seem too transient so I thought I'd do it as a normal post...

The Googly eyePod
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
A few weeks ago, W H Smith's were selling magazines with a code for ten free downloads from 7digital attached. I signed up for the 7digital site for free (no credit card details necessary), had a look around and downloaded my ten tracks. They sell a good range of mp3 tracks (and audiobooks) which have no DRM restrictions which seem to be reasonably priced and the ten free track were downloaded without any fuss.

As part of the sign in process, I agreed to get email updates from 7digital - updates which contain details of weekly free downloads. Mostly these seem to be from up and coming bands, however this week's downloads included the Black Crowes, so it looks like they do some established acts too. Unfortunately, the track is the same one that I featured in Free Download Friday #22: Black Crowes. :-(

Also in the Editors choice is a track from Kyte. It turns out to be a cover of Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill - a cover that rips the heart out of a fantastic track (IMHO). However, as a huge Gabriel fan, perhaps I'm not entirely unbiased. Anyone want to defend Kyte's cover?

The Black Crowes and Kyte tracks are from four identified as the "Editor's Choice" but there are a load of other tracks on the Free MP3 Dowloads page. The only free download that leapt out at me this week was Richter Scale Madness by ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead but I'm sure there are others there worth investigating.

I'm not on commission from 7digital but thought that a site making a good number of tracks available like this for free download was worth mentioning.

Any thoughts on other free tracks from 7digital that are worth a listen

Friday, 4 September 2009

Free Download Friday #25: The Aurora Project

Short and sweet today. Some free prog rock downloads from

The band are called The Aurora Project and has three progtastic tracks available as free downloads. Of the three tracks available (photonic Reunion, The Betrayal and The Untold Prophecy) I think photonic Reunion is my favourite.

What do you think? Progtastic or progpoor?

Thursday, 3 September 2009

The day the music revived

Back in March I wrote about about how YouTube had blocked music videos (YouTube and PRS Fall Out). Today, the ban was lifted and PRS and Google seem to have come to some agreement. You can read about it in the BBC News report: YouTube Lifts Music Video Block.

It's not clear who the winner was but now music fans can enjoy music videos legally on YouTube... like this one from Parlophone Records. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Help Logan... again

I wrote about Logan in Free Download Friday #16: Logan and then did another post later about how they wanted support to do well in a competition (Logan need your vote). Well they are looking for help again...

Logan are listed on the Sign Me To Roadrunner Records site. The basic idea of this site is bands put themselves up, and music fan rate the band and their music. If you want to help, go to the Sign Me To Roadrunner Records site, sign up as a scout and start rating bands. And if you like Logan half as much as I do, go to their page, rate their music and give them some feedback. At the moment, most of the comments are positive but for some reason, their ratings are fairly low.

I think Logan would be a great addition to the Roadrunner roster and would benefit from the exposure that would come from signing to a label like that. The only problem I can foresee is that currently, Roadrunner artists don't seem to be on eMusic. Their excellent album Cruel Little World is there and it would be a pity if signing to a major label means that I can't download their new stuff from eMusic. However, I'm willing to make that sacrifice if it means they get the fame they deserve. :-)