Friday, 24 December 2010

Free Music Friday #84: Happy Christmas from the girls

Last week's post was Free Music Friday #83: Happy Christmas from the boys, or at least from mostly male vocalists. This week it's the turn of the girls, or at least mostly female vocalists.

Not much time today since there is loads to do with it being Christmas Eve (It's a Wonderful Life at the GFT and choir at the Watchnight Service among other things) so without further ado...
  • Sweet Bells by Kate Rusby. A few years ago, a friend won tickets for Celtic Connections. What I remember mostly is that there was a lot of fiddling about on fiddles. Mostly it's a style of music I don't listen to, so I'm ashamed to say I remember nothing about any of the artists or the tunes they played. The one exception is Kate Rusby, who played a belter of a set. Just her, and acoustic guitar and her distinctive and memorable voice. This Christmas track reminded me why I was impressed the first time I heard her.
  • Last Christmas by The Puppini Sisters. A 1940s, Andrews Sisters-style, retro version of this Wham Christmas song. (The page linked to from the song title has a couple of other downloads you might want to check out too.)
  • Santa's On His Way by The Pipettes. You wait all Christmas for one retro female vocal band to come along... but this time it's more Phil Spector than 1940s.
  • No Cure For The Common Christmas by Saint Etienne. Great title and breathy vocals. Another fine free download from those nice people at RCRD.LBL.
  • O Holy Night by Trin-i-tee 5:7. A gospel trio sing too many notes... but it sounds good anyway.
That's all I've got time for just now. Off to see Jimmy Stewart.

Hope you have enjoyed the Advent posts and that you have a great Christms.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Another Christmas Bonus

Nearly two weeks ago, Jeff over at Free Christmas Music linked to the Canadian 12 Days of HMVDigital site and a day or two ago, they gave away a track from Straight No Chaser - an a cappella group. The track was Who Spiked the Eggnog? I was pleased because I already had a track from the same group that I got last year which I really liked but I must admit, I found the new download a bit of a disappointment.

It made me go back and look at the source of the track I enjoyed last year; a track called Hark The Herald Angels Sing/Angels We Have Heard On High. It is from a site called Feels Like Christmas and I think it was Jeff that led me to it originally. I realised that there were a few tracks on the site that I'd enjoyed last year but that I hadn't linked to it. If you read Jeff's site, perhaps you already know about these tracks but in case you don't, here are some of my favourites. (Note, there is no easy way to link directly to the specific section with the download, so the link takes you to the right page but once there, you'll need to look for the track yourself!)
That's some of the tracks that caught my attention. Do you have any favourites I've missed?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Credit Where Credit Is Due...

A few posts ago, I complained that Amazon UK had very few free MP3s for download compared to Amazon USA (see Christmas @ Amazon - Bah. Humbug!).

Free place to sleep
Originally uploaded by Brad Stabler
Well, credit where credit is due because today I saw the following Tweet from @AmazonUK:
For a limited time only, we've got over 1,200 free tracks now live on site. Yes, over 1,200. Take a look.
Let's get the negatives out the way first. The vast majority of the free tracks are from artists that I've never heard of and, given the lack of customer reviews on most pages, it looks like hardly anyone else has heard of them either. This in itself is not necessarily a bad thing - giving unsigned/little-known artists a major platform like Amazon to set out their stall is good. But, compared to the many well known names available on the US site, it's a bit frustrating to see so many pages of artists that you don't know.

Now the positive; there's good stuff in there - including a few Christmas tunes. First, some non-Christmas tunes that caught my eye:
And some Christmas tracks:
Thought I should post theses now rather than wait until Friday because of the "limited time" comment. Let me know if I've missed any I should be downloading.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Free Music Friday #83: Happy Christmas from the boys

Second last Friday in Advent and, although I was worried about not having four songs when I started this year, I now find I have a load of downloads and only two weeks to go. I'm therefore going to give a pile of links with minimal review. This week, I'll start with downloads from the boys and next week, it will be the turn of the girls. (Unless I come across something really interesting between now and then!)

But I'm going to start with a streamed track rather than one for download. Last week I embedded a video from Black Stone Cherry singing Santa Claus Is Back In Town (see Free Music Friday #82: Happy Christmas from Joe Bonamassa). I said at the time, I couldn't find the track for download but it is now being streamed on their record company's site. This is an out and out Rock version of a Blues classic and I love it... but I think I would have preferred a version with the Blues harp like they performed in the video I posted last week!

So on with the list of downloads:
  • Downhere: I really like their version of Good King Wenceslas (apart from the odd beginning). Sign up with the widget below to get the free download.
  • Casting Crowns: While You Were Sleeping. A bit of politics and a bit USA-centric, slightly over produved... but it has a nice feel to it. (Also, the band has a couple women in it but it's a male vocal, so I'm including it in this weeks downloads.)
  • 33 Miles: Joy To The World. Upbeat and slightly updated take on this song. Almost completely wrecked though, by cute kid section at the end! (Note, you need to create a login before you can download.)
  • Mercyme: If you create a login to get the 33 Miles track, you might as well get Silent Night while you are there. It's alright but not my cup of tea.
  • Great Transparency: O Holy Night. Driving guitars and good fun.
  • Miaoux Miaoux: Snow and Snow (Remix). Electronica pop/rock - Not sure if it is about Christmas but certainly winterish.

  • Rockapella: A capella version of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. I think this is my favourite out of this week's downloads.

A bit of something for everyone this week? What's your favourite? (Or do you dislike them all?)

Friday, 10 December 2010

Free Music Friday #82: Happy Christmas from Joe Bonamassa

Joe Bonamassa featured in last year's Advent downloads (see Free Download Friday #40: Final Friday in Advent) thanks to his excellent version of Merry Christmas Baby (which is still available for download on the record company's site).

Just yesterday though, I got an email from him (I assume he sends them to me personally even though it looks like a form letter) with this year's Christmas download: Joe Bonamassa - Happy Holidays. In exchange for your email, you get to download his take on Santa Claus Is Back In Town.

I'm not sure if the track starts with a sample from the Elvis version or if Joe has just managed to get his backing singers to do a passible imitation of The Jordanaires but either way, it sets up the Christmas feel perfectly for Joe to pick it up and run with. Now I have to admit that vocally, Mr Bonamassa isn't a match for Mr Presley but but for screaming Blues guitar solos, Joe's version wins hands down. This is a great Christmas track. I hope that Joe Bonamassa releasing a free Christmas download is now established as an annual event!
For another take on the same song, here is some backstage video from Black Stone Cherry:

Apparently they streamed their version of this song on Myspace last year but at the moment it is nowhere to be found on the Internet (or at least, I can't find it). It seems, however, that it was played on Rock Radio the other day so I'm vaguely hopeful that they are going to make it properly available as even the rough video clip embedded above, with its poor audio quality, hints at another interesting take on the song.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Christmas @ Amazon - Bah. Humbug!

I find it extremely frustrating to see a Tweet or the result of a Google search that promises free Christmas music, only to be taken to the Amazon USA site where, since I do not live in the USA, I cannot download. It seems that there are bucket loads of free mp3s available at the US site compared the the dozen or so available at Amazon UK.

Specifically, I am miffed because I was looking for online Advent calendars (see Advent Calendars: Take 2) when I came across Amazon's 25 Days of Free. It looks brilliant... but is for USA only. Bah!

Is it simply down to scale? Can Amazon USA offer more free stuff because they are so much bigger? Is it down to the record companies who have bizarre ideas about protecting markets in different regions?

To be fair to Amazon, they are not the only music service that suffers from this problem. The USA just seems to have a bigger choice of legal music downloads in the first place. If anyone can shed some light, I'd be genuinely interested to know why customers outside the USA get such a poor deal.

Also, to be fair to Amazon, there are other music sites that gave away free downloads last year but do not seem to be doing so this year. For example, iTunes UK gave away music and TV shows last year on the run up to Christmas and also had the Holiday Sampler (see Free Download Friday #39: iTunes Holiday Sampler). This year though, no sign of any freebies.

I follow @AmazonMP3UK on Twitter and occasionally there is an announcement of a free download but usually, they are announcing new product or discounts. For example, their most recent message said: "Yep, it's December, so instead of getting the same three versions of the same three Christmas songs, check this out..." The link takes you to a couple of pages with some alternatives to the usual suspects you hear every Christmas. One of the offerings is Elvis' Christmas Album, which at £2.57 is not as good as a free download but is still a real bargain.

There are a few other albums in there that look interesting but I have some already thanks to eMusic. {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 free credit for downloads just for signing up and, as long as you remember to cancel your subscription before a month is up, those downloads are yours to keep. I suspect though that there will be plenty there to convince you to keep your subscription going.}

Some Christmas albums that you could spend your free credit on include:

Friday, 3 December 2010

Free Download Friday #81: Poly Styrene - First Friday in Advent

It looks like last week's pre-advent Christmas download from Paul Simon (see Free Download Friday #80) is still active, so I guess the site that told me it was only going to be available for four days was wrong... which is excellent news. This means that you will get five Christmas themed Free Friday Downloads this year instead of four!

The first official Advent download though comes from Poly Styrene. If you are about my age, and from the UK, you might just recognise the name. She was the lead singer in X-Ray Specs in the mid to late seventies. Unfortunately, although I recognise the name, I am not familiar with her back catalogue. The problem is, when I was a teenager in the seventies, you could either like Punk or Rock... and I liked Rock.

It seems though that Ms Styrene is about to launch a new album and to whet our appetites, she is giving away a Christmas track that will not feature on her album. The track is called Black Christmas and you should be able to get it from this widget:

Or failing that, you can hear it streamed from the wonderful RCRD.LBL site:

And, you can also download it from the RCRD.LBL site.

It is a great track although the lyrics are quite dark in places:
I never knew a very merry Christmas
Santa Claus was a real bad guy
I’m dreaming of a Black Black Christmas
But the darkness is undercut by a the bouncing Reggae beat - try listening to it without bobbing your head! And if you turn up the volume, prepare to have your teeth rattled by the bass line.

Something Old

As well as giving a link to something new, I thought I'd link to something from last year that I didn't manage to feature. Or at least, this time, it's something I thought I'd missed last year. (See What a nightmare! I missed it.) In 2009, Nightmare Records gave away an album, or rather a double album, called Merry Metal Christmas, with more than two hours of free music. I thought I'd missed it but either, they've re-instated it or I was looking in the wrong place.

I am not a huge fan of the screaming "Wooorrrarrghh!" style of Metal but the tracks on this album are very much in the Melodic Metal mould and some are even a bit Progressive.

Although it is called Merry Metal Christmas, there are only three tracks that are Christmas themed. I guess the rest are Christmas presents rather than about Christmas. You have to download the lot because they come bundled together in two zip files but the three Christmas tracks are:
  1. Bethlehem by Theocracy
  2. Wicked Land of Winter by Sacred Dawn
  3. The Chronicles of Jacob Marley by Order of Nine
And all of them are jolly good. I did think Kings will Come by Narnia might have been about the journey of the Magi but it seems to be about kingdoms rising and falling instead and, despite not being a Christmas song, I think it is one of my favourites. Although most of the album is not really Christmassy, there is still good stuff there that will be worth listening to in January.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Free Download Friday #80: Papa Roach (and possible Christmas bonus)

Another sponsored free download this week - from Zippo Lighters no less!

I suppose Zippo want to be associated with "wave your lighters in the air" moments at concerts and so have created a music site called Zippo Encore. To be honest though, the last concert I was at where that sort of thing happened, it was mobile phones that were waved in the air rather than lighters - is this a side effect of the smoking ban?

Currently, Zippo have three tracks for download on their Encore page: All Lies from Quarterfly; Live Like TV from The So So Glos; and the one that really caught my eye, Burn from Papa Roach.

I pretty much associate Papa Roach with the Nu-metal and Rap Metal style and still love their first album - Infest. I am not so familiar with their more recent output but it seems they have moved more towards a more Hard Rock style. Perhaps this explains the report on the Zippo site that they were not entirely happy with their old record label releasing a greatest hits package that (inevitably) doesn't reflect their newer sound.

Certainly, Burn is a belter of a Rock track. The opening few seconds sounds a bit Linkin Park-ish, then the vocals and the rest of the band kick in and the track takes off. I especially like the chorus and I can see fans at gigs punching the air and bellowing out "Burn!" along with Mr Shaddix. (And I suppose Burn is a suitable title for a Zippo sponsored download!)

So zip over to Zippo's site now (sorry, I couldn't resist) and download a great Rock track now. (Although I should probably issue a Parental Advisory on the lyrics!)

Christmas Bonus (if you're quick)

Paul Simon is currently offering Getting Ready for Christmas Day as a free download:

I am hoping to do a Christmas themed download on the four Friday's before Christmas and would like to have held this track until then but I think this one is only available free for four days, so get it while you can.

Finally, although I am aiming for four Christmas downloads, Jeff has already started over at Free Christmas Music and hopes to do one a day on the run up to Christmas! I really like the first couple he has posted, so if you like Christmas music, go and check out his site.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Free Download Friday #79: Middle Class Rut

In general, I ty to feature artists here that I have some knowledge of and some previous listening history. This week, all I know about the band is what's in Wikipedia and all I've heard is the two free downloads I'm linking to here.

Originally uploaded by f minus
The band is called Middle Class Rut and like The Black Keys there are only two of them in the band but despite this they manage to produce an incredible racket! Their sound is out and out rock. And raw, visceral rock at that!

One track can be downloaded from the Bright Antenna site and is called Thought I Was. In exchange for your email, you get to download four minutes and thirty-eight seconds worth of full on rock... well full on apart from the quirky bit at the end. Currently, their record company is giving away this free track in exchange for your email.

This next track was featured in an NME Daily Download post last year. It is called 25 Years and is four minutes of screaming vocals, noisy guitars and pounding drums. What's not to like?

As I said, this is a band that I know next to nothing about but on the strength of these two tracks, it is a band that I will actively pursue from now on.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Motörhead update

Friday afternoon, the beer people announced they had made another 10,000 copies of the Bluesed up version of Ace Of Spades available for download - see Free Download Friday #76: Motörhead play the Blues for details.

Go get one while stocks last!

Update on the update: That's them gone again! If you have Spotify though you can hear it in full there: Ace Of Spades (Slow Version) or you can listen to the Beer company's Slowed Down Tracks playlist.

Free Download Friday #78: Beady Eye

There is a long history of Rock siblings falling out with each other but the Gallaghers of Oasis are probably beaten only by Ray and Dave Davies from The Kinks on the battling brothers front!

When Noel walked out, the remains of Oasis, with a few additional personnel, formed Beady Eye. Their first public output is a track called Bring The Light and it is currently available as a free download (along with five graphics):

The Oasis lineage is clear (which is a good thing in my opinion), it belts along at a good pace and Liam's vocals are at his snarling best. I like it.

What do you think? Does Liam without Noel work?

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Free Download Friday #77: Apocalyptica

Just last week, this would have been a When Musical Worlds Collide post. This week, thanks to those nice people at Rock Radio, it is a Free Download post instead because I won tickets to a Secret Session they hosted last week.

I have won tickets to Secret Sessions before (see the Secret Session tag), so I knew how they worked. There is an intimate venue, a small but select audience and a band playing a short unplugged set. This time, the band in question was Apocalyptica. If you have never heard of them, try to imagine three classically trained cellists from Finland playing Rock and Metal. Struggling to imagine it? Then have a look at this video from the band's website:

Their secret session was outstandingly good! They only played four songs, two with a vocalist and two where it was just the three cellists. The stripped back nature of the Secret Session and the intimate (i.e. small) venue allowed you to concentrate on the music and the musicianship... and both were excellent. Even the drummer sounded great and his "drums" were the box he was sitting on!out
Rock Radio videoed the event, so you can see and hear for yourself what it was like.
So when are we getting to the free download I hear you ask? Well, I'm glad you asked because when I won the invite to the secret session, I had a look around to see what I could find out about Apocalyptica. One of the things I found was, that in exchange for signing up to their newsletter, Apocalyptica are currently offering a free download of At The Gates Of Manala. So sign up, download, enjoy!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Free Download Friday #76: Motörhead play the Blues

Last week it was cars (see Free Download Friday #75: Green Police). This week it's beer. I wouldn't normally combine drinking and driving but in this case, I'm making an exception.

Mr. Lemmy Kilmister
Originally uploaded by Edvill
I am, however, sorry that this is the second advert associated free download in a row but this one was too good to miss. Motörhead have re-recorded Ace Of Spades for a beer commercial... and it sounds awesome.

They have slowed it right down, taken out the bass and added a harmonica. It has gone from a 90mph rock classic to a down and dirty Blues track. Lemmy's growls his way through the lyrics and sounds better than ever.

There has been a change to the lyrics too. After he sings, "I don't want to live for ever", there is a pause before he adds, "But apparently I am!"

Since it is being used in a beer advert, to get the track you have to enter a date of birth as well as giving a valid email address but it is a small price to pay to get access to this re-imagining of a classic!

I would love to hear a whole album of unplugged Bluesed-up versions of classic Motörhead tracks. I suspect it's not likely to happen but it would be fascinating if it did!

{Public health warning: If you are interested in living for ever; Lemmy is probably not the best role model!}

Update: A message from the beer people on the YouTube channel says:
"We've run out of downloads for the slow version of Ace of Spades! Working hard to get some more. Thanks for all your support and for digging the track. Follow us on Twitter @k1664slow for updates."
Well that's poor! I guess they completely underestimated how many people would want to download it. Silly Billies! You can still watch the ad on YouTube but it's not the same as getting the whole track for download. Sorry, clearly this is not my best ever Free Download Friday!

Update 2: A Twitter message posted Friday 12 November said they have made another 10,000 available. Go get one while they last!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Alex The Actor

I've been meaning to post this for a while. Isorski, on his Isorski's Musings site drew my attention to the following video in his Alex Lifeson's Acting Debut - Video post.

Alex seems to have adopted The Beatles they're-gonna-put-me-in-the-movies style of acting; that is, he's just acting naturally! The Internet Movie Database lists Trailer Park Boys: The Movie as his first movie and the character he plays is "Cop 2" - is he getting typecast?

{P.S. If you're not sure what this post is doing in a music blog, shame on you!
Alex Lifeson is, of course, the guitarist in the greatest band in the world and therefore deserves to feature here for services to Rock even if here he's acting rather than rocking!}

Friday, 22 October 2010

Free Download Friday #75: Green Police

I remember hearing Cheap Trick's Dream Policeon the radio back when I was a teenager. I was so impressed, I went out and bought the album. Shortly afterwards, I picked up a copy of At Budokan... on yellow vinyl no less!

I must admit though that I haven't followed their career or releases very carefully since but I still have a soft spot for Dream Police and was pleased to find they had re-worked and re-released it... sort of. They re-worked it as Green Police for an Audi advert. It has to be said that the advert is slightly odd but the song is as strong as ever. It is still available from the Audi site... but it is a bit tricky to find (unless you have a direct link to it!).

They've had a bit of airplay on the radio recently with a pretty good cover of a Slade song called When The Lights Are Out:

You can hear the original Slade version on YouTube too.

So what do you think? Is Green Police a trip down memory lane for you too or a new discovery? And in either case, what do you think of Green Police?

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Silly idea #1: Sue all filesharers

Apparently Gene Simmons has been telling media types that the music industry was "asleep at the wheel" and that the current state of the music industry is down to a failure to sue... "every fresh-faced college kid who downloaded material". Oh dear!

I read about his solution to the music industry's woes on Rock Radio's website (see Simmons: Sue All Filesharers). He seems to think that criminalising the people who were most likely to spend money on your product was the best hope for the music industry. The numbers reported though don't even begin to make sense. The Rock Radio sites says:
Statistics suggest that trade body the RIAA spent $16million chasing 20,000 people through the courts, resulting in recovery of $391,000. If that were scaled across the 60million P2P users in the US, they would have to spend $48billion and retrieve just $1.1billion.
What ever you think of Kiss' ability to make music, it is undeniable that they know how to make money! Surely a businessman like Mr Simmons can see that this is not a sensible or sustainable way to conduct your business? The music industry may be losing money due to illegal filesharing but is the solution to throw money away while perusing "fresh-faced college kids" through the courts?

Now don't get me wrong, people should not be illegally downloading and sharing music. Taking music without paying for it is not right. While I don't agree 100% with the statement credited to Gene in the article that he... "doesn’t believe the industry should be fooled into thinking filesharers are anything but thieves.", my problem is with the use of the word "filesharers" because filesharing in itself is not necessarily a bad thing; it depends what you are sharing. I don't particularly have a problem with the word "thieves". Downloading music that you should have to pay for, but not paying for it, is not a victimless crime and the excuse that the music industry makes too much money and so it is OK to rip them off is no excuse at all.

So what do I think? I think the music industry would have had less of a problem if they had woken up to what was happening and given people a legal, relatively cheap, way of accessing music electronically when it became clear that there was a market for obtaining music by download instead by CD. Instead, they sued, criminalised and tried to bully people into doing things the way the industry wanted it done.

There are some signs of improvement: iTunes and similar download services are making them bucketloads of money and there seems to be some recognition that giving away music for free can bring returns in the long term (see for example many of the tracks in my Free Download Friday posts). But it would be good to see more effort going into new revenue generating models such as sponsorship, subscription and advertising. Unfortunately, rants like the one from Mr Simmons suggests that at least some parts of the music industry are clinging to old ways; alternating between imitating headless chickens and ostriches with their heads in the sand.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Free Download Friday #74: Washing Of The Water

I mentioned Peter Gabriel's Scratch My Back project in a previous post (Band iPhone Apps #1: Peter Gabriel).

Washing of the Water
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
He is currently touring with a full orchestra to play the tracks from the Scratch My Back album on the New Blood Tour. However, since there weren't quite enough covers, he also re-worked some of his own songs in the "no guitars, no drums" format.

Amazon (apparently) made one of these re-worked tracks available briefly as a free download. However, if you missed it, don't panic because Mr Gabriel has made it available on his own site:
Download 'Washing Of The Water'
I wasn't sure what I'd make of this version as I didn't find it easy to get into some of the Scratch My Back tracks and I really like the original version of Washing Of The Water. I needn't have worried. With the full orchestra behind him it sounds huge but it is carried along by a simple arrangement of the melody picked out on the piano. Then swelling brass and the bass line on strings. Beautiful! And Gabriel's voice is better than ever.

Grief! The man is sixty. He formed Genesis in 1967, so has been a professional musician for about forty years... but is he slowing down? Is he resting on his laurels? Is he heading for retirement? Don't be silly! He is still pushing the boundaries.

{Apology: Another week and another Free Download Friday with no posts in between. Too much to do, too little time. (Or rather too little organisation and self-discipline!) I will try to do better.}

P.S. I hadn't realised that Friday was Blog Action Day 2010 until I read Geoff's post at Totally Free Music. It turns out that the theme for Blog Action Day this year is Water, so quite by accident, this was a very appropriate post. If you download this track, why not head over to the Blog Action Day site and sign the petition, get involved in fund raising or find out read about some of the other ways you can get involved.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Free Download Friday #73: Band of Skulls

I mentioned last week (Free Download Friday #72: Support Acts) that I had other free downloads from Band Of Skulls that I was surprised that I had not already featured... well, better late than never!

I have found three tracks from this band... well three and a half because there are two different versions of the same track; a live version and a remix. Three tracks come from the RCRD.LBL site (which I have linked to before) and one from Paste Magazine (which I found while looking for Band Of Skulls music).
  • Blood - a studio track. I read a review somewhere (can't remember where now) that said the Band Of Skulls sound like The Black Keys. I'd say this track was the most Black Keyish if the tracks on offer here. There is an interesting noisy guitar solo towards the end (about three and a half minutes in) and the interplay between the vocals from Russell Marsden and Emma Richardson is excellent.
  • Impossible (Live At The Troubadour) - a great live track with a seemingly endless section of noise at the end. Brilliant!
  • Death By Diamonds And Pearls (MightyMetronoms Remix) - a dance remix which is OK if you like that sort of thing.
You can hear all of these before downloading thanks to the RCRD.LBL widget:

And from Paste Magazine:
  • Death by Diamonds and Pearls - A live version of the track murdered by the MightyMetronoms above! As far as I'm concerned, this raw, stripped back version is so much better than the remix version that I almost considered not linking to the remix version on the RCRD.LBL site.
I think I like the power trio approach to music because, with only three people in the band, there is no room for passengers. All the members of the group have to step up and deliver and I hope you agree that Band Of Skulls deliver big time in at least three of the downloads on offer here!

I would like to hear more from this band... but I would really like to see them live.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Free Download Friday #72: Support Acts

Support acts often get a raw deal when touring with bigger, more established acts. Their first problem is that, in general, people have paid to see the headliners and may have no interest whatsoever in seeing anyone else. Even if the audience are willing to give a support act a fair hearing, it is likely that they will not be particularly familiar with their music, so there will be no instant connection and the band will have to work that bit harder to win the crowd over. Add to that the problem of squeezing equipment and sound check into what ever space has been left by the main act and it is clear that a support act's lot is not a happy one.

Muse @ Teignmouth
Originally uploaded by radio1interactive
I'm sure some established bands are better than others at giving space and time to support acts but it is not immediately obvious what could be done about the lack of recognition problem. However, Muse are trying to do something about even this problem. Over three shows Muse had nine different support acts and, as they say on their website:
"With the UK stadium shows almost upon us, we thought you might like a taster of the support acts playing with the band over the next two weekends... A selection of these acts have very kindly donated us a free track to give away here on so you can check them out before the shows."
Brilliant! This is a great idea. Head over to the Download Support MP3s page and grab eight free tracks. And you don't even have to give your email address in exchange! The download has been available for about a month now, so sorry it has taken so long to post about it.

The tracks available are:
  1. Percussion Gun by White Rabbits. Pounding drums at the start that keep it moving along at a fair lick. Good stuff! One of my favourites.
  2. The Price Of Love by White Lies. Slow start but picks up and moves along with an all strings outro.
  3. Back To The F*** Yeah by Pulled Apart By Horses. I'd say the vocals are a bit too shouty (he'll hurt his voice doing that) but the music sounds good.
  4. Nun by I Am Arrows. This band was founded by the ex-drummer of Razorlight... which makes sense as there is a bit of a Razorlight feel to it.
  5. Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool by Editors. Dark and disturbingly brilliant. Another of my favourites.
  6. Velvet by The Big Pink. Industrial noise paired with a stong beat and low-key vocals. I'm surprised that I like this as much as I do... but it's another of my favourites.
  7. Bubbles by Biffy Clyro. C'mon the Biff! It sounds like Biffy Clyro... and that's a good thing! I like this track.
  8. I Know What I Am by Band Of Skulls. I like what I've heard from this band so far. A three piece band that makes an impressive racket! I have a few other free downloads from this band and I was surprised I haven't shared them on this blog yet... This track is a real foot stomper and another favourite.
Now I call that a pretty good haul. Eight tracks, not a duffer among them, and five out the eight rated as four stars or more in my iTunes.

What do you make of these tracks? What is your favourite? If you are already a fan of one of these bands, what album/tracks should I look for next?

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Rush + Guitar Hero = Genius!

When I first heard that the Rush album 2112 was to be featured in a Guitar Hero game, I assumed it would be one track or section off the album along with a load of tracks from other bands. Oh me of little faith! The truth is much more interesting.

They are featuring the whole of 2112 in a game and building a quest around the this seminal piece. For more information, check out this article from The Rolling Stone and watch this video:

Some people get a bit sniffy about Guitar Hero and complain that it would be better if people picked up a real guitar. I think people who complain like this are numpties! It's not supposed to be a tuition program; it's a game! Guitar Hero may not have created a new generation of guitarists but what it has done, is introduce a whole new generation of people to some classic Rock tracks. And, if this 2112 themed game gets more people listening to Rush that can only be a good thing... in my humble opinion.

As a music fan what do you think about Guitar Hero? If you are a guitarist, or a guitar tutor, what do you think of games like this? Good, bad or indifferent?

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Free Download Friday #71: Trent Reznor

Mr Reznor if giving stuff away again...

As seems to becoming increasingly common, the download is made available in exchange for your email. This time it's a five track EP with a selection of songs from a film soundtrack that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross worked on that is being made available.

The film is called The Social Network and is a "based on a true story" (i.e. "we made it up") about the founders of facebook. It seems to be getting good reviews from cinema goers on IMDB but I suspect it is not the sort of film that will provoke much excitement in other members of the Muir family, so I'll probably have to wait for the DVD to see it.

Back to the music though. It is very much soundtrack music in that it doesn't draw attention to itself (which is as it should be). It is also a bit more laid back, not so in your face, as Nine Inch Nails. But the songs are strong on atmosphere and I can see them working well in the context of a film.

I like them all, but my favourite is the first track on the EP: Pieces Form the Whole.

While you are there downloading the soundtrack, have a look at what else is available. It looks like you can still download two Nine Inch Nails albums (The Slip and Ghosts I-IV) as well as an album from a Trent Reznor side project called How To Destroy Angels all of which are great.

Plenty for you to download and explore.

P.S. It's not that long ago that Jeff from Totally Free Music would have beaten me the punch with a NIN download. His blog has been very quiet of late. I know that he was planing some time out. I hope he is doing OK.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Free Download Friday #70: Amazon MP3s

I used to see Tweets and links on a semi-regular basis promising free downloads from Amazon. Unfortunately, when I followed the links, they took me to Amazon USA and the downloads were unavailable in the UK.

However, Amazon UK are now giving away a number of free MP3 downloads and have a dedicated page listing the currently available crop. Huzzah!

Tom Jones
Originally uploaded by itzpapalotl
The stand-out track for me (and I never thought I'd hear myself say this) is from Tom Jones! Now if you are thinking Delilah - forget that. Or if you are thinking of the more modern covers like Kiss - forget that too! The track on offer is called Burning Hell and is from his new album Praise & Blame. I have heard rumours that the record company was worried by this album when he delivered it to them because it was such a departure from what he had done before. If this is true, it is further proof that record company executives are idiots!

The album comprises largely of gospel covers and reminds me more of Johnny Cash than of Tom Jones. Burning Hell is an outstanding track. I have never bought a Tom Jones album (although over the years I've acquired some of his classic tracks) but on the strength of this track, I am very tempted to get Praise & Blame. Burning Hell has a stripped down production with raw bluesy guitar and drums with Sir Tom Jones groaning the lyrics with passion and power. Take it away Tom: "I'm goin' down to the church house, get down on bended knee..."

Other tracks on the Amazon free download page that I think are worth listening to include:
And five tracks from Bush:
But the standout track is Burning Hell. Download it, and download it now!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Band iPhone Apps #2: Spınal Tap

This is the second post in a sequence leading up to a review of the Rush iPhone App. The first post, Band iPhone Apps #1: Peter Gabriel, was some weeks ago but hopefully I'll manage to find time to do the rest without such a large gap between posts. (Famous last words!)

Originally uploaded by Der Ohlsen
This review is of the Spınal Tap App. If you've never hear of Spınal Tap, I would strongly recommending that you beg, borrow or buy a copy of This Is Spınal Tap, a mockumentary about a fictional heavy metal band... Well, I say "fictional" but they have released a number of albums and have toured and played bigger venues than some real bands.

Recently, they released an album called Back From The Dead which is supposed to be a reunion album to mark the 25th anniversary of the making of the film. It is described as "unwigged and unplugged". Brilliant! This app is connected with the Back From The Dead album and tour. It has seven (full) tracks from the band and you can comment on the tracks and share the fact that your listening to them on the iPhone App by text, Twitter, facebook, etc. As well as the music there is a fan wall (where you can leave messages and photos), and a news section (although the most recent "news" is a year old). Finally, there is a More... section with Photos, Videos, a discography, biography and more.

It's not without its problems, for example, the outdated news section and the fact that most of the links to the videos are broken. However, for the price (free) it is still well worth checking out. And if you really want to see the videos (and more beside) they seem to be available on the Tap's YouTube channel.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Free Download Friday #69: From

I am a long time user of (although I've not been particularly active of late - other than Scrobbling what I listen to on my iPod) and although I have posted about before, I've not passed on any of their free downloads for a while. This post fixes that!

Miss The Occupier
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
First up is Miss the Occupier - the band with my wife's friend in it. is offering Dead Pirates as a free download. Not as strong as The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, in my humble opinion, but jolly good nonetheless. Jangly guitars and vocals with attitude.

Nine Inch Nails are another band I've featured here before and they have, Me, I'm Not (grimmless mix), available on It is a very sparse arrangement which really only features Trent's vocals and a muted piano track. Despite the lack of noisy guitars and industrial noise - I like this mix.

And while you are checking out the remixed track, you could also try In This Twilight (Collapse) another remix of a Nine Inch Nails track and also available as a free download. This one has a much bigger sound - lots of ambient keyboards under the vocals. Two contrasting views of NIN - both available for free.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Free Download Friday #68: I'll get my cape...

Warning: It's going to get a bit prog this week!

Do you remember AOL? We used to call it Internet Lite and you could have built a small mansion from the free AOL CDs that seemed to fall out of every magazine you picked up. I assumed that it had just withered in the face of the rise of broadband and "proper" Internet providers.

Well, it seems they are still about in some form because this week I found my way to the AOL Radio Blog and in particular, the Free MP3 Downloads they offer. Loads of stuff here and they seem to have started a Free Music Tuesday feature that I'll have to keep an eye on.

Here are some of the downloads that caught my eye:


Hawkwind were the first band I saw live in concert (see Concert Memories #01: Hawkwind - I must get on with writing more of these concert memories!). AOL are offering Inner Visions from a new album called Blood Of The Earth. Look for the Download Free MP3 link on the AOL site underneath the brief paragraph describing the band. It is a direct link to the mp3 file. And talking about the "brief paragraph", I love their description of the track:
"This song features trippy keyboards and what sounds like an attack from video game spaceships."
If you have never heard Hawkwind, this is a great introduction. They more or less invented Space Rock, and the Inner Visions track is an excellent example of that genre. My copy of Quark, Strangeness and Charm will definitely feature in today's playlist!

Steve Hackett

I make no secret of my love for Gabriel era Genesis and Steve Hackett is from the same vintage - a key player in defining that early Genesis sound. The track on offer from AOL is Fire On The Moon. (From Space-rock to Fire On The Moon...Do you see what I did there?) This is an outstandingly good track. Quiet, contemplative start and then the chorus kicks in! Big drums, atmospheric keyboards, bombastic bass line, vox humana, kitchen sink... and about halfway through a great guitar solo from Mr Hackett (with the promise of another to come at the end).

My only problem is the vocals are slightly weak but otherwise this is a great track. Well worth the price of a free download!


An artist of a similar vintage is Asia.

I really like Yes and therefore have always felt that I ought to like Asia more than I do... But somehow they never grab me. This track, Finger On The Trigger, is good but I'm not sure it inspires me enough to go and look for songs I'd have to pay for.

And finally...

Now for something completely different.

I'm not sure why I had a listen to Kings X. The name sounded familiar but when I looked at my iTunes collection I didn't have anything of their songs. (Perhaps I got confused with Symphony X?) However, this track, from Kings X, Alright, I really like! Much more of a straight-forward rock track although according to Wikipedia, the band have prog metal leanings. I'm very tempted to go and find the album this came from and see what the rest of the tracks are like.

Any other suggestions?

That's my pick from the current crop of AOL free downloads. What tracks catch your eye?

Friday, 27 August 2010

Free Download Friday #67: Peter Gabriel

Following on from the review of the Full Moon Club iPhone app, it seemed appropriate to link to a free download from Mr Gabriel.

You can Download 'Here Comes The Flood' from Peter Gabriel's Guitar Center Session. Here Comes The Flood is a song from his first solo album: Peter Gabriel Vol.1 and was always one of my favourites. Recently he has been doing a stripped back version of it that, like much of Gabriel's work, has grown on me with repeated listens.

If you are a fan of Mr Gabriel, you might also be interested in The Voice Project that one of his daughters is involved with. The project is working with women in and around Northern Uganda. There are opportunities to make a donation and support the work they are doing but they see the project as doing more than just charity work.

One of the most prominent aspects of the website is the cover chains. One artist records a cover song and the artist covered has to record another cover to pass on the challenge. For example, the Gulu Women's Choir in Northern Uganda were videoed singing a Joe Purdy song, he recorded something by REM, Mike Mills (from REM) then recorded a Billy Brag song and Billy recorded something from Joanna Newsom.

Peter Gabriel is currently featuring at the end of a chain with his cover of a Tom Waits song:

Peter Gabriel » Tom Waits from The Voice Project on Vimeo.

I hope Mr Waits picks up the challenge!

What are your favourites from the chains on display so far?

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Band iPhone Apps #1: Peter Gabriel

When I started this post, I intended to write a review of the Rush iPhone App. However, I thought I'd start by describing a couple of other band Apps first to set the scene and show what other artists are doing with their music Apps. Unfortunately, my brief reviews got longer and longer... so I decided to split this post over a few days and build up to the Rush review!

Screenshot from Peter Gabriel's iPhone AppI'll start with Peter Gabriel's iPhone App. I am a huge fan of Gabriel era Genesis and have loved pretty much everything he has done since he went solo. I have also been lucky enough to see him live a couple of times and his most recent gig in Glasgow is one of my favourite concert experiences ever.

One of his latest ideas is the Scratch My Back project, where he has recorded covers of other artist's songs. A fairly standard idea except that he has invited these artists to cover one of his songs in return. Of course, being the type of musician he is, he had to make it more difficult for himself, so his recordings are arranged without drums or guitar! The resultant recordings are fascinating: some grabbed me straight away; some have grown on me; a few I'm still working on. But all of them are interesting.

What has that got do do with iPhone Apps though? Well having released his album of covers, he is now releasing the covers of his songs that others have done and has produced an App that gives details of each pair of songs; a video of Peter talking about the track and artist he covered; and a short snippet of the other artist's cover. His fan/website is called the Full Moon Club, so the App is also called Full Moon Club. A new cover is released every month, on the night of the full moon, and when it is released, information, videos and a short sample of each track appears in the App.

It is a straightforward App that doesn't do anything particularly fancy but does what it does, very well. The video introductions are fascinating and give a real insight into the process of producing the covers. You can probably find most of the information on Gabriel's website, but having it collected together in an App makes it much easier to navigate on your phone. Very useful!

The App is not without its problems. For instance, you can't access David Byrne's cover of I Can't Remember from June because of a problem with scrolling (although you can hear it in full on Peter's site or preview it on iTunes). Also, there hasn't been an update since June... but perhaps he's too busy with the tour because there hasn't been an ...And I'll Scratch Yours release since June either.

Despite these two niggles, I would not hesitate to recommend this free App to fans and non fans alike. Gabriel is never less than interesting and this App lets you glimpse some of the creative processes behind his work. He has always pushed at musical and technological boundaries and it is great to see the use of new technology from an established artist.

Picture credit: Screendump from iPhone App.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Free Download Friday #66: Back after a long holiday...

It's been a long time since Free Download Friday #65 so I'll through in a few from Classic Rock Tracks of the Day that I didn't pick up because I was on holiday, and then one from Planet Rock... just because I like it! So without further ado:

Seraphina from GUN. I've featured GUN before (Free Download... er... Tuesday?) when they were showcasing their new singer, Toby Jepson. Well they have another new singer (to lose one singer is unfortunate but to lose two...) and another free download to let people hear what he's like. I would say that the new vocalist, Dante Gizzi (previously the bass player - so is that promotion?), acquits himself admirably. The track is let down a bit by poor lyrics, especially the oft repeated chorus, but otherwise it sounds great and rewards repeated listens.

Portrait Of Red by The Virginmarys. This caught my eye initially because I saw the name and got confused. I thought it was Electric Mary, a band that I had heard a bit and liked. However, I discovered I liked this track from The Virginmarys and I will need to see what else I can find by them. (Note to self: are their other bands with "Mary" in there name that are worth checking out? See Paint it Black for similar phenomenon with "Black".) The band are a relatively new three-piece and all three of them seem to be going flat out. The is a snarl in the vocals and power and energy in the music. Well worth checking out if you like your rock raw and raucous! Final note: in a bizarre bit of synchronicity, the track offered for download is produced by Toby Jepson!

One Last Soul by Black Country Communion. If you've not been paying attention to the recent rash of supergroups, the name Black Country Communion might not mean much to you, but if I say Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham, Derek Sherinian, and Joe Bonamassa, maybe I can change your "Who?" to a "Whoo!". I've been wanting to here this group since I heard Joe Bonamassa was involved. As I've mentioned before (see other Joe Bonamassa posts) I am a huge fan of Mr Bonamassa, so I was pleased to see some output from this group available as a free download. On first listen, I was disappointed that Joe's guitar didn't feature more strongly, however, on reflection, that's probably right for a group setting - it's not a solo project. And as a group project, it works. Perhaps the keyboards could feature more strongly but otherwise, everyone gets a chance to show what they can do (including a great solo, or two, from Joe). On the strength of this track, I'd say we have a group worthy of the adjective "super".

Cheat The Gallows by Bigelf. Bigelf have featured here before (Free Download Friday #49: Metal!). I was so impressed with the few bits of Bigelf I'd hear, so I got their album (Cheat The Gallows is available on eMusic). I detect hints of Pink Floyd in this track but heavier and meatier than Floyd.

Last but by no means least, Planet Rock featured The Union (see Free Download Friday #54: Two old hands). Planet Rock were offering a chance to win a concert in your living room from The Union (which you are probably too late to enter) and a free download of Watch The River Flow (which is hopefully still available).

{Sorry. first Friday after the holidays, and I'm a day late. I'd say I'd do better in future but past experience suggests that Free Download Saturdays will still feature on a semi-regular basis!}