Friday, 30 April 2010

Free Download Friday #56: Shinedown

Sometimes you hear a track on the radio and, even though you don't know the band, it catches your ear. That happened to me recently with a track called Sound of Madness from the band Shinedown.

Rock Radio has been playing this track for a while now and the first couple of times I heard it I thought, "I like this. I wonder who it is?" but this changed fairly quickly to, "Excellent. The Shinedown track again. I must find out more about these chaps.". So I went for a sniff about the Internet and was pleased to discover they have a four track package available as a free download from the wonderfully named Grabatrack service. Even better, one of the four tracks is Sound Of Madness!

The band hails from Florida and I can detect a Southern Rock element in their sound but it's Southern Rock delivered with Hard Rock power and passion. I have seen their style described as melodic rock and post-grunge (not sure what that means!) but from what I've heard I'd just go for hard rock.

Before going any further, it is worth noting that AllMusic is pretty sniffy about the band claiming that they " every post-grunge cliché as if it were dogma", "Nothing is left to chance so nothing surprises..." and "Shinedown serve up what they always have: active modern rock embodying the sound of post-grunge in the new millennium without offering much that is memorable, either for better or for worse." It is clear that the AllMusic reviewer is less than impressed! There may or may not be some truth in their criticism but I find I disagree completely with their conclusion. Clearly, for me, Shinedown were memorable and distinctive otherwise they would never have attracted my attention on Rock Radio in the first place.

So, I am saying AllMusic is wrong. You can make up your own mind by checking out the free download... and if you disagree with me, you're wrong too!

Brief review:

There are four tracks for download: one from each of their first two albums and two from their most recent release.

Fly From The Inside comes from their first album (Leave a Whisper) and there is an element of power ballad here but concentrate on the music rather than the lyrics for a while and you'll hear a solid rock track underpining it. I like Brent Smith's vocals - a rough edge to them that works well with the strong guitar sound.

Save Me comes from their second album (Us and Them). This has a (relatively) quite start and a brooding hook that draws you in to a soaring chorus.

Cyanide Sweet Tooth Suicide and Sound Of Madness round off the package and both come from Sound of Madness. Cyanide blasts off at full pelt and sweeps you along at that pace only slowing down for a feedback filled conclusion. For me though, the standout track is Sound Of Madness. Brent's vocals sound positively menacing. The guitar solo leads into a section where Brent almost chants the lyrics as the rest of the band fades down in the mix before coming back for a final, noisy, run at the chorus. Time money and effort has clearly gone into the production.

Package problems:

Far be it from me to look a gift horse in the mouth but there are one or two problems with this download. On the plus side, the four tracks are bundled into a single zip file which makes downloading easy. However, the mp3 files are not tagged in any way: no album art; no artist name; no nothing! In fact, even the file names are mixed up with the names of the two tracks from Sound Of Madness swapped. A bit disappointing but not disastrous.


Four great free tracks from Shinedown. Download them and enjoy!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Rock and Roll!

Trashing a hotel room? Pah! That's nothing... AC/DC tore down an 800 year old castle!

Monday, 26 April 2010

A Good Year For Rush Fans

One of my earliest posts on this blog was about Rush (My favourite band). Another Rush related post is long overdue.

Recently, Rush had a countdown clock on their website (see Rush: Countdown To… What?). Clearly an announcement was immanent and when it ran out, they announced their Time Machine Tour. On this tour (among other things I assume) they will play the whole of their Moving Pictures album - great news as this is still one of my favourite Rush albums. Not so good news is that it is a tour of North America and, unfortunately, Glasgow, Scotland doesn't qualify as being in North America. Curse!

However, there is the good news that they are working on their 20th studio album, so hopefully when that is released a European tour will follow.

Even more immanent though is the release of the new Rush documentary film: Beyond the Lighted Stage. The trailer should give you a flavour of what it will be like:

I especially like it that Closer To The Heart features so prominently at the start of the trailer. This is a track that means a lot to Glaswegian Rush fans of a certain age!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Free Download Friday #55: Gospel Legends

I'm either going to have to get more organised or change the name of this feature - Skinflint Download Saturday?

I've linked to a Daytrotter Session before in Free Download Friday 35 (the Cary Simon session). Somehow though I seem to have missed the Daytrotter Sessions website. It is stuffed to the gunnels with mp3s and videos from all sorts of artists. I will redoubtably return in the future but today I'm going to highlight a session from The Blind Boys of Alabama.

I think I first heard The Blind Boys of Alabama on Peter Gabriel's album Up where they sing with him on Sky Blue. The sound they contribute is awe inspiring as their voices have a raw, almost elemental quality, and the sound they add to Gabriel's track is real "hair on the back of the neck" stuff.

Now I realise that this means I've come a bit late to this particular party since the "Boys" (all very senior citizens now) have been singing together since before I was born, however, I took advice from a friend and tracked down a couple of their CDs. I like what I heard and was therefore pleased to discover there was a Daytrotter Session from The Blind Boys of Alabama.

The session has a spoken intro and then four tracks and they deliver Gospel the way it should be sung: with passion and conviction. There is an emotional depth in their performance as a lifetime of experience and faith pours out in their vocals. I especially like the last track in the session: Free At Last. "Can I get a witness?" they ask to which the response has to be "Hallelujah!".

So what do you think?

Are you a convert to The Blind Boys of Alabama's Gospel music?

Who else is worth checking out on the Daytrotter Session site?

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Free Download Friday #54: Two old hands

Two downloads from people who are already known from their membership in other bands.

First up is an offering from Vince Neil, the vocalist with Mötley Crüe. He has a new solo album out, Tattoos & Tequila, which is mostly covers of hits that have "...inspired Vince throughout the years". However, there are two new tracks and he has released one of those, the title track, as a free download through his website. In fact, you get not only the song but the promo video too. As with the Slash track I linked to last week, you can also embed a widget to let people download it from your site:

I like the sound of this track. It's got the growly guitar sound I like, Vince's voice sounds good and it has a catchy chorus. Also, in the video, the drummer looks like he's having fun. My only problem is with the lyrics which don't seem to stray far from the clichéd sexist rock lyric mode. Perhaps it's an occupational hazard of having been in the Crüe that you get stuck in the eighties.

Second free download is from The Union, a band that features Luke Morley from Thunder and Pete Shoulder from Winterville. On the band's website, you can download Step Up To The Plate from a widget on the front page. (It looks like the same widget as used by Slash and Vince but you don't seem to be able to embed this one.) Step Up To The Plate is a great, Blues tinged rock track and Pete's vocals are excellent. They played a gig in Glasgow last week and on the strength of the tracks available in their website, I'm miffed that I didn't make the effort to go and see them.

So what do you think? Artists that have passed their sell by, or artists that are going on to bigger and better things?

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Guitar Lessons: A New Challenge

I announced some time ago my intention to teach myself guitar using online and computer based resources. I even got as far as posting some video to show my progress so far (see Teach Yourself Guitar: Progress So Far...). That was in October 2009 and the more astute among you will have noticed a deafening silence from me about my progress since then.

The main reason is that I was pushed for time around Christmas and then I kind of lost heart. I am still finding the lesson in GarageBand on barre chords too tricky. I decided that part of the problem is that I am trying to get motivated but with no real goal in sight. I had decided that using some of the things I've already been practising but applying them to learning a tune might help.

I was on the point of buying one of the Artist lessons on GarageBand (Alex Lifeson on Working Man to be precise) when I saw a Tweet about an Iron Man 2 competition.

The idea is that Justin Sandercoe will teach you how to play AC/DC's Shoot To Thrill using video, guitar tabs and a specially recorded backing track. You video yourself playing the track and then submit your performance to YouTube. The winner receives a customised Gibson SG. Very Cool!

Now, I don't think I have any hope of winning. But. learning a tune, a recognisable tune, could be the incentive I need.

I'll keep you posted.

P.S. I don't know why I haven't been spending more time at Justin's site as it is a fantastic resource for guitarists of all levels.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Free Download Friday #53: Slash (Belated... again!)

Slash has released a new solo album. Well, "solo" in the sense that it is his name on the cover, however, the roster of stars that appear on the album with him reads like a who's who of Rock's finest. For example: Ozzy Osbourne, Chris Cornell, Andrew Stockdale, Lemmy, Dave Grohl, Duff McKagan and Iggy Pop.

It's not just Rock's finest as there are some apparently odd choices in Fergie and (on the Classic Rock Fan Pack version) Nicole Scherzinger. However, despite sounding like odd choices, they work! In fact there's not a duff track on the album. Every one a winner.

I hadn't planned to get the fan pack... but in the end, I couldn't resist the chance to get the Alice Cooper track that is available as a bonus track on the fan pack version.

Or, if you want to try before you buy, the entire album is still being streamed on AOL Music.

However, this post is not called Free Streaming Friday or even Free Advert for Amazon Friday. So where are the downloads? Currently, two tracks are available for download (although, technically, one of the downloads is a live performance of a track from the album rather than the album track itself).

First up is a download from Slash's own MySpace site. If you scroll down, you will hopefully see a link that lets you download Watch This an instrumental track featuring Dave Grohl and Duff McKagan. You can even copy the download widget to embed it in your own site:

I found the second download thanks to a link from a NME Daily Download post. It features a live performance of By The Sword featuring Andrew Stockdale of Wolfmother and comes from their performance on the Tonight Show.

Two great tracks that should give you a good idea of the sound of the album.


Watch This (Or use widget above)
By The Sword

What do you think of Slash's solo effort?

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Airborne in Concert

There are two bands I've seen in concert who were so loud, my ears were still ringing the following morning. The bands were AC/DC and Motörhead. I can now add a third band to that list: Airbourne. In fact, my ears are still not right more than 24 hours 36 hours after their gig in Glasgow on Tuesday night. I don't think Airbourne were any louder than the other two; I guess it's just that my old ears are taking longer to recover than my teenage ears did.

Airbourne in Concert
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
As teenagers we used to think that ringing ears were the sign of a good concert. Now I realise that ringing ears is the sign of permanently damaged hearing! I suspect that my enjoyment of loud concerts in the past is at least partially responsible for the mild hearing loss I suffer from at the best of times but clearly the day after an Airbourne gig is far from the best of times!

Don't get me wrong. I have stated on a number of occasions that I love noisy guitar music - it's my children who tell me to, "Turn that racket down!" However, I fear that Tuesday night pushed even my ears further than was comfortable and the volume is the one complaint I have from what was otherwise an extraordinarily good concert.

Review: Taking Dawn

In the value for money stakes, there was not one, but two support acts: each with a set lasting about 40 minutes.

The first band up was Taking Dawn - a four piece from Las Vagas. The blurb on the venue website said: "Heavy melodic hooks, guitar solos and great vocals from these Las Vegas hard rockers." And here lies my first complaint about the volume... "melodic"? Who knows? They had an "Everything louder than everything else" approach to volume so that you couldn't really hear any individual instrument. All you could hear was a wall of heavily distorted noise. I'm fairly sure the lead guitarist played solos but I could barely hear a note through the general melee of sound. Note: this was at the start of the evening before half my hearing gave up and went bye-bye!

Having said that, they did exactly what a support act are supposed to do. They worked really hard at rousing the crowd: trying to get people clapping; moving; reacting... I did feel a bit sorry for them though as the venue was barely half full.

Update: I've now posted my Taking Dawn pictures to Flickr.

Review: Black Spiders

The next support act was a bit more to my taste. The Black Spiders pulled the volume back a bit and the sound seemed to be better balanced. They are a five piece band: three guitars, bass and drums. The two "lead" guitarists seemed to share the solo duties fairly evenly between them, the drummer was particularly entertaining and the bass player surprisingly uncoordinated! Oh... and it seems that if you want to be in their gang - you need to have a beard!

The blurb on the venue website said: "Hotly tipped British rockers Black Spiders, who feature ex-Groop Dogdrill member Pete Spiby, claim they sound like ‘Black Sabbath eating Guns N Roses for breakfast’ and have won full support from the UK rock press for their ‘crotch-rodden sleaze rock’." To be honest, I didn't hear too much that I'd identify as Sabbath-ish but I liked what I heard and was pleased to discover some of their stuff on eMusic. (Worth noting that this is another band with black in their name that I like!)

Again, they did what a support band needs to do. They were a lot less flamboyant than Taking Dawn but that's not a bad thing. They got on with their set, made me want to hear more of their music and they got us wound up and ready for Airbourne.

Update: I've now posted my Black Spiders pictures to Flickr.

Review: Aibourne

Now the main event... and Airbourne did not disappoint. They put on a belter of a show. No back projection, pyrotechnics or parading about on bikes for them. Just energy, adrenaline and amplification! They were LOUD but the sound seemed better balanced so you could at least make out the solos.

All four members of the band know exactly what they are doing and pump out good old-fashioned guitar based rock. However, special mention has to go to Joel O’Keeffe, who as front man, vocalist and lead guitarist, worked especially hard for his money. He put on a heck of a show. Not content with leaping about on stage, at one point he leapt off the stage and disappeared into the audience still playing as he went. Everyone was looking around trying to spot where he'd gone, when I noticed the chap beside me pointing. And there he was... standing on the bar in the middle of the crowd, belting out a blinder of a guitar solo. Excellent!

Interestingly, although billed as the No Guts, No Glory Tour, roughly two-thirds of the set came from Runnin' Wild, their first album. I wonder if they felt safer sticking to well-known tracks? Also, they didn't play Get Busy Livin', which has been getting a bit of airplay here on rock radio. Otherwise though, I have no real complains about the set list. Nicely balanced and the crowd pleasing sing-a-longs like Too much, Too Young, Too Fast kept until the end.

Update: I've now posted my Airbourne pictures to Flickr: good quality camera pictures and iPhone pictures.

And finally...

I know I sound like a grumpy old man complaining about the volume but there are two reasons for that. 1) I am a grumpy old man and 2) I am slightly worried that the tinnitus is still with me days after the event. I am hoping that the white noise I'm hearing in my ears will eventually go away but I'm concerned that it seems to be taking its time about it.

That said, I want to finish on a more positive note by commenting on the demographics of the audience. There were a lot of young, long haired lads in the audience as might be expected but there were a good number of fat, baldy old men like me there too. And, although the majority of the audience were male, there were more women there than I remember being at gigs like this when I was a teenager. In fact, the chap next to me (of similar girth and vintage as myself) appeared to be there with his daughter and her friend (they looked about 14 years old). With an audience of dads and daughters; teenage hoodies and ageing hippies; long-haired lads and baldy lardies - the future has to be good for rock music. As Airbourne themselves said in the opening song of the evening:
As long as you're alive and we're alive
Rock 'n' roll will never die...
-- Raise The Flag by Airbourne

Friday, 2 April 2010

Free Download Friday #52: Music for Good Friday?

I've been sitting on this one for a while because I am honestly unsure what to make of it. However, it seems an appropriate post for Good Friday, so I guess it's now or never.

Originally uploaded by besia
If I say to you this is a download sampler album which contains Christian Death Metal, you may see why I am confused. Christian Death Metal is a concept that I find it hard to get my head around. What does it mean - that all their tattoos are spelled proper? There may be a Christian message contained in the lyrics but, to be honest, for most all I can make out is the standard Metal "Woorrraaargh!" type vocals.

This sample is from a site called Divine Metal Distro and consists of fifteen tracks. My favourites are:
  • Kings Will Come by Narnia. This is the opening track and has a brooding, percussive guitar riff that drives it along
  • Never by Ultimatum. This one drives along at about 90 miles an hour.
  • Inner Self by Futures End. This has a melodic acoustic opening before settling into more obvious Metal territory.
  • Internal Fire by Edgend. A bit of Prog Metal.
  • Hell Lover by Heaven's Force. Starts of quietly then gets a bit screamy!
  • Tempests of Sorrows by MYRATH. A bit of Eastern influence on this one. Reminds me a bit of Kashmir (but just a little bit!).
I am not the best judge of Metal though, so I would welcome opinions from real fans. Is any of this any good... or is it just bizarre?


Divine Metal Distro Digital Sampler Vol. 1 (Digital Download)
- A fifteen track sampler from Divine Metal Distro.

Home Taping Is Killing Music

I have written before about the music industry's struggle to understand the new digital world. There are some signs that the industry are getting the hang of it (e.g. The Times Giveaway) but there are other signs that show they are still thrashing about a bit (e.g. Warner Music goes backwards!).

One recent example of "thrashing about" is the Digital Economy Bill that seems to being pushed through the UK Parliament at the moment. Thankfully, there are groups that are fighting back. I am not sure I agree with the idea that Internet access is is a "right" but I hope they succeed in preventing legislation that would result in the punishment of individuals without reference to judge or jury. (In the proposal it says, "...the Secretary of State to direct Ofcom to
introduce the measures they had determined were effective and proportionate should he conclude that such measures are necessary to achieve the overall objective", i.e. one person will be able to instruct Ofcom to take steps to cut off a users access.)

This post is getting a bit heavy, so here's a musical response that amused me. It's based on the old "Home taping is killing music" campaign from the eighties.

Silly song. Serious point. See Don't Disconnect Us for more details.