Saturday, 26 June 2010

Free Download Friday #64: Return to Roadrunner Records

After seeing Cohheed And Cambria at Rock Radio's Secret Session, I decided to see if I could track down any free music for download. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything from them. However, since they are with Roadrunner Records in the UK, I found my way to Roadrunner Records in the USA where, as usual, there was some good stuff available.

Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
It is a while since I visited Roadrunner Records (see Free Download Friday #44) and I thought it was interesting that I now own CDs that contain many of the tracks they are offering as free downloads. As I've often said, giving a track away free is a great way to generate interest and (probably) sales. It has certainly worked on me. I suspect I wouldn't have half the Roadrunner product I have if they hadn't given me a taste of their bands on the USA site.

So, in alphabetical order, here are the downloads currently on offer that caught my eye. Some I have already and some are new to me but I think all are interesting:
So, that's my picks. Have I missed any? What would you recommend.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Coheed And Cambira Secret Session

Once again, thanks to Rock Radio, I won the chance to go to a Secret Session. (See Dommin Acoustic Set Review for details of my previous win.) This time, I got the chance to hear Coheed and Cambria.

This is a band I'd heard about but hadn't really heard! (I have read about them in Classic Rock Presents Prog but only heard a couple of tracks on the radio.) This was a mistake because they were excellent and I really need to track down a CD as soon as possible.

The venue seemed much busier than the last time with people packed in and many of them were going on to the gig at the ABC afterwards. The band were crowded onto the tiny stage and although they apologised for not really having rehearsed an acoustic set, they sounded excellent. The guitarist, Travis Stever was impressive and the vocalist, Claudio Sanchez, had a really interesting and distinctive voice. The bass player, Michael Todd, kept things moving along and introduced the songs. I did feel sorry for Chris Pennie, who was squished in at the end doing the best he could with a single snare drum.

As well as being impressive musicians, they seemed to be really good chaps too. For a start, after the session, they stayed for ages signing stuff and posing for pictures. I was even more impressed when I saw them outside the venue later on. Claudio got out the tour bus and was approached by fans. The minder/roadie/person who was with him tried to hurry him away but Claudio stopped and posed for the photos. Very cool! (See the photo taken by my daughter.)

A full report, with videos, has been posted on the Rock Radio site. Have a look and let me know what you think.

Monday, 21 June 2010

It Might Get Loud

Another blog post... Another music documentary...

I’ve been on a couple of longish train rides recently and finally got around to watching It Might Get Loud. Essentially it's a film about three very different guitarists from three different generations. They talk about what they do and what inspired them to pick up a guitar in the first place. And, most importantly, it is a film where they play music - individually and together. The guitarists are Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White.

Originally uploaded by yellowlinephoto
For me, it doesn’t work as a documentary. There is a structure there, or at least the film-makers have tried to impose a structure, but it’s not telling a story in the way the Rush film did, so I felt the structure was tacked on rather than scaffolding a finished whole. As a result, the film was episodic and while each of the episodes were individually interesting, I don't think it held together as a single piece.

What did work really well though, and what I liked best about it, was hearing them play their music and seeing their enthusiasm for music. For example, Jimmy Page puts on a vinyl single of Link Wray playing Rumble and looks like a kid in a sweetie shop! He clearly loves the piece and that he desperately wants you to love it too is clear from the way he describes it ...and plays along to it ...on air guitar! It is an outstandingly good segment and I suspect some of my fellow train travellers wondered why I was suddenly grinning like an idiot while I staring at a laptop screen!

What was impressive was their dedication to the guitar. The Edge at one point is talking about what inspired him to start playing and cites seeing The Jam and other similar bands on Top Of The Pops as one of his influences. He says that he realised: “If we believed fully in what we were about... that actually was far more important than how well you could play.” This may or may not be true but I think it is slightly disingenuous because all three were obsessive about playing their guitar, clearly they do care about how well they can play, and they all put an (unhealthy?) amount of time into learning to play. They describe taking their guitars everywhere: to school; to bed; and even to the toilet! So despite The Edge's statement, he can play very well indeed! And I must admit, The Edge's guitar skills were a revelation to me. I like U2 and probably own most of their albums but I've never particularly rated The Edge as a guitarist - I've considered him competent rather than outstanding. However, I think I've been unfair. He may not be a flashy, rock guitar solo kind of guy but he does what he does extremely effectively.

The section of the film that really challenged my assessment of The Edge took place a good bit into the proceedings when the three guitarists were jamming together on a version of In My Time Of Dying. They were all playing slide guitar and Jimmy was leading the way with a great Rock/Blues slide guitar sound. Jack states elsewhere in the film that he had wanted to dig deeper into music and" "...when you dig deeper in Rock n' Roll, you're on a freight train to the Blues." so he was clearly in familiar territory with this tune. He had a really dirty sounding Blues style and he was bouncing off Jimmy... and sounding awesome! In contrast, The Edge's guitar sounded lightweight and he appeared to be struggling to make a contribution. Then, all of a sudden, he played a lick that sounded like The Edge... then he did it again and went further still! He took what the other two were doing and rather than competing head to head, he added to the piece and transformed it. He didn't ride roughshod over the top and destroy what Jimmy and Jack were creating but instead he found a space where he could make a contribution and added something unique and special. Excellent and impressive.

So, not an outstanding documentary but some really interesting music. If you like rock music, if you like the blues, or if you just want to listen to three very talented guitarists doing what they do best, I strongly recommend that you track this film down. If you haven't seen it, what else can I do to convince to to check it out? If you've seen it, let me know what you think of it.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Free Music Friday #63: Alice with Cherries on...

Two downloads this week both discovered thanks to Classic Rock Magazine's excellent Track Of The Day feature.

First up, news that Alice Cooper is covering... himself. He is reworking a number of his classic songs and has made one of them, Elected no less, available as a free download (in exchange for your email as seems almost compulsory these days). I still remember how much I loved this song when I first heard it in the early seventies. And I still remember being stunned by Alice's appearance when I saw him on Top Of The Pops with (at least on one occasion if I remember correctly) a snake. This reworking may be a bit slicker than the original but it has lost none of its power. Grab it while you can!

The second download that caught my eye was this one from Buckcherry:

Not sure yet what I make of this track. It is perhaps a bit preachy and not as full on as other Buckcherry tracks I've heard but they want to use it to raise awareness of and financial help for the BP oil spill in the Gulf Of Mexico. I don't know how the "financial" bit works but if it helps in any way, I'm willing to be preached at by Buckcherry!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Free Music Friday #62: The Mighty Maiden

It has to be said that I am not a huge Iron Maiden fan. Well, to be fair, their music is OK - if they were an instrumental band, I think I'd like them better!

Iron Maiden en Costa Rica
Originally uploaded by adels
They have a new album coming out in August and to whet your appetite, they are making a track available as a free download. Also, for a limited time, you can pre-ordered the album at the special price of £4.99.

Head over to their official site and, in exchange for your email address, you can download El Dorado.

You certainly get your money's worth since the track is almost seven minutes long. And despite my opening comment, I quite like it. It helps that there is a good balance of instrumental sections to vocal sections!

What do you think? Are you a Maiden fan? If so, does this sound like classic Maiden to you? If you're not a fan, are you tempted by this track to give the album a shot when it is released?

{P.S. There was a tribute band that used to play one of the pubs near where I live called Made In Scotland... which amused me.}

Friday, 11 June 2010

Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage

I saw the Rush documentary (see A Good Year For Rush Fans) on Monday night and I've been meaning to write something about it ever since.

I guess it is difficult for documentaries to get wide distribution but it seems ridiculous that it only gets one night in a really restricted number of cinemas so I was pleased to see a few more showings have been added in July. (See More Screenings For Rush Movie.) I am on record as saying, on more than one occasion, that Rush are the greatest band in the world. Therefore, my opinion is not entirely unbiased, but the film was outstandingly good! If you get the chance to see it go.

It is not just for Rush fans although clearly there were a large number of fans in the cinema when I saw it: I think it would appeal to all music fans, or at least all rock music fans. The film is really well structured and gives a good flavour of how their music has changed and developed over the years they've been together. For Rush fans it had some really early footage of them performing. For the general rock fan they had a veritable who's who of rock musicians praising them, analysing their appeal and playing air drums. I particularly enjoyed Jack Black's "rocket sauce" section and I identified with Sebastian Bach when he described how he went to the library to borrow a book by Ayn Rand (see Rush in Concert for my own version).

There were so many great sections and quotable quotes I could write much more and may come back to some in future posts. For now, however, I will content myself with noting how great it was to see three people who clearly love what they do and, who after nearly 40 years together, still have a passion and an excitement for making music. It's worth seeing the film for that reason alone.

One final point. I went to see the film with a friend from work. The cinema was more or less full with only a few seats empty when it started. There was one empty seat beside me and about five minutes into the film someone came in late and sat beside me. It turned out to be the chap I went to the last Rush gig with. Neither of us knew the other was coming and he just happened to sit beside me! As the saying goes, it's a small world but I wouldn't like to paint it!

Friday, 4 June 2010

Free Music Friday #61: 'Mon The Biff!

Back to Daytrotter for a session from Biffy Clyro.

For this session, Biffy provide four unplugged tracks. Their characteristic complex guitar sound is replaced by a quieter, more vulnerable sounding acoustic arrangements. I especially like the way it has changed the whole feel of Mountains. Excellent stuff.

Download, chill out. Enjoy!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

New Rush Tracks

As I mentioned in More Rush News, Rush have released a single in advance of the North American Tour. It is a two track single and I am hugely impressed with both songs:

Geddy's vocal style has changed over the years and synthesisers risen to the top and then fallen from grace... but their music has continued to grow and develop. It is exciting and challenging today as it every was.

Let me know what you think!

[Update: The widget isn't working... I'll try to fix it tomorrow.]
[Update 2: Rats! Still can't get the Amazon widget to work. Go there yourself and have a listen!]
[Update 3: If you haven't discovered it already, can I suggest you go to Isorski's Musings and have a look at the Rush review there (Music Review - New Rush Single) for a very thoughtful and helpful review.]