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.