Monday, 24 December 2012

Free Download Friday #134: Fourth Friday In Advent

Give Love On Chrsitmas

To make up for what is possibly the latest Free Download Friday ever, here's an eleven track Christmas download:

This is another one where you can download the tracks for free but, if you want, you can make a donation to a charity; in this case to a charity called Blood:Water Mission. The Noise Trade site gives the following information about the charity:
Blood:Water Mission was established by Grammy Award winning band Jars of Clay to empower communities to work together against the HIV/AIDS and water crises in sub-Saharan Africa. Since its launch in 2005, Blood:Water has raised millions of dollars through the creative efforts of individuals seeking to make a difference. To date, Blood:Water has partnered with more than 1,300 communities in Africa, providing life-saving water for 800,000 people in 11 different countries and access to HIV/AIDS education, treatment and support for nearly 40,000 people.
Have a good Christmas!

Friday, 21 December 2012

International Rush Day

What a good idea!

International Rush DaySince tomorrow is the 12th of December, or 21/12, some bright spark came up with the idea of making it International Rush Day. (It's like 2112 - see what they did there?)

I'm not sure that I'll get away with wearing a Rush t-shirt at work but I'll have to wear one at some point tomorrow.

And hopefully the Rock Radio stations will pick it up too and play plenty of Rush throughout the day.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Rock Advent Calendar

Should have posted this a couple of weeks ago... my Rock Advent Calendar is back... I admit, it is very similar to last year's but there are a couple of new tracks in there. Feel free to make suggestions on tracks I should have included.

Day one is an obvious choice... and I don't care what anyone says, they are a rock band! As the days go on though, I hope you will find a diverse and occasionally bizarre mix of Rock and Blues Christmas songs. Enjoy!

Free Download Friday #133: Third Friday In Advent

A few Christmases ago, iTunes gave a copy of the Glasvagas song A Snowflake Fell And It Felt Like A Kiss as part of its 12 Days Of Christmas promotion. It is an achingly beautiful track and is about as far from holly and jolly as you can get.

They have released another  track this Christmas that can be downloaded for free. It's called No Her, No HYmN.

While it can be downloaded for free, if you go to their website, they suggest making a donation to Scottish Care & Information On Miscarriage, an organisation that "...offers counselling for women who have suffered miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death following loss, before trying again and in pregnancy following loss. Our counsellors are university trained and have personal experience of loss."

Despite the liberal application of jingle bells throughout, this is not your typical Christmas song and I'm not sure it will find its way onto my Christmas playlist but it's worth a listen and it's a worthy cause.

Monday, 10 December 2012


Not my usual style of music but I felt I had to share this:


Cross-posted to EdCompBlog.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Free Download Friday #132: Second Friday In Advent

I was a bit worried last year when I started the Advent downloads because I didn't have enough downloads up my sleeve but as the weeks went by, I ended up with more than enough. I assumed the same would happen this year but I am still struggling.

I am, however, relatively pleased with this week's freebie:

The download is described as a "Holiday EP" but only one of the six tracks on offer is overtly Christmasy - I Don't Need No Santa Clause. It's largely acoustic and has a Country music feel to it - not my usual taste but it belts along at a good pace and it is Christmas after all!

The other tracks are worth a listen too, for example, I like track 6 - My Forgetful Baby. One of the great things about the NoiseTrade site is you can listen to the tracks before downloading. It's also interesting that you can download for free but, if you want, you can leave a "tip" for the artist.

So have a listen, download if you want and let me know what you make of Fiction Family.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Free Download Friday #131: First Friday In Advent

As I've done the last few Christmases, I hope to give a links to free Christmas music every Friday on the run up to Christmas.

First up then is a three track sampler from a band called Willet.

They are not a band I'd heard of but they give a rousingly raucous (or should that be rock-ous?) renditions of two Christmas classics before offering up an original song called Glory which is a bit more mellow.

Of the three tracks, I'd say I like the sound of the first one best. What do you think?

...Oh, and happy Advent!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Free Download Friday #130: Bonafide

I became aware of Bonefide because of their single Fill Your Head With Rock which got a lot of airplay on rock radio. They are offering a free download, which to my ears isn't as good as Fill Your Head With Rock but still worth a listen.

Download Too Fired Up or listen to it on YouTube and tell me what you think:

Love the animated sections of the video!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Sounds like

This is fun...

Songs that sound like other songs on Sounds Just Like.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Free Download Friday #129: Black Country Communion

It is a bit of a shame that the new release from Black Country Communion has been somewhat overshadowed by the spat between Bonamassa and Hughes because it is jolly good!

Check out this YouTube clip:

Then download Confessor for free and tell me what you think. Me, I think it is outstanding!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Free Download Friday #128: Tracer

For reasons that may become obvious later, here is a link to a free download from an up and coming Australian band called Tracer.

You can find out more about them on their official web page where you will also find a link to a Soundcloud page where you can listen to three tracks - two of which can be downloaded for free.

The two tracks are from their latest album and belt along at a fair lick. If you like what you hear, head over to their Bandcamp page where you can stream another album and download a third track, 
End Of The Samurai, for free.

I think they sound very promising. What do you think?

Friday, 21 September 2012

Free Download Friday #127: Richie Sambora

Richie Sambora, possibly best known as the guitarist from Bon Jovi, released his third solo album earlier this month and has made a track available for download.

You know the drill: give them an email address and they send you a download link.

At the softer end of Rock but I think it's not bad. What do you think?

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Free Download Friday #126: Blues In The Schools

After a bit of a gap, and a day late, Free Download Friday (sic) returns with an old favourite. What would you say to more than twenty downloads from Joe Bonamassa? Me, I'd say "Yes please!"

Joe Bonamassa by DavidDMuir
Joe Bonamassa, a photo by DavidDMuir on Flickr.
I discovered this stash almost by accident. I was exploring Joe's site and saw a link to some photos from his tour. Following the link, I found myself at the Joe Bonamassa Experience (JBXP) fan site and I decided to sign up (for free) and join the community. During a wander, I came across the My JBXP Premier Account Page. The first few times I went there I failed to notice, that if you scroll down, there are two CDs and a pile of other tracks available for download.

My only problem is, that with the exception of one track, everything on the first CD is also on the second but I feel guilty and petty just for mentioning it!

I think the CDs, or at least one of them, is a compilation that he put together for the Blues In The Schools project which is a really interesting idea. Check it out while you listen to the freebies and let me know what you think.


Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Roadrunner Records and Rush

Long time no post. The main problem is the usual problem: too much to do and too little time to do it! Just a quick post then to keep things ticking over.

First, it is extraordinary bad news that Roadrunner Records are closing their UK office. In fact, it seems they are closing just about every office around the world. It is not clear yet how big an impact this will have on their ability to promote the artists on their roster but it can't be good for anyone: for the fans; for their bands; and not least for the people that used to work in those offices. I sincerely hope that this is not just an exercise in asset stripping for short term gain by Warner Music, the parent company.

As far as promoting bands goes, I suspect one casualty will be the Secret Sessions hosted by Real Radio XS. Many (most?) of the bands at Secret Sessions have been by Roadrunner artists and the radio station clearly had a good relationship with the label. Will those sessions continue after the closing of the UK office? I suspect not.

But rather than end with such bad news, I want to finish by turning to a new signing to Roadrunner - none other than the greatest band in the world: Rush. Their twentieth studio album, and their first for Roadrunner Records is out in June but to keep us going, they have released another single from the album: Headlong Flight. If you haven't heard it yet, you can listen on Soundcloud:

Or you can watch the official lyric video:

I love it... but then I would wouldn't I. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Black Stone Cherry - Secret Session

This Black Stone Cherry acoustic set is the fourth Secret Session that I have been fortunate enough to attend and the first I've been to since Rock Radio became Real XS. It is also the first that I've been to where I was already a serious fan of the band before going to the session.

All four of Black Stone Cherry by DavidDMuir
All four of Black Stone Cherry, a photo
by DavidDMuir on Flickr.
I have been a bit snowed under with work recently and it has taken me too long to get around to writing a review.In fact, it has been so long that the details have already begun to fade from my aged brain, so I'll start with the clearest abiding memory - it was outstanding!

They only played four tracks, the first of which was (I think) In my Blood and I'm pretty sure they also played Blame It On The Boom Boom as well as White Trash Millionaire but as I say, my recollection is a bit hazy so I'm willing to be corrected. Update: I have consulted with Daughter Number 3 and she assures me they only played three tracks. The second was Like I Roll and the third is described below. See told you my memory was going!

I am absolutely sure about what they finished with though - a cover of Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash. It is a track I have attempted to learn to play myself as I struggle on with my guitar lessons and the band did it fairly straight. At least the did so for the first couple of sections until the music began to morph... At first, I thought they were going to segue straight into one of their own songs. But when the vocal came in, it became clear that what they had done instead was get all Black Stone Cherry-esque on Folsom Prison Blues. Rather than just doing a straight cover version of a Cash classic, what they did was take the song and make it sound like one of their own. As I describe it here, it sounds terrible but trust me, it sounded great at the time!

I have posted some of the pictures I took on Flickr but you'll see a much better set on the Real Radio XS website. (I'm fairly sure they took video of the session too, but if they have posted it online, I certainly can't find it.)

And, in the "Isn't that just the way it goes..." category, this is the first Secret Session I've been too where I already CDs by the band, so I took one along to get it signed. But it's also the first Secret Session I've been to where they weren't signing stuff, they were just posing for pictures. Curses!

To finish on a more positive note though, they seemed to be a really great bunch of chaps and handled comments and questions in almost impenetrable (to them) Galswegian accents with good humour. So thanks to all at Real XS and more importantly, thanks to Black Stone Cherry for a great acoustic set.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Free Download Friday #125: Roadrunner Records goes to Download

I've been too busy of late to update this blog but I'm back this week with a link that will net you not one, but thirteen tracks! But first a slight diversion.

For the last couple of Christmases, I've posted links and downloads for Christmas songs from a variety of Pop, Blues and Rock artists. I thought that, since this is Good Friday, I should look for an Easter related song to offer as a download. The problem is, there are next to no Easter Pop, Blues and Rock songs at all... let alone free downloadable ones. At least, I couldn't find any. I guess that Easter is just not seen in the same light as Christmas by the music industry. If any of you can think of Easter songs, I'd be interested to hear your suggestions. The best I could come up with is this YouTube video of Larry Norman singing Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music? which contains the lines: "Jesus is the Rock and he rolled my Blues away." :-)

So, what about the promised thirteen track download? Well, it comes courtesy of Roadrunner Records - probably my favourite record label. Not only are they currently the home of the greatest band in the world but they also give away a ton of free tracks!

And once again, as they did last year, they are giving away a Download Festival sampler. I think this is a brilliant idea and I don't know why more bands/record labels don't do it. There are so many bands at a festival, how do you choose who to go and see? In general, I suspect most people will go to bands they've heard of, bands where they already have at least a couple of tracks in their music collection. So Roadrunner Records gives you a sample track from each of their artists that will be appearing at the festival. As I said, brilliant!

This year, the tracks on offer are:
1. Black Stone Cherry - White Trash Millionaire
2. Soulfly - World Scum
3. Lamb of God - Ghost Walking
4. Revoker - Stay Down
5. Royal Republic - Tommy Gun
6. Kids in Glass Houses - Gold Blood
7. Trivium - In Waves
8. DevilDriver - You Make Me Sick
9. Periphery - Icarus Lives
10. Theory of a Deadman - Lowlife
11. Machine Head - Locust
12. Megadeth - Public Enemy No 1
13. Opeth - The Devil's Orchard  
A really good mix of tracks. My favourite is Black Stone Cherry but there's a really good mix of styles there - pretty much something for everyone. Just go to the Roadrunner Records facebook page, enter your details, sign up for a mailing list and you'll be sent a link to the download page.

So, what's your favourite track?

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Free Download Friday #124: Yes

I think most bands are defined by their vocalists. You can mess about with other band members as much as you like; but change the vocalist and you change the band. There are of course exceptions to this rule. For example, I think AC/DC pulled it off because their sound is essentially Angus and Malcolm Young; and arguably Blackmore and Lord defined Deep Purple so they could go through multiple vocalists and still sound like Purple.

But Yes without Jon Anderson? No! Not for me anyway. And I don't think I'm alone in this, for example, despite his son being in the line-up, Rick Wakeman described a recent incarnation of Yes as a "Tribute act"! :-) So I was in two minds about linking to this track: a free download of a live version of Owner Of A Lonely Heart. It is taken from In The Present: Live from Lyon and features Benoit David on vocals, Steve Howe on guitar, Oliver Wakeman on keyboards, Chris Squire on bass and Alan White on drums. So, a pretty strong set of musicians and most with many years of experience of playing in Yes... but with Benoit on vocals. Hmm!

Well, in the end (clearly) I decided to link to it. I like the track and, although M. David can't match Mr Anderson, this is a good version of a track I like very much.

But, I couldn't resist letting you hear this version too:

So what do you think? Good in it's own way or embarrassing tribute act?

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Free Download Friday #123: The Darkness

I've stated before that The Darkness seem to divide opinion, but while I would be forced to agree that their second album wasn't a patch on their debut album, even on an off day, The Darkness could teach any number of would be bands a thing or two about Rock!

the Darkness by uselessrebel
the Darkness, a photo byuselessrebel on Flickr.
So, I for one was glad to hear that the original lineup had got together again and were recording a new album. And even better, they have made a track from the new album available as a free download.

Just go the the Music page on the official Darkness website and download the track: Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now. Click the link, give them an email address and enjoy.

It's classic Darkness, and I love it. The track starts with sample (from Hawk The Slayer, trivia fans) that says: "I am no messenger, but I will give you a message..." according to the sample clip, the message is "death" but as far as The Darkness is concerned, the message is Rock and how to do it with style!

The track has driving guitars, a catchy chorus and Justin's power-falsetto. The lyrics are about young love, fixing bike chains and dodging parkies - I suspect there's a double entendre in their too but it's probably best not to look for it.

Great stuff! Anyone else glad to see The Darkness back on form?

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Rock Radio - Final Look

How long have I been promising to look at the Real Radio XS output? And yet, I keep going back to the Rock Radio data. I think this will be the last visit... I hope.

Outside Rock Radio FM by DavidDMuir
Outside Rock Radio FM, a photo by 
DavidDMuir on Flickr.
Why are we back here again? Well, as I did the analysis on genres and broke it down by DJ (see What genres of music did Rock Radio play?) it occurred to me that Tom Russell is the link between the old and the new. Since I concluded that DJs had an influence on the output of Rock Radio, it occurred to me that one test of Real Radio XS would be if Tom could still make a difference to what was played. Now, there are differences beyond just a change of station of course. Most importantly, Tom has moved from drivetime to breakfast. That could well have an influence on what is played but it should still be instructive to compare what Tom played on Rock Radio with what he is playing now.

So, I promise this is the last time I look at the Rock Radio data before I start publishing stuff on the Real Radio XS... probably!

Going back to the first post on this topic (Rock Radio Playlist) I gave an overview of what was played. Here then is the same sort of analysis but broken down by show.

Over the thirteen shows, 427 tracks were played altogether. This breaks down as 205 tracks over the six breakfast shows and 222 tracks over the seven drivetime show. This means that on average, Billy played 34.2 tracks per show, or 8.5 tracks per hour. Over the same time period, Tom played 31.7 tracks per show, or 7.9 tracks per hour. I'm assuming there's a similar number of adverts in both shows and no significant difference in the length of the news and traffic reports etc. (although it feels like there is a bit more traffic news in the morning). If, however, the non-music sections are of similar length in the two shows, it appears that Tom played fewer tracks than Billy. There could be a few reasons for this: Tom talked more between tracks than Billy (not my impression); Tom played longer tracks (possible); or I'm just wrong and there was more non-music stuff in the drivetime slot (also possible). Having noted the difference, it is worth saying that it is only a difference of roughly two extra tracks per show. I know enough about statistics to know I should really check if this is a statistically significant difference or just down to random chance... but I know enough about my own limited understanding of statistics to know that I would have to spend more time than I am willing to give to it to work out how to check for statistical significance! All offers of help from statisticians will be gratefully received.

As for what they played, direct comparisons are tricky because I missed one of the breakfast shows. The headline figures though are that Billy played 124 different artists and 186 different tracks over the six shows while Tom played 129 different artists and 210 different tracks over his seven shows.  It is worth noting that although (allowing for the extra show) Billy and Tom played a similar number of different artist, Tom clearly played a much greater range of songs. This can also be deduced from the tables shown below.

These tables display repeated tracks. Presumably, the most repeated tracks were down to the station's playlist obliging the DJs to play them a certain number of times.

Artist (Billy) Song (Billy) Number of Plays
Mr Big Undertow 4
Sixx A.M.  Lies Of The Beautiful People  3
Whitesnake  Love Will Set You Free  3
Michael Monroe  78 2
Extreme  Get The Funk Out  2
Bad Company  Good Lovin' Gone Bad  2
Led Zeppelin  Houses Of The Holy  2
Guns N Roses  November Rain  2
Gary Moore  Out In The Fields  2
Kiss  Rock And Roll All Nite  2
Foo Fighters  Rope  2
Dr Feelgood  She Does It Right  2
Aerosmith  Toys In The Attic  2
Bob Seger & The Silver...  Turn The Page  2
Metallica  Turn The Page  2
Manowar  Warriors Of The World  2
Pink Floyd  Wish You Were Here  2

Artist (Tom) Song (Tom) Number of Plays
Mr Big Undertow 4
Michael Monroe  78 3
Ozzy Osbourne  Bark At The Moon  2
Ramones  Blitzkreig Bop  2
Saxon  Dallas 1pm  2
Bad Company  Feel Like Makin' Love  2
Sixx A.m.  Lies Of The Beautiful People  2
Whitesnake  Love Will Set You Free  2
Foo Fighters  Rope  2

Finally, the table of most played artists for each DJ is shown below - only artists played three or more times are displayed. Again, direct comparison is tricky because of the missing Breakfast show data.

Artist (Billy) Number of Plays
Artist (Tom) Number of Plays
Ac/dc 7
Ac/dc 7
Aerosmith 6
Aerosmith 5
Foo Fighters 5
Bad Company 5
Pink Floyd 5
Def Leppard 5
Deep Purple 4
Free 5
Def Leppard 4
Rolling Stones 5
Guns N Roses 4
Guns N Roses 4
Mr Big 4
Kiss 4
Who 4
Led Zeppelin 4
Bad Company 3
Michael Monroe 4
Free 3
Mr Big 4
Kiss 3
Queen 4
Led Zeppelin 3
Ramones 4
Metallica 3
Saxon 4
Sixx A.M. 3
Thin Lizzy 4
Steve Miller Band 3
Van Halen 4
T Rex 3
Deep Purple 3
Whitesnake 3
Foo Fighters 3

Foreigner 3

Jimi Hendrix 3

Joe Elliot 3

Journey 3

Ozzy Osbourne 3

Red Hot Chili Peppers 3

Surely there is no more to be milked from the Rock Radio data at this stage, so the next post will have to look at Real XS? Time will tell!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Free Download Friday #122: Coheed And Cambria

I first became aware of Coheed And Cambria thanks to the now sadly missed Rock Radio and in particular, their Secret Session.

All together by DavidDMuir
All together, a photo by DavidDMuir on Flickr.
I loved Claudio Sanchez's voice and although they are described as Progressive Metal, they are closer to the Progressive end than the Metal end of that label - just the way I like it. And, as promised in my review of their Secret session, I soon went out and got one of their albums. Currently I have two: Year Of The Black Rainbow and In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 but I fully intend to acquire more. In particular, they are working on a new album at the moment and, on the strength of the acoustic demo they are currently giving away on their website, I think that it will definitely be added to the wish list when it is released!

The track is called Sentry The Defiant and you can get it by visiting their website and filling in an email address in a widget at the bottom right-hand corner. There is also a video of Claudio playing the track that runs on the site which you can watch as you wait for the download.

I think the stripped back nature of the demo, just Claudio singing and playing the guitar, shows off the quality of his vocals and strength of the song. It will be interesting to hear what it's like once the whole band has got to work on it. For example, one of the tracks I most enjoyed from their acoustic set was Here We Are Juggernaut. At first, when I got the album, I kept thinking how I liked the acoustic version better but eventually the album track snuck up on me and I began to appreciate both as different versions of a great track.

So what do think? Classic Coheed And Cambria?

Monday, 13 February 2012

What genres of music did Rock Radio play?

In my last post about Rock Radio (What did Rock Radio play? An explanation) I tried to justify how I allocated each of the bands played by Rock Radio over a seven day period to a particular musical genre. You may or may not have been convinced by the method I adopted but it at least gives an indication of the range of styles played.

The reason I wanted to do this was because the range of music played was one of the regular discussion points about the Rock Radio output. Discussion (i.e. complaints) usually focused on one of three questions:
  1. Why do they never/always play [band X]?
  2. When they play [band Y], why is it always/never [track Z]?
  3. Why do they play so much/so little [type G] music?
I tried to address the first two questions ages ago when I wrote the Rock Radio Playlist post (although I may say a bit more about that topic before moving onto look at the Real XS output). This post though will focus on question 3 by looking at the genres of the music played over the seven day period when I collected the data.

So without further ado, here's a graph:

As you may be able to see if you have particularly good eyesight, even allowing for the occasional dodgy classification of a track, the dominant musical forms on Rock Radio were Hard Rock (33%) and Rock (23%) with Heavy Metal some way behind with 11% of the plays. The complete table of genres is:

Times Played
Hard rock
Heavy metal
Alternative rock
Punk rock
Glam rock
Progressive rock
Psychedelic rock
Roots rock
Funk rock
Alternative metal

This more or less matches my experience of listening to Rock Radio. I always said I was reasonably relaxed about what they played. Obviously, they should have played more Rush, but in general I liked what I heard. I liked hearing stuff I wouldn't normally listen to and they introduced me to bands that I might have otherwise missed: AirbourneApocalyptica, and Black Stone Cherry to name but three. Of course there was stuff I didn't like but in general there was more that was rocking than was shocking (to borrow from Tom Russell).

But to get back to the numbers above, for a station calling itself Rock Radio, I think that's not a bad balance of styles; especially since I was looking at the Breakfast and Drivetime shows which will inevitably aim to appeal to a more general Rock listening audience than one of the speciallist shows such as the Metal Hammer show. I might liked to have seen a bit less Punk and a bit more Prog but otherwise I can't really complain. What do you think? Unbalanced or about right?

Before I leave this analysis of styles, I think it is worth putting the output from Billy Rankin beside Tom Russell's output. I think it shows that individual DJs were able to shape what was played, at least to an extent.

Tom played a bit more Heavy Metal than Billy and Billy favoured Blues and Prog a bit more than Tom. Again, this reflects my memory of the DJs output and probably explains why I preferred Billy over Tom. (Not that I dislike Tom you understand!)

So bottom line as far as I'm concerned is:

  • The output from Rock Radio was not unreasonable for a rock station
  • DJs make a difference
But what does the data say to you?

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Free Download Friday #121: More from Mr Bonamassa

I've been sitting on this one for a while but it looks like it may still be active.

Go to Joe Bonamassa's Travellin' South page, give him a "Like" on facebook and then (hopefully) download Travellin' South from his Had To Cry Today album. This is an album from a few years ago (2004 I think) and it probably leans towards the Rock end of the Blues-Rock  for which Mr Bonamassais is so rightly famous. As a track, Travellin' South drives along like a freight train. It starts at a pace that says, "I'm stopping for nobody!" and by the time you get to the solo about halfway in you are kind of hoping it will just keep going. There's sections where the solo is largely percussive but once you've got the groove, Joe goes soaring off and you go South with him. Outstanding! And despite clocking in at 3:51, it feels far too short.

The reason I'm not sure if it is still available is that getting the download is a three stage process. First you go to the Travellin' South Download page. Second, you click a button to register a facebook "Like". Then, a download button becomes active. When I did this a few weeks ago (I already have the album but I did it to check it worked) I got the download no problem. But, when I try it now, I can't click the Like button. I hope this is because I've already clicked it and so can't click a second time. The trouble is, I don't know if the Download button still works. Let me know how you get on.

In case the download button is broken, here's another Joe Bonamassa download that might work for you but (so far) hasn't worked for me. Once again, it is from the Joe Bonamassa website but once again, it gets a bit complicated. From the front page of the website, there is still a link to the free download from Dust Bowl which I shared in Free Music Friday #89: Dust Bowl. However, from an email I got from Mr Bonamassa himself (he sends them to me personally you understand) I got a link to a similar download page but this one is advertising the upcoming release of the Beacon Theatre: Live From New York DVD and the page promises a free download from the DVD in exchange for an email address. Well, I gave them my email address but unless I'm missing something, as yet they haven't sent me a download link.

I'll keep checking my mailbox and I'll tell you if something eventually comes through. Let me know how you get on.

Update:  Used a different link, this one from YouTube, and this time I the download page straight away - didn't have to wait for an emailed link. I've updated the link above, so hopefully, you'll get it too.

Sorry, if neither of these work for you but Joe Bonamassa is so awesome that I decided I couldn't put off sharing any longer.

Monday, 9 January 2012

What did Rock Radio play? An explanation.

This post was supposed to give a bit more analysis of the old Rock Radio data but as I wrote it, I discovered a good bit of explanation was necessary first...

In my original post, I noted the number of tracks played, the number of artists that featured and how often the different artists were featured across the Breakfast and Drivetime shows over a period of seven days. (Although I missed one of the Breakfast shows, so I only have the data from 13 shows.) The next thing I wanted to do, but never got around to, was to look at the genres of music that featured. But, before I can look at genres, I need to make a couple of disclaimers.

First, I realised after collecting the data that not everything that is played on the radio features on the website. It seems that if the DJ played something that was not in the station's database of songs, it didn't feature on the "what was played" page. Sometimes the webpage claimed that the same song was played twice in a row and my guess is, that when a track was played that was not in the database, the system just reported the previous track had just been played again. It looks like Real XS does something similar - it has solved the repeated track reporting problem but there are still gaps when a DJ goes "off piste". For example, on the last Friday before Christmas, I submitted a trio of festive songs for Tom's Godfather of Rock feature (or Godfather-Christmas in this case). I asked for The Black Crowes - Back Door Santa; The Darkness - Christmas Time; and Black Stone Cherry - Santa Is Back; but as you can see from the screen dump, Back Door Santa is conspicuous by his absence!

So any analysis of what the station played will be incomplete because I am relying on what their website says they played rather than listening to the output and recording what they actually played.

From Wikipedia entry
The second disclaimer relates the the way I have decide on the genres of music played. Picking a genre is, inevitably going to be subjective, so I tried to assign a musical style in a way that was as fair and transparent as possible. But the main problem was that I had data on 361 different songs. I quickly decided that I had neither the time nor the inclination to go through 361 songs and assign a musical genre to each one! Since there were only 185 artists ("only 185" - ha!) I decided to assign a genre to each artist and then assume that each track of theirs that was played was an example of that genre. Clearly this is daft, for example I have classified Kiss as "Hard rock" (for reasons I'll explain in a moment) but had the misfortune to hear the abomination that is I Was Made For Loving You on Tom's show the other day, which couldn't be considered Hard rock by any stretch of the imagination! I hope though that reporting on genre by artist will give a reasonable view of what the station played since it is as good as I can manage in the time available.

The last piece of the puzzle therefore is how did I allocate genres to artists. The problem is, of course, that if you got five Rock fans in a room, you are likely to have seven different opinion on how to categorise any given artist. Also, some artists defy easy categorisation and over the course of their career, or even the course of one album, they can range across umpteen genres. I decided therefore to rely on the wisdom of crowds and turned to Wikipedia for help. Pretty much every artist listed in Wikipedia has a number of genres associated with that artist listed in a sidebox along with basic information such as when and where they were formed; years active; and past and present members. I decided to allocate the genre listed first in this sidebox as the genre for the artist. So, to take Rush as an example, I would probably have categorised Rush as "Progressive rock" but accept that they are a band that are difficult to pin down to one style. As you can see from the screen shot here though, the sidebar in Wikipedia, while listing "progressive" as one genre, puts "Hard rock" first in the list. In this instance, the list happens to be in alphabetical order but this is not always the case. I cannot find any information to explain the convention in the order of listing genres but have assumed that the first listed is the one that is considered by the Wikipedia community, to best categorise the artist and in general, on the face of it this seems to be a reasonable assumption to make. There are one or two exceptions I made to this method. If an artist does not have a Wikipedia entry (and the overwhelming majority do) I chose a genre based on information either from the artist's own website or (preferably) a site such as AllMusic. The other main exception was where the first stated musical genre in the artist's Wikipedia entry would have left them in a category of one. In those instances (again this applied to fewer than ten artists) I chose the next listed genre instead.

I hope this makes sense and that you don't disagree too violently with the approach I have adopted but let me know what you think. And now, after this long attempt to justify myself, I hope to actually post some new analysis of the old Rock Radio data in the very near future.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Free Download Friday #120: Free Prog!

Four progtastic tracks from Pallas for free download.

Pallas by tim ellis
Pallas, a photo by tim ellis on Flickr.
The free tracks are cunningly placed on a page called Free Downloads. The track at the bottom of the page is the radio edit of Monster. And it is a monster of a track - catchy chorus and great guitar solo about the four minute mark. Oh, and as well as the mp3, you get a pile of graphics and promo material.

Scroll back up to the top of the page, and you can download a "big band" remix of the same track - it does what it says on the tin and yes, it is as weird as it sounds.

Also on the page is a demo track called Atlantean and a cover of Black Moon (and ELP track from the album of the same name - not ELP's finest IMHO but Pallas do a good job with the cover).

So, a pile of graphics and about 20 minutes of prog for free. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Rock Radio and Real XS

Some time ago, I wrote a post about the Rock Radio Playlist. I always meant to go back to the data and do a bit more analysis but somehow I never got around to it. A lot has happened since April 2011, not least the transmogrification of Rock Radio into Real XS.

Moving at the speed of rock! by DavidDMuir
Moving at the speed of rock!,
a photo by DavidDMuir on Flickr.
Had Rock Radio continued on, the data was so old that  it would not have been worth digging it up but, with the changes, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to poke the data a bit more and then compare it with an analysis of data from the current Real XS output. So, over the next couple of posts, I'll look again at the old Rock Radio data and over the next couple of weeks I'll collect data from the Real XS breakfast and drive time shows to see how it compares.

First though, four observations I should have made at the time of the switchover:
  1. I understand the station had to save money but cutting DJs may be a false economy. I don't tune into radio to hear uninterrupted music - I use my iPod for that. The DJs are the glue that keeps me stuck to a show; them and the community of listeners that grows around a show. For example, Billy Rankin used to regularly get hundreds of comments on his facebook page and I am still in contact with a number of people that I only know because of their contributions to his programme. You don't get that loyalty and community with an uninterrupted rock block!
  2. Rock Radio had the Metal Hammer show and the Classic Rock Magazine show both of which have now gone. I don't know how much money the sponsorship of these shows brought in but I wouldn't have a problem with more sponsorship if it allowed the station to hang on to more DJs. (Poor Tom Russell seems to be given no time off. Are there no employment laws about exploiting national treasures?) Perhaps the Classic Rock Presents Prog magazine would have sponsored a show, or a Blues/Guitar magazine. Or, the station seemed to have a good relationship with Roadrunner Records - would a company like that not have been willing to sponsor a show? (I'm aware here that I may be trying to teach my rock radio management grandmother how to suck eggs but thought it was worth saying.)
  3. I became increasingly uneasy about the Real XS trails that were supposed to reassure us. They kept telling me not to worry because they would be playing Kylie. It never occurred to me that they would not be playing Kylie! Why did they feel they had to keep telling me they wouldn't? In fact the more I thought about it, the more annoyed it made me because if Kylie ever produces an out and out belter of a rock track, I hope they would play it! For example, look at the people that collaborated with Slash on his recent album - would you have anticipated hearing someone from the Black Eyed Peas or Nicole Scherzinger on rock radio? Yet, the Slash tracks fit perfectly with a rock radio playlist. So, bitten from both ends: if they are a rock station it should go without saying that they wont play pop; but if a pop artists starts producing great rock songs, of course they should be played!
  4. I've kept the one that annoyed me most to last. At the time of the changeover, the people in charge appeared to treat their listeners with contempt. (Thought long and hard about that, but I think "contempt" is not too strong a word.) This seems odd since up to that point, they were a station that knew how to connect with their listeners with (as mentioned already) the DJs facebook pages; a great website; and regular events such as the birthday bashes, curry-oke nights and secret sessions. Yet when the rumours about the changes started circling, the management kept a stony silence. Now, there may be commercial reasons why they could say nothing but when the news broke "officially" on another website there was still nothing from Rock Radio management. It was Father Ted who understood the listeners and broke the news a couple of days later - against (I suspect) the wishes of management. And it was Father Ted (of blessed memory) who caught the mood of the listeners and when he thought: Rock Radio's going down the tubes, so let's party! Meanwhile, Rock Radio management's response was too little and too late when they finally put a corporate-speak announcement on the website and tried to pretend that it was business and usual: "Nothing to see here, just move along and keep listening." Bah!
That was then, but where are we now with Real XS? A while down the line, it's fair to say that it is not exactly business as usual (the complete destruction of the evening schedule is particularly upsetting) but it is also fair to say that the popocalypse feared by some has not taken place either. There is a feeling abroad though that the playlist has changed somewhat. I hope the next few posts will shed some light on that...