Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Great Source for Free Music from The Pixies, Frank Black, and More

Some of the best Web sites about rock musicians have been put together by fans, and these days fans are applying their passion to podcasting. If you're a fan of punk pioneers The Pixies or their leader Frank Black (who has also called himself Black Francis and Francis Black at various times), you'll want to listen to the FrankBlack.net podcast.

Created and run by two Frank Black fans (one in New Jersey, one in Canada), this twice-a-month podcast has for a year now been offering a knowledgable collection of music and information about Black's musical output. It includes full-length selections--free and legal--from his work with the Pixies, his solo career, and his work with Frank Black and the Catholics.

Each episode runs from a half hour to 45 minutes.

Besides the album tracks that may be familiar to Frank Black fans, the podcast features B-sides, unreleased tracks, live performances, and more. Among other things, you'll find:
* live cuts that sometimes differ quite a bit from their original studio versions
* rarities from Frank Black's library that haven't seen the light of day (or the light of a CD player, or whatever the appropriate analogy would be)
* the hosts' choice of underrated songs that deserve more attention
* cover versions culled from tribute albums and elsewhere
* "Frank Black to Back"--alternate versions of songs, played next to each other for comparison
* guest interviews and songs from Frank Black collaborators and others associated with various Black projects

So the FrankBlack.net podcast is a good resource for both longtime fans and for new listeners.

The hosts joke around a bit but never lose site of the focus on Black and his music, so the banter is never annoying. These guys are dedicated fans first and foremost, and their goal is to expose listeners to the genius of Black.

Besides the podcast, the folks at FrankBlack.net run a fan Web site that includes extensive forums, news, tour updates, and more. The site and podcast are great resources for diehard fans and anyone looking to get into the vast output of Black in his various musical incarnations.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Learn About Jazz Legend John Coltrane in "Traneumentary"

Podcasts have evolved from entertainment to education, but that goes far beyond university lectures and language courses. Now you can learn all about legendary saxophonist John Coltrane, and hear his music, at the "Traneumentary" Web site.

Yes, it's an awkward name, combining "Coltrane" and "documentary," but the idea is a great one and the execution is involving and high-quality. The Web site features informative blog entries, and the companion podcast features exclusive interviews as well as excerpts of Coltrane's music. Episodes feature commentary from figures such as Jimmy Cobb, McCoy Tyner, Sonny Rollins, Terence Blanchard, and many others.

In one episode, legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb talks of his experiences playing and recording with Coltrane. In another, singer Karrin Allyson talks about her first experience with Coltrane. Producers also talk about working with "Trane" and his impact, and offer insights into cuts such as the classic tune "Blue Train."

Traneumentary is a thoughtful and well-produced introduction to one of the giants of jazz. It's especially good to have since Coltrane's widow Alice, who managed the Coltrane archive and managed his estate, passes about just a couple of months ago. Alice Coltrane played piano in her husband’s group, and was highly regarded in her own right as a composer and multi-instrumentalist.

Monday, March 12, 2007

For St. Patrick's Day, Free Irish and Celtic Music

Irish music is a natural part of any St. Patrick's Day party or celebration. And thanks to podcasting, you can get plenty of Irish and Celtic music for free on the Internet, from traditional to contemporary, New Age to Irish rock. Here are a few choice podcasts that play full-length tunes. All are available through iTunes and other podcast programs, or at the Web sites linked to below.

Cleveland Celtic Podcast: You wouldn't necessarily associate Cleveland, Ohio with Celtic music, but there's an active music community there, as this podcast attests. The podcast plays Celtic rock and Celtic contemporary music from all over the world, including points far beyond Ohio.

Irish and Celtic Music Podcast: Hosted by a musician who specializes in Irish and Renaissance music, this podcast features interviews and songs covering different types of Irish and Celtic influenced music. There's an emphasis on independent artists, with ballads and uptempo rock-influenced tunes, and Scottish folk songs (and a bit of bagpipes). And you're sure to find some drinking songs in the mix.

Pub Song Podcast: If you want to head straight for the drinking songs, this is the place to go. Brought to you by the host of the Irish and Celtic Music Podcast, it features pub songs from Irish, Celtic, and non-Celtic traditions. The songs are lively and fun, and sometimes just reading the titles will give you a chuckle. The podcast may also include some poetry and news on folk songs.

Irish Music Podcast: Here's a different kind of Irish podcast. from three musicians who call themselves "The shock jocks of Irish and Celtic Music" The podcast features three or four songs from traditional and non-traditional bands, plus "plenty of pints and ranting."

Friday, March 02, 2007

Coming to YouTube: Doctor Who and Friends

Although YouTube couldn't reach an agreement with Viacom on content, it just signed a deal with a major broadcaster from overseas. YouTube and the BBC announced today that they had inked a deal to put the British broadcaster's programming on the popular video sharing site.

The content will include popular shows such as Doctor Who, Spooks, and The Catherine Tate Show. It's not clear whether the content will involve excerpts of all shows or the complete shows. It sounds like there will be at least one news channel and one entertainment channel, though one report I read indicated there would be two entertainment channels.

It's said that advertising will be included in one of the channels, which has caused some controversy in Britain. The BBC is funded by license fees that TV owners in Britain purchase, and the network contains no advertising. The Beeb's international programming can contain advertising, and there's been much rancor over whether properties such as the BBC News Web site should contain ads.

As an American, I don't see any problem with them including ads on content shown outside Britain, since they don't get any licensing money from non-British users (though they do receive money for the rights to show programming on networks such as PBS). I'm looking forward to being able to see more BBC programming, with or without ads.