Rocket Tunes –

Okay, so I just got a stylish new RED iPod NaNo, my first real foray into true iPoddy goodness, and now I have to fill it.

My 30 GB Zen is mainly full of free podcasts and Napster tunes, but Napster to Go, their subscription service, doesn’t work with Apple products (why can’t we have ONE standard for this stuff?), and iTunes has never been my favorite service.

This is why I tried out for free music downloads. Similar to Limewire, it’s a subscription service interface for Gnutella, but it’s a lot more robust, and user friendly – I didn’t even have an issue running it in Vista, which is notoriously twitchy.

Top Five Downloads

Downloading the software is a piece of cake, and searching for songs is simple – type in the track name or the artist, and, if you really want to limit your finds to mp3s, and not videos or other media, specify “audio” before you start the search function.

The basic version of the software gets you instant access to music but for a more robust connection, quicker searches, and different file types, it’s better to join the service. Membership ranges from 1.64 / month for a year to $34.44 for a lifetime subscription, and an additional $14.95 gets you access to downloadable DVD movies as well.

It’s a pretty sweet site, offering services like the top five downloads, as well as a user forum, and a way to meet other music fans.

Goes well with an mp3 player and dancing shoes.

Music Review: Dreamland, Brent Spiner & Maude Maggart

Brent Spiner, Maude Maggart
Get it from Amazon >>

I’ve always been a fan of audio dramas, and have fond memories of rainy winter Sunday evenings, when my mother would make soup or stew, and she, Ira, and I would sit around the kitchen table and listen raptly to the radio plays that were broadcast on the local NPR affiliate. Or maybe it was the Pacifica affiliate. Either way it was a nice break from worrying about heating bills, the merits of tanked vs. tankless water heaters, and any number of other modern subjects.

Knowing this, there is every chance that, had I known to look for it, I’d have fallen in love with Brent Spiner’s newest brainchild, Dreamland, a CD that is more than just music, but really an audio musical with a healthy dash of noir-style characters and settings, and some great American standards, performed by Spiner and his co-star for this production, Maude Maggart.

I’ll confess that, even though I’m not generally given to collecting autographs from actors, no matter how much I enjoy their work, I paid the extra $10 over the $19,99 base price of the Dreamland cd to have Mr. Spiner not only sign it, but also to add the phrase “To MissMeliss” in strong silver writing on the front, because I am that big a geek.

But I digress.

Dreamland is the story of one man’s dream. I’ve often said that I dream not just in technicolor, but in full surround sound with a studio orchestra and backup singers. Apparently, so does the protagonist of this story, because when we meet him he’s preparing for bed in a hotel room, and is asking for a 9:30 AM wakeup call.

For the rest of the 50-ish minute CD, we, and he, are living within the dream, and, as can happen in small-d dreamland, scenes transition abruptly, time is either stretched or compressed as needed, and songs are used to punctuate feelings, but also to further the storyline. At one point, our hero offers the heroine a lift, but instead of car, he has a train. Such is the stuff of dreams.

Spiner’s vocals seem richer and healthier than his previous disc, Ol’ Yellow Eyes is Back, which included similar types of songs. I especially liked “The Moonbeam Song,” and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” but everything was quite pleasing. Of course, he also wrote the script, so it makes sense that he would pick songs he sings well.

Ms. Maggart (who is also Fiona Apple’s sister), has a lovely voice, and it’s so refreshing to hear a female lead who isn’t an over-shrill soprano (though as a mezzo myself, I may be biased). Her “I Remember You” is sheer magic.

Many of the other characters in Dreamland were voiced by Mark Hamill (yes, that one), but you’d never be able to pick out his voice if you didn’t know ahead of time that he was part of the project.

In an age of wall-vibrating dance beats, it’s nice to spend a quiet hour listening to something like Dreamland, and enjoying music from a time when songs were so much more singable than they are now. The only thing missing from the audio experience, for me, was a rainy day.

Dreamland may be purchased at Brent Spiner’s website, The Real Brent Spiner, and he takes paypal.

Music Review: Stomping Grounds, by Joseph Clinebell

While I listen to music almost constantly, and have a full 30gig Creative Zen Vision M to prove it (in lime green, thank you very much), I tend to get in ruts where I listen to the same thing over and over. Still, when someone says, “Hey check out this cool Singer Songwriter, I think you’ll like his work,” I’m usually happy to do so. I’ll listen to almost anything once, after all.

Joseph Clinebell’s first CD, Stomping Grounds, is quickly becoming one of the discs I listen to more than once. He calls his collection of mostly-guitar-and-vocals songs “road trip music,” and really that’s the best description I can think of as well. For one thing, while his music is technically on the pop side of rock, there’s a vagabond-esque quality to it stolen from folk and country, that adds depth and dimension to tunes that are essentially pretty simple, with wonderful lyrics “….as a hailstorm draws near…the imperfect falls around…”

His voice is warm, vaguely reminiscent of early Michael Stipes or John Cougar Mellencamp at his most mellow (that folksy appeal coming out, I think), and overall Stomping Grounds is extremely listenable. So far, my favorite song is “Last Dance,” but they’re all good. And yes, perfect for hopping in the car, dropping the top, and enjoying the last warm days of Fall.

You can read more about Clinebell at his website:, and you can grab this CD from CDBaby.