Tag Archives: Stilson Greene

Take a walk down Kentucky Avenue with Tom Waits


Warning: This is a participatory post.

I’m not allowed to play Tom Waits at home while my wife is there, I can only listen through my headphones. The voice, well she just doesn’t get it. I can understand that, he is an acquired taste, but even she admits the power of his lyrics, well the ones she can make out.

I think everyone should listen to Tom, I know that ain’t gonna happen but I’m going to do my part to introduce you non-Waiters to one of the most original artists of our times via a song called Kentucky Avenue. It is a remembrance of his childhood and his friendship with a wheelchair bound pal stricken with polio. It is an amazing song, one that still moves and astounds me with its beauty. It captures that time so perfectly that it transports you.

So  click here, hit play, then come back to this page and read the lyrics below as Tom sings, do this, you will not regret it.


Well Eddie Grace’s Buick got four bullet holes in the side

And Charlie DeLisle is sittin at the top of an avocado tree
Mrs. Storm will stab you with a steak knife if you step on her lawn
I got a half a pack of Lucky Strikes man so come along with me
And let’s fill our pockets with macadamia nuts
And go over to Bobby Goodmanson’s and jump off the roof

Well Hilda plays strip poker with the Mummers ‘cross the street
Joey Navinski says she put her tongue in his mouth
And Dicky Faulkner’s got a switchblade and some gooseneck risers
That eucalyptus is a hunchback there’s a wind down from the south
So let me tie you up with kite string and I’ll show you the scabs on my knee
Watch out for the broken glass put your shoes and socks on
And come along with me

Let’s follow that fire truck I think your house is burnin down
Asnd go down to the hobo jungle and kill some rattlesnakes with a trowel
And we’ll break all the windows in the old Anderson place
And we’ll steal a bunch of boysenberries and I’ll smear em on your face
I’ll get a dollar from my mama’s purse and buy that skull and crossbones ring
And you can wear it round your neck on an old piece of string

Then we’ll spit on Ronnie Arnold and flip him the bird
And slash the tires on the school bus now don’t say a word
I’ll take a rusty nail and scratch your initials in my arm
And I’ll show you how to sneak up on the roof of the drugstore
I’ll take the spokes from your wheelchair and a magpie’s wings
And I’ll tie em to your shoulders and your feet
I’ll steal a hacksaw from my dad and cut the braces off your legs
And we’ll bury them tonight out in the cornfield
Just put a church key in your pocket we’ll hop that freight train in the hall
We’ll slide all the way down the drain to New Orleans in the fall


You’re welcome.

Kentucky Avenue is on the album Blue Valentine.





Jackson Browne – Standing In The Breach, still fits.


To me Jackson Browne is that old worn flannel shirt that you love to wear. You’ve had it for almost 40 years but it still fits great, it’s well worn and reminds you of your past days with a smile of remembrance. It’s your go-to shirt for rainy days, perfect with a hot cup of coffee and a dog curled by your feet.

I think Jackson Browne’s first five albums (Jackson Browne, For Everyman, Late For The Sky, The Pretender and Running On Empty) are at the pinnacle of the singer/songwriter genre. Each one is heartfelt, introspective and beautifully rendered. They make up the majority of the material on that flannel shirt. The work after those seminal albums is very good, singular moments are as good as his strongest moments, but as albums they don’t measure up.

Standing In The Breach not only measures up but adds to the shirt’s wove.

Starting with a tune he wrote as a teenager, The Birds of St. Marks could be an early Byrds’ album cut,  full of jangling guitars and hook laden it’s like a letter from an old friend. And after all these years his voice remains as beautiful and expressive as ever. Later he returns to the scene of one of his early successes in the song, Leaving Winslow. It’s beautiful bouncy jaunt that’s a perfect sequel to Take It Easy.

Like much of his “Post Empty” work many of the songs are political, but here they are more spoken to you than preached, approached in the same manner as his songs of heart and heart break. The Long Way Around and If I Could Be Anywhere are the best examples of this softer but just as moving approach.

The album closes with Here, a beautiful love song that would fit seamlessly on any of his first albums.

Standing In The Breach is Jackson Browne at his best, ten songs of love, honor and hope, all conjured by the affairs of the heat and of State.



Counting Crows – Somewhere Under Wonderland, A Review



I  am a fan of Counting Crows. I am the first to say sometimes I find them ponderous, especially in ending their songs and in their signature drop out vocal interludes. That said, after seeing  the first track on their new CD, Somewhere Under Wonderland, clocks in at 8:22, well, I thought the worst. Fortunately Palisades Park is a tight composition in movements flawed only a little by the two aforementioned Crows’ traits, but the ear candy hooks make up for it.

But what follows are four of the tightest, rock solid compositions that Counting Crows have ever unleashed.

Earthquake Driver is a uptempo rocker that gallops along with melody and vocal hooks that grab you from the first listen; if there was still AM rock radio this puppy would capture lots of airplay.

Dislocation reflects Adam Duritz ever changing views on fame, but again most of those views are fascinating in a voyeuristic frame. The song is a guitar driven rocker with all the patented Crow dynamics present, a standout rhythm section pushes it in overdrive.

God Of Ocean Tides slows the pace and proudly displays this band’s overlooked Americana roots. I never understood all the Van Morrison references, from the start Counting Crows took some earth from Big Pink’s basement and built their own foundation, something Van aspired to but his Gaelic blues usually beautifully betrayed him.  God Of Ocean Tides is not only the best song on Wonderland it may be the best song in the band’s strong and varied catalog. Lyrically it’s just beautifully rendered:

Truck stops and river Gods
Gas stations of the Cross
Following a ghost,
Following a ghost,
I pray the water wash away
The memories and the cost.

Carry me south, to the sea
Along with your memories of me
We are born in the water
Now we return to Thee.
Colored lights
And birthday cakes
Candle wax
On paper plates.

Breathe the water
Hush-a-bye, hush-a-bye.
You can see through water
All the way up to the sky.

The next track Scarecrow sounds like it dropped right from August And Everything After. It’s classic Crows and Duritz, both in composition and performance. You’ll be singing out Geronimo before the song ends.

The rest of the album is sturdy work, it holds up the running time with solid hooks, lyrics and musicianship. In fairness it would be near impossible to top the 4 previous tracks, tracks that stand with the best of Counting Crows work.

Somewhere In Wonderland is the best Counting Crows album and the best album I’ve heard in 2014.

Blood Meridian. It took me 20 years to finish this book…



I started Cormac McCarthy’s first Southwestern novel, Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West, in 1994 and I finished it this year. It’s not a long novel and like most of McCarthy’s work beautifully written. I stopped and started over the years due to the themes and the perpetual bleak violence of the story. I mean violence.

Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is a masterpiece of violence and violent people. His true account has horrifying passages but Capote’s genius lies with the words relaying these atrocities. They are poetic and beautifully structured. They slip a veil across the acts, that are no less horrifying, but soft focused by the rhythm of the telling.

McCarthy has not such an agenda, his tale of the 1849 Glanton Gang, scalp hunters massacring Native Americans and others for profit and entertainment, is clear eyed and terrifyingly focused. Adding to that stew is the introduction of a teenager, referred to throughout the novel as only “the kid” and the presence  of a genius murderous, maniacal pedophile called Judge Holden.

That violence runs to the other side, too, with a blistering account of an Apache raid that covers almost a page without punctuation. It is astonishing and also the point where I usually put the book down. It’s almost too much.

So why did I always return to these horrid tale?  One, I love McCarthy’s work, No Country For Old Men, The Road and All The Pretty Horses are some of my favorite modern novels. And as bleak and violent as they are, they cannot hold the darkness dripping from Blood Meridian.  Two, its critical reverence is vast and influential. TIME Magazine listed it as one of the 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. So I tried, again and again.

Finally this year I pushed through the tide of blood and finally caught the phantom’s coat that runs through the story. After a while the barrage of violence numbs you and you begin to feel the beauty of the words and the power of the narrative. I realized the reason I stopped was that it was too well written. McCarthy’s prose is unfettered in its depiction of the brutality, so much so it becomes elegantly elegiac . So much so you feel guilty admiring it but you decide to travel on to see where the red beauty takes you.

I cannot recommend Blood Meridian to anyone, it’s too polarizing. I will not read it again unless to go back to a certain passage for some clarification I may need. But I will never forget it. Judge Holden is etched in my brain and I believe is one of American literature’s great, if not greatest, villain. To prove my point of this work, when I think back on it, it is not just the carnage or the atrocities that reverberate in my mind’s eye,  but also an image of a big sad dancing bear.

“Only that man who has offered up himself entire to the blood of war, who has been to the floor of the pit and seen the horror in the round and learned at last that it speaks to his inmost heart, only that man can dance. – The judge”
― Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West 

The Zombies, an overlooked masterpiece risen from the dead.


Released in America in February 1969, two years after it was recorded, The Zombies’ second album Odessey and Oracle (O&O) fell flat and never made a dent in the charts. At its release the band was not together, they had broken up due to stagnant sales and some inner band acrimony. The closet thing to The Zombies at that time was the newly formed band from their ashes, Argent. That band would soon have the hit Hold Your Head Up on their hands.

The shame of all of this is that O&O is one of the best examples of British pop/psychedelic ever recorded. Solidly in between Sgt. Pepper and Pink Floyd’s early work, it stands the test of time. To fathom the little faith their record company had in their work all you have to know this tidbit. The graphic designer/illustrator mis-spelled Odyssey, but the brass decided not to change it after it was discovered, before being printed,  due to the cost, which was minimal.

If it wasn’t for some smart American DJ’s discovering the year old single Time Of The Season, and it becoming a hit, the album would never have seen American shores. The songs are stunning and, just like Pepper, recored in Abbey Road Studios and engineered by Geoff Emerick. Graced with a great vocalist in Colin Blunstone and players such as Rod Argent and Chris White, the work soars with harmonies, guitars, keyboards and the go-to instrument of the day, the Mellotron.

O&O starts off with this track, Care Of Cell 44, and only gets better.

I admit, I was a very late comer to this work. I discovered it about 7 years ago. I feel bad for all the times I could have heard this gorgeous piece of work from a greatly under-appreciated band.

O&O is now considered one of the great 60’s albums and is ranked in most Best Albums Lists. Rolling Stone has it at #100 in its “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” and New Musical Express  placed it at #32 on their “100 Greatest British Albums Ever!” list.

If you have never heard it, I highly recommend you listen, also recommended is the Live 40th Anniversary Concert. It and The Zombies sound amazing.



Covers Better Than The Original? Yep.

Everybody loves a list so here’s mine on a topic that is on many music blogs and sites. Now most of the time I prefer an artist’s own rendition of their work. Many people prefer Rod Stewart’s version of Tom Wait’s Downtown Train. Granted Rod has a voice that is like a sandpapered angel, beautiful; Tom’s is a sandpapered frog . But Tom’s version is full of the city’s mean streets and its hard luck citizens. I believe it is the vastly superior version.

So here are five covers I like better than the original, it’s subjective and personal, just like music.

5. Turn, Turn, Turn – The Byrds. That shimmering guitar jangle and Fab-like harmonies make one beautiful song. The great Pete Seeger’s original, not so much.

4.  House Of The Rising Sun – The Animals. This was a traditional blues folk song brought to radio life by a great British Invasion band. Here is an original interpretation by blues legend Leadbelly and his wife.

3. Mr. Bojangles – The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Originally recorded by its writer Jerry Jeff Walker and released in 1968. It was a minor hit. In 1971 it was eclipsed by TNGDB and their excellent version.

2. Twist And Shout – The Beatles. Originally recorded by The Top Notes, then more successfully  by the Isley Brothers, the song is now on hold  to The Fabs and John Lennon’s throat tearing vocals. One of the great vocal performances in rock and roll.

1. All Along The Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix. Sorry Bob Dylan, I love you, but Jimi now owns this.

So, there are my favorite covers that outshine the originals, I’d love to hear yours.

Top Cat was the top night cartoon for me.


Today with The Simpsons, Family Man and loads of cable cartoon fare, it’s normal to have cartoons on during prime time. But when I was a kid, OK when I was a young kid, prime time cartoons were very rare. As a matter of fact, I can only remember three, all by the Hanna-Barbera studio. (Note here: H-B studios ruled the mornings and after school hours with Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Auggie Doggie and Doggie Daddy, Pixie and Dixie and Jinx and a host of others. I grew to love Warner Brothers’ Toons but I was a H-B loyalist) Oh yea, the three nighttime toons were The Flintstones, The Jetsons and Top Cat.

It is not as well known as its two evening cohorts but it is by far my favorite. In 1961 and 1962, Wednesday nights at 8:30 on Channel 7, ABC, you could find me glued to our old black and white Zenith singing along with the theme song.

Top Cat and his gang, Fancy-Fancy, Spook, Benny the Ball, Brain, and Choo Choo, lived in Hoagy’s Alley in Manhattan. They were always trying a new scheme to raise some money, find a new place to live and even get a meal. These schemes were not always on the up and up and usually crossed paths with Officer Dibble. Dibble was their main foil but you knew deep inside they all cared about each other. He even took the boys in during a real cold spell and cartoon hilarity ensued.

I think the reasons I love Top Cat so much was that it was so different at that time. It took place in a real American city, using New York’s backdrop as a character. It was totally urban, something foreign to a country boy. The characters had an edge to them, they were not all warm and fuzzy, they had an Our Gang/Bowery Boys grit to them. Every character had a distinct tone that was consistent from episode one to thirty. And it was funny without playing down to  kids.  It did not rely solely on visual slapstick, even today it holds up.

So, if you love the old cartoons or you spend a lot of time watching TV with your young children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, and you find today’s cartoon insipid, stupid, boring and crass, I recommend you put a little T.C. on the menu. I bet you even watch it while they’re asleep.

You can find a number of episodes on YouTube and the full DVD collection is available here.  After all he is the leader of the gang.


CSNY 1974, a review


They were the biggest band in the world at the time, unfortunately they were not together. Promoters and AR cats convinced the members of CSNY that a new paradigm of concerts could be written on their back; 30 shows at BIG American arenas and stadiums as well as one gig at Wembley Stadium in London. The concert sometimes ran as long as four hours what with material from the group’s canon and their solo careers, all successful let me add.

Apparently acrimony and old grudges were never put away doing the tour and it was full of rockstar indulgences and crazy behavior from the first night. It came to be known as the Doom Tour, not fondly remembered by the band. It did not heal the group’s fissures but only widened them. But recently, after going back to the audio recordings, the band heard some amazing stuff and realized what this release proves: In 1974 CSNY was a muscular, moody, mercurial and mesmerizing ensemble capable of music magic.

Containing three CD’s with 40 songs picked from the tour and mixed by Graham Nash, with a DVD of concert footage mainly from a show at the now gone Capital Centre in Landover, MD, CSN 1974 is jam packed. It also comes with a beautifully designed 188 page booklet. (Note: I was in attendance at one of the Cap Centre shows and was amazed at how loud they were, it was not their albums, they were a savage rock band).

If you are a big CSNY fan I would purchase this box, if you are a hits only cat then the single CD with some Nash handpicked cuts will suffice. So far I’ve only seen it available on iTunes.

What you will hear are some great performances, here are some of the my personal highlights, you will have your own I’m sure.

Disc 1

Wooden Ships, a steroid dozed version big and beautiful

Helpless is a hard song to screw up, they don’t. They also add a pathos and longing to it.

Johnny’s Garden is a treat played by this group.

Black Queen is a Stills’s blues rock rave-up that channels Hendrix.

Disc 2 The Acoustic Set

The Lee Shore is just beautiful here. Throughout the sets everyone is in great voice.

Our House has never been sung better live by Graham, if so I’ve not heard it.

Blackbird, yep The Beatles tune done here in stunning four part harmony.

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes is a hard song on any stage, it’s an amazing version on such a big stage here.

Disc 3

Pre-Road Downs may be the best cut here, a rollicking version that at the time betrays the gloom and doom of the tour, you can hear the fun on stage.

Chicago and Ohio close out the discs, and they both work. It’s important to fully realize the times, here was the biggest act on the planet putting their political foot down hard on the throats of American politics. Risks and consequences be damed. How many of the big names today would dare do that?

CSNY 1974 is a moment captured, a moment when four of the best and most successful musical artists of their or any generation go on the road and changed the game with voices high.

Too much monkey business..

aftermonkey I love me some good monkey and ape entertainment. My favorite movie of all time is 1933’s King Kong; to this day it still fills me with wonder. Another favorite is 1949’s Mighty Joe Young, made by the same cats that made Kong. I’m not too thrilled with the modern day remakes, the powerful magic was squeezed out by technological wizardry.

But I’m also leery of monkeys, today Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes flick opens and I enjoy the old and new cinema chapters of this franchise. But it also makes me think, uh oh.

I was with a good friend of mine years ago when we heard a rumor of a farm that had monkeys that rode pigs and sheep. Well, we had to see. So we took a small road trip, snuck around some field and fences and gazed upon a sight that I will never forget. Monkeys riding pigs and sheep, and riding the hell out of them around the pens. We had no smartphones then and of course forgot a camera, but we saw it.

That’s when I knew, OK they may take over, what’s next, driving cars?

Well, almost. Here’s link to a video of Monkey Rodeo. Monkeys dressed as cowboys and riding dogs. What’s next, they start controlling “man’s best friend”? God forbid some hapless Monkey Rodeo owner decides to teach one to be a trick or sharp shooter.

Then there’s this video of a new craze in Japan, monkeys as restaurant waiters. Brilliant, give them access to our food!

So, I know there is much to fear in this world, but the next time the Monkey Rodeo comes to your town, or the employee filling up your water glass at the Ritz has fur and a tail, be afraid, be very afraid.

Greatest Hits are just part of the story and the music….


In the new paradigm of the music buying machine, we have lost the concept of “album buying”. Singles are downloaded or watched on the computer screen, but before the digital age held sway, it was called the Greatest Hits album.  I’m not a Greatest Hits cat, to me they are a collection of an author’s best chapters from his or her novels. Albums are, well were, a document of a certain time in an artist’s creative journey. I cannot imagine downloading one song from The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper or The Stones’ Exile On Main Street, they are only pieces of the work, without context or companionship. The albums stand in testament to the work and artistry created.

That said, Greatest Hits are very popular and remain a vital piece of the artist, publisher and record company’s life blood. So let’s take a look at some of the top selling Greatest Hits collections; in looking at them I’ll give you an alternative path to absorb the root of that artist’s work.

1. The Eagles’ Greatest Hits. This is the one of biggest selling albums of all time and the number 1 Greatest Hits album. I’m sure you have it. To see where this band evolved from and to hear a great record, I recommend you listen to their second album, Desperado,  released in 1973. The work is steeped in Country Western music and cowboy imagery. The_Eagles_-_DesperadoThe songs are strong and are connected through a time and space. Here, surrounded by its family and a cycle of stories, the song Desperado is a poignant and moving elegy to a man and a time past. This is gritty and honest music by my favorite incarnation of the band. I don’t believe they ever hit this consistent height again, but they soar here.

2. Creedence Clearwater Revival Chronicle. If ever a band can be summed up by their singles and hits, it is surely CCR. The path not taken here is their fourth album released in 1969, Willie and the Poor Boys.  Unknown John Fogerty was on a roll here, from Down on the Corner to his political firebrand, Fortunate Son (still true and effective today). Every song is a winner. It Came Out Of The Sky explodes off the record, while covers of American classics Cotton Fields and Midnight Special add an authenticity to the work showing where the party started. This album is what the Americana genre uses as its blueprint, they just don’t know it.

3. Jimi Hendrix Smash Hits. If all you want to hear is Purple Haze or Foxy Lady this one is for you. Hendrix was a nuclear explosion and his albums contained detonators, ignitions and fireworks that need to be heard, not only in context but chronologically. His growth as a singer, songwriter and player on his albums was and is beautiful to hear. I’m going to go with his debut Are You Experienced as the one to explore.  2054522This was revolutionary stuff in 1967 crossing all borders of music; it was so fresh, raw, magical and expressive but soaked in classic blues. Hendrix took rock/blues guitar by the throat and shook the hell out of it until it surrendered to him. This is the starting point of the new language the instrument spoke.

4. The Essential Bob Dylan. Yep, it has Blowin’ In The Wind, Mr. Tambourine Man, Like a Rolling Stone, Knocking On Heaven’s Door and many more, as a matter of fact, they keep releasing it with new additions. Picking a path for you here is a thorny task, Bob is a chameleon and his albums roll and move with his interests, moods and whimsey. I believe he is THE greatest songwriter and is America’s true Poet Laureate, to pick one of his works is futile, but I acquiesce.  Unknown-11975’s Blood On The Tracks is Dylan focused and tight, it is work of great power and astonishing insight into this enigmatic man; it’s a close view he would not share again. I’ll put it this way when Tangled Up In Blue is not the best song on an album you are flying in rare air.

So, wagons ho! Go exploring, and be sure and post your travels.