Top Cat was the top night cartoon for me.

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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

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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….

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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.

Waylon’s Honky Tonk Heroes and the State of Our Country (Music)

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In May 1973 Waylon Jennings released his masterpiece album Honky Tonk Heroes (HTH) on RCA. The record company was reluctant to release it, but they had just renegotiated Waylon’s contract giving him full control of his recording so as not to lose him to Atlantic Records. They were worried this collection of Billy Jo Shaver songs were too raw, too honest, too off the Nashville map for success. They were leery of the players, for the first time the recording was done by Waylon’s touring band and not hired Nashville guns. What they released was the initial wave of a musical storm named “Outlaw”.

HTH set the benchmark and the blueprint for what was to follow, a turn away from the Nashville factory and to personal vision and artistic truth, not only to the songs but to the arrangements. This sound brought many aspects of rock and roll into the fold, one most notable was the rhythm section. Waylon, being the bass player in Buddy Holly and the Crickets, loved the thump of the bottom end locked into a perfect duet with the percussion. The ignition of HTH influenced many artists and songwriters: such as Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Hank Williams Jr., Townes Van Zandt, Tanya Tucker, Jessi Colter, Sammi Smith, and Emmylou Harris.

The coming years would see this sub-genre explode with Waylon and Willie throwing most of the dynamite. HTH remains a powerful reminder of how great Country Music can be. I listen to the “new country” and it seems so safe and generic. I tell friends it’s mainly “bad Eagles music” or Jimmy Buffet with a cowboy hat, excuse me I mean a backward baseball hat. I know there are exceptions, but it seems to me we need a Waylon Jennings and a Honky Tonk Heroes to wash away lots of plastic on Country’s beach.

Honky Tonk Heroes is one of those seminal works that everyone should own, or at least hear once.

 

Jesse Winchester

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One of our great singer/songwriters left us too soon a few weeks ago, Jesse Winchester. I discovered his music in 1971 through my fanatical The Band love and bought his first album solely because it was produced by Robbie Robertson.

I was hooked, his gentle voice and graceful playing sold me. Also his Southern heritage struck a chord in me. Note: I know it’s hard to believe but Northern Virginia not too long ago was Southern in its ways and patterns, good or bad.

He never had the mass appeal, and I never found anyone who was a fan enough to ruminate with about his new work or his past catalog. I am happy my wife loves his smooth voice because she heard it often through the years.

I was lucky to see him perform once, he sat sideways on a stool, guitar in hand and for two hours took the audience by the hand and guided them through the fields of Mississippi and the caverns of the heart.

If I could have the world see just one Jesse Winchester performance, it would be the one below. It is from an Elvis Costello songwriter TV show, Jesse sings his beautiful and longing Sham-A-Ling-Ding-Dong and slays the audience and brings a tear to Neko Case’s cheek…. mine, too.

Jesse’s CD Love Filling Station on which you’ll find the studio version of Sham-A-Ling-Ding-Dong.

Jesse’s Gentleman Of Leisure on which you will find his beautiful I Wave Bye ByeTrust me

 

Why a Scottie?

scottA few months ago we welcomed a new Scottish Terrier puppy into the Greene clan, his name is Watson. He is kin to our first Scott, Mac, and to our two Scotties, Scamp and Mitty, who we lost in a spell of one year. My daughter also shares a home with a Scottie named Boomer.

So the question.. why a Scottie? I cannot speak for my wife Tammy (who loves them, too) or my daughter, I can only tell you why from my GREENE point of view.

Note: I grew up with a Scottie. The original Mitty was gregarious, loyal, feisty, and lots of fun. We had many dogs but Mitty has always been my favorite, I guess because we had her when I was in grade school (geezer alarm) and those years are when your collective memory really begins to congeal.

1. They have beards. All Greene men have beards or should have beards. Greene gals want men who have beards or they should.

2. Scotties, they like to eat. Greenes, ditto.

3. They like to stick to their own closed groups;  family and close friends. They only tolerate others because they were told to at an early age. Again, ditto.

4. They don’t bark much but when they do, they mean business. Greenes have a card that says that.

5. They much rather be home on the couch listening to music, reading a book or watching TV than out at a party or a bar. Greenes, ditto, though I added the music, book and TV thing, Scotties can do fine with home and couch, oh and food, I can’t forget food.

6. When a Scottie befriends you, they are friends forever. I hope that is true for us, too.

7. Sometimes they prefer to be alone and under a chair. Half of that is true for a Greene.

8. They do not suffer fools gladly. I got nothin’.

9. They have long and sturdy memories. Greenes remember every laugh and tear.

10. They do not go gently into that good night, but they go with dignity. So far, so good.

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The Beatles, hey I can take criticism and dislike but dismissal…nope.

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Here is a link to an opinion found in The Washington Post outlook section on Sunday, June 21, 2013, written by Justin Moyer.

LINK.

Here is my reply:

Dear Editor,

As a subscriber for over 40 years of the Post I’ve read many asinine opinions, but not many as asinine as Mr. Moyer’s The Beatles:Let Them Be.

Mr. Moyer must be too young to remember the great music critic Lester Bangs or has never read any of Greil Marcus’ work to have the connection as popular music as art. Mr. Moyer seems to be caught in the celebrity aspect of music or the next thing, nothing wrong with that, nothing unless you dismiss the past. Imagine an art critic dismissing Leonardo or Raphael as old hat and unworthy of attention or a film critic writing about Citizen Kane as unworthy and not worth a view, not with Iron Man 3 in the theatre.

The Beatles are as important to popular music as Beethoven is to classical, imagine the guffaws a critic would bear if they dismissed that master’s work. If we prattle on about dismissing the great works of the past, the seminal pieces that the foundation of that art is built upon, we lose the context of what art is and become purveyors of marketing. By dismissing the past Mr. Moyer makes the future inconsequential.

That or he believes pop music and rock and roll are not art forms but merely commodities, if that is the case, he should start working AR for a record label.

The Beatles are as relevant today as they ever have been, that is if you consider music art and the makers of it artists. Forty five years from now The Fab Four will still be treasured and honored and their art only enriched by new ears, groups such as fun. and The Lumineers will be but trivia answers.

Stilson Greene

At my age… that’s not a good idea.

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When you reach a certain age, say 55, there are some things that you just shouldn’t do. I am that age and over, so I know of what I speak.

Here’s the list of “don’t do’s” over 55.

1. Karaoke – trust me

2. Tequila shots

3. Tequila shots AND karaoke together.

4. Twister

5. White Belt  Personal aside, my wife  knows that if we are ever walking through a department store and I stop to admire white belts in the Men’s section, she has permission to kick me in the shin just as hard as she can.

6. Play air guitar in public   You just don’t.

7. Knee high socks with shorts

8. Plaid

9. Buy a bright yellow car

10. Send Christmas cards out in October, just to be sure they arrive on time

11. Neck tattoo

12. Collect garden gnomes and stone frogs    One each is enough

13. Eat gummy worms alone in public

14. Fall asleep on a public bench

15. Planking

So, there’s some of mine. There are some others, like never give up and never forget.

Your Life’s Playlist, So Far.

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Imagine you have to choose twenty songs that represent who you are, not just your favorite songs but songs that are you. Twenty songs that make up your life’s playlist as you stand right now. Twenty songs that friends would reflect upon you, but more importantly, twenty songs that a stranger would hear and form a glimpse of the person you are. Well, here’s mine.

1. When You Wish Upon A Star – Jiminy Cricket

2. Jailhouse Rock – Elvis

3. Old Wooden Cross – Johnny Cash

4. I Want To Hold Your Hand – The Beatles

5. A Change Is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke

6. Country Comfort – Elton John

7. Every Picture Tells A Story – Rod Stewart

8. Willie The Wandering Gypsy and Me – Waylon Jennings

9. Kentucky Avenue  – Tom Waits

10. Gimme Shelter – Rolling Stones

11. Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight – Bob Dylan

12. Daniel And The Sacred Harp- The Band

13. Real Love – John Lennon

14. Wonderful Remark – Van Morrison

15. When Johnny Strikes Up The Band – Warren Zevon

16. Buffalo River Home – John Hiatt

17. Alien Love Song – Todd Wright

18. Here (A Song For Tammy) – Stilson Greene

19. The Weight – The Band

20. In My Life – The Beatles

So as of today, there’s mine, it could change tomorrow. I’d love to hear yours, so post on……