The Lost Art Of Liner Notes: Mike Post – Railhead Overture (1975, MGM Records)

Posted on by Paul in Albums, Classic Albums | Leave a comment


Nowadays, Mike Post is best known for composing the Law & Order theme, but before he was famous for being the man behind that iconic “Dun Dun,” he was known for being the guy who stood at the junction of two railroads that ended abruptly while dressing like some kind of proto-Napoleon Dynamite on the cover of his 1975 album Railhead Express. While the liner notes really lay it on way too thick and play it up like this is some kind of grandiose concept album about how awesome trains (and brass bands) are, it’s … really not. It’s mostly just a random collection of Post compositions (only one of which seems to be explicitly about trains) and a few covers such as “Georgia On My Mind” and “Wouldn’t It be Nice,” with the big standout here being the other TV theme song that Post was know for before the L&O theme – “The Rockford Files.”

While I do appreciate the subtle-but-not-that-subtle shade thrown at some past collaborators of Post while he was on his way up  (“some names remembered and some best forgotten.”),  I fail to see how any of the music featured here really manages to introduce the “dialogue between rock and roll and the enlarged brass ensemble” that the notes promise. I mean, really, wasn’t that more Chicago’s thing anyways?
Whatever. Next stop, liner notes:

The great fire breathing locomotives sit like old soldiers on rusted tracks in wasted towers, their thunder silenced by the incessant whine of the endless freeway. We’ve reached the Railhead, the end of the line – the obvious place to search for a beginning.

Like the image of the iron trains etched in the memory of America, the explosive sounds of the large brass ensemble are remembered still, but only in dim lit dance halls of nostalgia where they echo the fate of the once proud locomotives.

Now a vision, similar to that which bore this “big band sound” and harnessed the fierce grace of the old trains, becomes the point at which the two converge. The artist who conceived this vision is Mike Post. He rocked and rolled through the 50’s and 60’s bending strings, pounding keys, and producing and arranging for some names remembered and some best forgotten. Post’s creative vision, however, soon exceeded the limitations of the standard five piece rock and roll rhythm section.

Through his collaboration in composition and orchestration with Pete Carpenter (his partner in various television and film scores, and very close friend) this project is Mike’s step toward a more complete musical expression.

This album then, is an introduction – an overture – to the dialogue between rock and roll and the enlarged brass ensemble, one to which we should listen closely, for it is a dialogue between our musical past, present, and future, all of which converge here, at the railhead overture.
– Stephen Geyer

Concert Review: Alex Lahey, November 22, Drake Hotel

Posted on by guestwriter in Concerts | Leave a comment

by Melody Lau

It’s always neat to see what touring musicians are most excited about when they first touch down in Canada. For Australian Alex Lahey, her immediate thoughts upon entering the country for the first time may or may not have been inspired by the name of the venue she was playing at on Wednesday night, the Drake Hotel. “Drake and I house-swapped,” she eagerly told the crowd, noting that our “6 God” was in her hometown that same night and perhaps even staying at Lahey’s parents’ home. And while the rapper might’ve missed out on welcoming Lahey to his city, many eager fans were there to greet her.

Lahey has had a very busy year. To kick off 2017, she opened for Tegan and Sara in Europe, which was a great pairing of acts and, actually, an ideal gateway into the world of Lahey’s music. Lahey’s breakneck pop melodies recall the Canadian sister duo’s more guitar-driven anthems (think So Jealous’ “Speak Slow” or The Con’s “Hop a Plane”) and while Tegan and Sara have shifted to a more synth-focused sound nowadays, Lahey proves that a mean riff can still deliver a powerful sing-along earworm.

All of that is encapsulated on Lahey’s debut full-length, I Love You Like A Brother, which came out in October. It’s a confident collection of songs about not being entirely confident in yourself. From financial woes to failed romances, I Love You Like A Brother paints a messy portrait of a 20-something, but distilling these characteristics into infectious pop gems that dare us to celebrate instead of dwell on these missteps and flaws.

Live, she rips through songs with such speed and precision that dwelling is never an option. Instead, all you can do is bop and dance along as Lahey shreds through album opener, “Every Day’s The Weekend,” or highlight, “I Haven’t Been Taking Care of Myself.” It’s a fun show that almost feels like she’s breezing through a greatest hits set, except she’s only got one EP and one LP to her name.

At one point in the evening, Lahey pointed out that she and her band (a drummer, guitar and bassist round out her live act) elect an MVP at each show. She gave examples of previous winners on tour such as a man who told his girlfriend he loved her for the first time after “I Want U” (“He definitely got laid that night,” she added) or a woman who attended her show hours after a surgery. Perhaps she forgot due to her excitement of listing off her favourite Canadians (among them are Shania Twain and Tegan and Sara tour mate Ria Mae), but Lahey never named an MVP on Wednesday night. To which I’ll just go ahead and say, on behalf of the Toronto audience, that Lahey was the true MVP of the night.

Concert Review: Dua Lipa, November 26, Aragon Ballroom

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Any woman who chooses the tongue-stick-out as her cover look is going to be memorable, right? Far from hiding her personality, her ambition, her talent, her strengths or her tongue, Dua Lipa lets it all hang out in the best of ways. The uber-talented English-Albanian wonderwoman proved herself strong as ever in her awesome performance at Aragon Ballroom on Sunday. Dua graced the Chicago venue as part of her “Self-Titled Tour” (again – love how she owns her own fame and talent) and gave the audience the show they were hoping for. And WHAT an audience. You know you’re in good company when you have men in bathrobes, women in “If you’re under him/You’re not getting over him” T-shirts, and more men in bathrobes (most also wearing high heels) out for an epic Sunday Funday with their favorite diva.

First (and very importantly for the 30+ crowd like yours truly), Dua was extremely punctual. Love it. The woman sent her three bandmates out on stage to rev up the crowd with headbanging … intro music … a life-size screen of her … and BAM: the woman herself. Dua took the stage at 8:30 sharp and didn’t waste a moment from that second on. She dominated the scene in fabulous yellow wide-leg pants and a super sexy top, complemented (of course) with her signature amazing Pantene-ProV-commercial-quality hair. Her hips hypnotized, her twirls titillated, and her voice thrilled. Dua’s pipes are amazing live – to the point that I heard scandalized members of her fan base wonder aloud if she was lip syncing … only to be hastily and angrily hushed by bystanders.

Second, her banter to song ratio was great. A woman of few words, she gave Chicago the shout out it was craving, urged the audience to sing along, but otherwise kept the focus on the music. I have loved this artist for a long time just for her big hit, “New Rules”, but she really blew me out of the water with her range and diversity. She hit the crowd with a great selection of tracks, my new favorites being “Hotter Than Hell,” “Dreams,” and “Garden.” Although she’s been compared to other sultry-voiced female artists (think Sia, P!nk, Charli XCX) Dua really brings something unique to the table that you can only see live. Bottom line: Go see her. Like now. This woman is going places fast – you’d better catch her before she’s too big for intimate, memorable shows like this one.

Concert Review: Pale Waves, November 16, Baby G

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | Leave a comment

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It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a new buzz band on the cusp of stardom. Now a grizzled veteran, I tend to stick to more known music factors, much to my own distaste. But you know, as you get older you really want to be efficient with your time and sometimes taking a chance on a new band is a risk you don’t want to take. Something about the charming singles that UK band Pale Waves put out struck a chord and so here I was, Thursday night at the Baby G.

With three hit singles (maybe … I don’t know what constitutes a hit these days) released this year, Pale Waves have become popular enough to do a stateside tour. The enthusiastic crowd at the tiny confines of the Baby G further strengthened the notion that it was a worthwhile trip. The group has an interesting aesthetic. Visually, they are clearly inspired by the ’80s goth look with heavy eyeshadow, dark lipstick and generally dark clothes. In contrast, their music was comprised of mostly sunny, effortless pop. So read what you will into that.

For a relatively new band, the group sounded pretty polished live. Lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie really only has two moves on stage, the first one involving her tilting her head 45 degrees sideways while the other is an arm thing similar to what the Backstreet Boys did in their video for Backstreets Back:


I guess in time, she will develop more moves. One criticism you can make about the show is that the band’s songs all are … kind of very similar. When you hear them on Spotify or whatever, you usually just hear one of them at a time so it isn’t overtly obvious. However in the context of a 45 minute set, the string of songs put together start to blend. Whether or not Pale Waves makes it to the next level might very well hinge on their ability to diversify. With hits like “Television Romance” and “New Years Eve” already out there, it’s clear they can write catchy, fun pop songs. I guess the question is … what else can they do? I guess We’ll find out in time.