The Top 100 Canadian Albums
Reviewed: December 5, 2007
By: Bob Mersereau
Publisher: Goose Lane Editions
214 pages, $35.00
The first thing that surprised me about this list of the top 100 Canadian albums is that we have 52 of them in the house. Some are on vinyl, some on cassette tape and some on CD. Some were borrowed from other peoples’ collections and were the motivation to go out and buy other material by the same artists, but most were eventually bought. Of those albums not in our personal collection, most of the artists who made them were represented by other material, so we’re up around the 80% mark in terms of selection.
I would worry about the accuracy of Mersereau’s tabulations if it weren’t for the fact that he had such a large jury on this project. I mean, I just wouldn’t expect to be that plugged into the music scene any more. I stopped trying to keep up around the time that I realized I really didn’t like the sound, lyrics or message of most of what my teenage children were buying - and that was 10 years ago now. There are high points in any decade, though, and I seem to have managed to hit a few of them.
Mersereau’s name is on the book. He wrote and assembled it, but you really can’t blame him for the choices or the ranking. For that you can blame the nearly 600 people who are listed on the six pages near the back of the book. They are musicians, DJs, VJs, writers, listeners, band members and solo artists and each of them was asked to come up with their own personal top ten list.
The result of that was that Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, The Band, and The Tragically Hip hold down the top five spots with albums that range from 1968 to 1992 in age. There are multiple entries for Joni, Neil, the Guess Who, the Hip, Leonard Cohen, k.d. lang, Rush, Gordon Lightfoot, Blue Rodeo, Sloan, Bryan Adams, Sarah McLachlan, the Barenaked Ladies and the Rheostatics.
I suspect that the book should have been titled The 100 Most Influential Canadian Albums, because it really reads more like that. The younger musicians who do rate an entry or two in these pages are quite likely to be quoted as saying that these were performances that blew them away when they were kids, just starting out.
The basic structure of the book is pretty simple. It begins with #1 - Harvest - and continues on down the list to Sam Robert’s We were Born in a Flame. Each entry gets a page or two of analysis, with information about the performer and tidbits about how the album came to be, or how the career started. It’s a format familiar to any listener of Randy’s Vinyl Tap.
There are other things embedded in the book though, and it’s a bit of nuisance that there’s no table of contents to help you find this stuff. I’m talking about the sidebars and the extra lists: Neal Pert’s list of best drummers, top ten albums from both coasts and the prairies, Holger Peterson’s top ten blues albums, Randy Bachman’s favorite guitarists, Colin Linden’s list of roots albums, best metal albums - and the lists go on.
This is a first rate coffee table book for anyone with more than a passing interest in music history. The complaints I’m reading elsewhere stem from the relative lack of material after the year 2000, but it takes a good decade to determine if a artist or an album has staying power, so that’s not really a bad thing. Besides, it leaves lots of room for someone to put together a new top 100 list and leave out all the people that I recognize. I’m sure it won’t be too long before that happens.