Music365.com recently published their top 100 British albums of all time. Instead of voicing
my obvious objections, I've decided to do something more positive. Well, okay, I can't ignore
the fact that What's the Story (Morning Glory)? and Mezzanine beat out Abbey
Road and Sgt. Pepper's. What's up with that?! The fact that you had to think for a
second about who made Mezzanine proves my point. Also, where's Loveless? Anyway,
let's bring the focus back to this side of the Atlantic. Let's talk about the best Canadian
albums of all time. Great albums need no further specification of band name. When I say
Cuts Like a Knife and Moving Pictures, you know what time it is.
01 Leonard Cohen: Songs of Love and Hate
Much of this list will be educational, in that you never realized these people were even
Canadian. You see, the Canadians are sneaky like that. They don't wave flags and boast. On
the seminal, harrowing Songs of Love and Hate, Leonard hints at his Franco-Canadian
heritage in songs like "Joan of Arc." Cohen's timeless balladry stirs sepia images of the old
west, cobwebbed bars, empty taxis, and thunderous nights. His songwriting immediately sounded
like American classics. And he was Canadian.
02 Neil Young: After the Gold Rush
The great American gold rush took place in the middle 19th century. It's uncertain when the
Canadian gold rush took place, but Neil Young's 1970 album, After the Gold Rush, inspired
many dreamy young gents to pick up their "ax" and wander to California. On a stripped down
affair, Neil whines in that trademark nasal, "Look at mother nature on the run/ In the 1970s."
A much more poetic sentiment than Paul McCartney's "Band on the run/ Band on the run." Take
03 Godspeed You Black Emperor: f#a#oo
By name alone, this Canadian troop would make this list. Few people realize that Canada once
had a real black Emperor, Toussaint L'Overture. Okay, well, maybe that was Haiti. Godspeed
fills Canada's need for a band name that starts with the letter G that people love to acronym.
We have GBV and GVSB. Canada's GYBE might even be better than those two. On their wild debut,
the collective spins goth psychedelia you'd never expect guys with tattoos and wristbands to
make. Truly one of the most original bands of recent history, GYBE might represent the new
04 Alexander "Skip" Spence: Oar
The craziest bastard on this list, Skip Spence was Canada's Syd Barrett. Unfortunately, Moby
Grape was not exactly San Francisco's Pink Floyd. After a brilliant debut that was grossly
mishandled by their label, Moby Grape got lost in the LSD shuffle. Skip Spence lost his mind,
drove a motorcycle across America, and recorded Oar in Tennessee. The spooky results
sound like a brilliant druggie wringing the remains of his brain into overdubbed analog tapes.
Smog, Tom Waits, Cat Power, and Beck owe obvious debt to Spence's woozy folk. Tom Cochrane
05 Joni Mitchell: The Hissing of Summer Lawns
Again, I can hear the collective "Oh, I didn't know she was Canadian" spill from your lips.
Come on, people! Blue is her obvious choice album, but I find Hissing Lawns
weirder with a cooler cover. And the country that gave us Our Lady Peace's Clumsy needs
better cover art. "The Jungle Line" bopped along on Burundi drums years before Paul Simon
thought of such concepts. What few people realize however, is that Canadian lawns hiss in the
summer. It's the hiding moose, slithering across the ground.
06 Oscar Peterson & Ella Fitzgerald: Ella and Oscar
Man, is England ever white! We North Americans can at least claim soul and jazz. England's
jazziest pianist might be Elton John. Think about that. Canada can claim one major jazz
musician, Oscar Peterson. So he makes this list by default. Ella Fitzgerald isn't Canadian,
but this is a great album. Canada has yet to produce a truly great female crooner.
07 Bryan Adams: Cuts Like a Knife
Bryan Adams is the Bruce Springsteen of Canada. Okay, well, maybe he's the John Cougar of
Canada. Canada is much like a giant Indiana in many ways. Trust me, I've spent a lot of time
in both. Just substitute basketball with hockey and you're there. Anyway, back to "the Boss."
On his classic, Born in the USA, the Boss has his back pocket stuffed with an American
flag. On Cuts Like a Knife's cover it looks like Adams has a guitar sticking out of his
ass. Draw from this whatever you will...
08 Rush: Moving Pictures
I went to a World Series game once. The Braves played the Blue Jays. Billy Ray Cyrus played our
anthem. Rush played "O Canada!" It was at this point I realized I shouldn't make fun of Canada
that much. Without Rush, Pavement would not have the sly, sardonic pop reference to slip into
their songs. Then all the American college kids would be lost. Moving Pictures is hands
down the best Rush album. The riff of "YYZ" almost makes me like them. Almost...
09 Alanis Morissette: Jagged Little Pill
I would have picked Alanis!, her bubblegum 'n' bangs debut, but her record label paid me
not to mention it. Once I was walking down Toronto's Queen Street and I spotted Alanis!
in a used CD shop for $6 (Canadian). It is now mine! I'm going to tell the world about her
shady past! She had a song called ...mmmph... unhand me! ...mmmph... okay, okay! Did you know
Jagged Little Pill was the #1 selling album of the 90's? And you thought the 80's were
10 Steppenwolf: Steppenwolf
Remember that part of "Star Trek 7" when James Cromwell shoots off into space, blasting "Magic
Carpet Ride?" You do? I'm sorry. Please see selection #8.
11 Sloan: One Chord to Another
The UK has the Beatles and the Jam. Nova Scotia has Sloan. It's sort of the same! After a
couple of weak attempts at shoegazer pop on Geffen, Sloan retreated to Halifax and put their
pop influences on their sleeve. One Chord to Another perfectly mimics the 60's pop
sound. Canada really didn't have much going in the 60's. The surfing's not that great up
there. Still, at least Sloan refrain from songs about salmon fishing. That's sort of how I
picture a Canadian Beach Boys.
12 The Band: The Band
The Band tried to fool consumers into thinking they were the only one. "Have you heard this
band?" "The Band, no, I haven't heard them. I'll check them out." Bob Dylan was backed by "The
Band." Bob Dylan secretly wanted to be Canadian. That's why he talks so funny. Listen to how he
says "aboot!" Really! England had America, the band, and Canada had The Band, the band, while
America had Dylan, the man. Are you following this? That's a lot of songs about horses.
13 Gino Vannelli: Brother to Brother
Gino Vannelli started the whole white man afro thing. At the Drive-In totally rip off Gino
Vannelli. Back in the 70's people would always say, "Man, have you seen Gino Vannelli live?!
He's the best!" There's something innately entrancing about bouncing afros on white guys.
Brother to Brother contained the massive hit, "I Just Wanna Stop." The one that goes
"I just wanna stop..." and then does stop. Brilliant. Gino invented that whole
stop/start dynamic thing that emotional hardcore bands love to emulate.
14 Sarah McLachlan: Surfacing
Pitchfork's Nick Mirov has an odd obsession with Sarah McLachlan. I asked him why, and he told
me, "She has the cutest little chipmunk cheeks and toes." Well, Nick, I think you're on to
something. Sarah McLachlan made it hip for moms to wear belly piercings and toe rings.
Surfacing was the OK Computer for middle-aged men who work all day behind
computers. It brought new fantasies to their doldrums. I'll admit, she can write a pretty hook.
"Building a Mystery" was due to become the nation anthem of Quebec if they'd separated from the
Union. Quebec is building a giant, secret superweapon to destroy us all.
15 Eric's Trip: Forever Again
Canada's big indie rock band! Named after a Sonic Youth song! That's indie! They've even
spawned side bands like Elevator to Hell and solo projects like Julie Dorion. For a time there,
it seemed like the entire college indie rock scene in Canada was being produced by Eric's Trip.
The acid soaked Purple Blue was a little self-indulgent, so I have to go with Forever
Again. Imagine the Smashing Pumpkins' Gish without the baggage of the subsequent
career. What I'm saying is that they never did Machina. O Canada!
16 Propagandhi: How to Clean Everything
Canada doesn't have many punk icons. England is waving the Sex Pistols and Clash in our face.
But Propagandhi were actually socialist! They didn't sell out. This might be the best album
Fat Wreck Chords ever put out. Hyper riffs, time changes, and bile-filled humor speed by. I
worshipped this record in 12th grade. I wasn't very popular. To this day, it's one of the few
pop-punk albums I've held on to. And just think, the guys from Propagandhi never went on to
form a banal new-wave pop band. Yes, I'm ripping on Jawbreaker.
17 Canadian Brass: All You Need is Love
Listen to those melodies! Brilliant melodies that you swear you've heard before! The french
horn rubs up against the canadian trombone, just like the culture of Quebec. You swear
you've heard these melodies before. Timeless melodies. "When I'm Sixty-Four" revives barbershop
ditties. "Eleanor Rigby" brings tears to your eyes. You can imagine a woman picking up rice in
a church. The Canadian Brass write some of the best melodies you've ever heard on this album.
What? They didn't write this stuff?
18 Cowboy Junkies: The Trinity Sessions
"Blue Moon," "Walking After Midnight" and "Sweet Jane" are timeless songs. Unfortunately, the
Cowboy Junkies didn't write any of them. I know what you're saying: "Brent, the last two albums
on this list have been cover albums." Hey, you said it. Canada has lots to offer, really.
Mississauga is a lovely town. From the CN Tower, you can see all the way to Mississauga. The
CN Tower has a glass floor! It's scary. I thought it would be cool if they put a pool with a
high dive on the glass floor of the CN Tower. That would be awesome! Oh yeah, the Cowboy
Junkies. They're pretty good, right?
19 Snow: 12 Inches of Snow
England's Top 100 also lacked any sort of hip-hop. Or reggae, for that matter. Canada rubs Snow
in the Queen's nose. He's rap and reggae. My friend Monica quoted the chorus to
"Informer" to me a couple of hours ago. Sorry, Monica, now thousands of people know that about
you. But just think, years later, people can still quote that song! Rumor has it that Snow
currently shovels his namesake.
20 Bruce McCulloch: Shame-Based Man
Bruce McCulloch is one of my favorite people ever. He was the funniest Kid in the Hall. No
arguments. And on this album he makes fun of both America and the Doors. For taking a stand,
and being a proud Canadian, he earns a spot on this list. Plus, "Baby Jesus" made me cry the
first time I heard it. It's one of the funniest things you'll ever hear. Canada might not have
that much music to offer, but they have moose-loads of comedians.
21 Hayden: Everything I Long For
How creepy was that video where Hayden fantasizes about an underage neighbor? Well, at least
you could believe him. Hayden beat Pedro the Lion to the punch in the droopy white baritone
songwriter sweepstakes. And it's a big sweepstakes, let me tell you. For winning the race,
Hayden received a bomb sophomore album and a quick slip into obscurity.
22 Loverboy: Get Lucky
This cover art is classic. Look up the list above you and notice how boring and gray the album
covers are. Loverboy has sass and sex. I remember seeing them on American Bandstand, and all
Dick Clark could talk about was how Canadian they were. Sadly, there was no Canadian Bandstand.
Well, maybe there was. I'm not Canadian so I wouldn't know. Remember that movie with Patrick
Dempsey called "Loverboy?" He was a pizza boy who bonked bored housewives. That movie was
23 Anne Murray: What a Wonderful World
Odds are, your mom sort of looks like Anne Murray. Anne Murray is the mother of Canada. All of
Canadian culture spills from her womb like a maple placenta. Gross, Anne!
24 Thrush Hermit: Clayton Park
I'm going to be perfectly honest with you. I've never heard this album before in my life. But
I know it's Canadian. Hey, on Amazon.com, a "fan from China" had this to say about Thrush
Hermit: "The drummer loks [sic] so much like Jesus he might as well be. You rock Jesu [sic].
thrush hermit ROCK so BEYAD [sic]." Thrush Hermit has fans in China! And I still haven't heard
them! This is a testament to China's growing globalization and Canada's growing musical prowess.
25 Glass Tiger: The Thin Red Line
"Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone)." Well, Glass Tiger is gone. And most of us Americans have
completely forgotten them. Isn't that ironic? Hey, that's an Alanis Morissette song! Canadian
music is awesome! My roommate had an idea for me to make a list of "25 Albums That Might as
Well Be Canadian." Topping his list was Collective Soul. But really, if any band was meant to
be Canadian, capturing everything from the puffy bangs and hockey hair of London, Ontario to
the maple syrup in overproduced keyboards, it was Glass Tiger. By the grace of God, they were
put in their right place. Upon my first visit to Toronto, I was amazed at two things-- 1) that
Canadian Taco Bell has french fries and 2) that Glass Tiger is still a "name" band.