Neil Young's classic disc "Harvest" tops a list of the 100 best Canadian albums, according to a new coffee-table book coming out Thursday.
Author and music lover Bob Mersereau polled nearly 600 musicians, critics, DJs and retailers to come up with a ranking of the country's best-loved discs for his book, "The Top 100 Canadian Albums" (Goose Lane Editions).
Joni Mitchell's "Blue" comes in at number 2, followed by Young's "After the Gold Rush." Rounding out the top five are the Band's "Music From Big Pink" and the Tragically Hip's "Fully Completely."
Mersereau admits the poll results are very much a "snapshot" of today's Canadian tastes rather than a definitive statement on the history of Canuck rock, and that the list will undoubtedly raise debate among anyone passionate about music.
"That's the whole fun," Mersereau says.
"The important part is to talk about Canadian music and enjoy it. This was tried to be a consensus of as many music people and music fans and big serious listeners across the country that have definite opinions. I'd be shocked if there wasn't complaints and arguments and debates. Half of my (own) list didn't make it."
A quick glance at the book reveals several repeat appearances by well-loved Canadian artists: Young comes up eight times, while the Guess Who, Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot each have five albums on the list. The Tragically Hip have four, while Sloan have three.
"I think it's legitimate that there are so many repeats. I can't argue with any of these artists. I might prefer one over the other but I think it's really good to see albums like Joni Mitchell's 'Hissing of Summer Lawns,' which was career suicide when it came out," says Mersereau, a music writer and longtime arts reporter for CBC-TV in New Brunswick.
The tabulation was fairly simple, Mersereau explains in the introduction to the book, which also includes album artwork and new interviews with many of the musicians.
Each juror was asked to send in a list of their top 10 discs, using whatever criteria they wished. Each number 1 pick was awarded 10 points, with the number 2 choice given nine points, and so on.
A total of 580 responses were tallied, and Mersereau says he took pains to make sure they were drawn from a range of ages, regions and backgrounds.
"I didn't want this to be a music nerd book ... I wanted this to be something different," he adds.
"I wanted popularity to be in it, too, because we are talking about pop music even if it is Oscar Peterson or Glenn Gould. What's popular, what people want, what people like, that is often scorned in critical circles, yet there's a reason things are popular and there's a reason things stay popular like the Guess Who or April Wine. They have the ability to make us feel great and they become important memories for us through our whole lives."
Amid the classics are some modern sensations. Montreal supergroup the Arcade Fire come in at number 8 with 2004's "Funeral," while Broken Social Scene's 2002 disc "You Forgot It in People" lands at 28 and Feist's 2004 disc "Let It Die" is number 43.
"It wasn't just young people that were doing the votes for that, I had people like Stuart McLean, a CBC broadcaster, voting for Arcade Fire. Shocked me. I didn't know Stuart was that hip, but sure is."
Other discs benefited from the passage of time. Hamilton punk band Simply Saucer failed to make a dent in the music scene in the mid-'70s and disappeared into obscurity until being rediscovered by a local music writer in 1987, says Mersereau.
Their early sessions were revived as vinyl copies, and then followed by a CD reissue in 2003. The music insiders who jumped on the disc pushed it onto the 36 spot of Mersereau's list.
"Things change and people pass (albums) back and forth," notes Mersereau.
"(Simply Saucer) never went anywhere, gave up in 1979 and (it's a) sheer fluke that they have become so influential to a new generation."
Music lovers can debate their own favourites at a series of book launches to be held across the country over the next week.
Mersereau promises that a stop in Halifax this weekend will feature a special musical guest from the list
Debate is sure to follow the release of "The Top 100 Canadian Albums," a book based on a survey of nearly 600 musicians, music critics and fans. A look at what made the Top 20:
1. "Harvest," Neil Young (Reprise, 1972)
2. "Blue," Joni Mitchell (Reprise, 1970)
3. "After the Gold Rush," Neil Young (Reprise, 1970)
4. "Music From Big Pink," The Band (Capitol, 1968)
5. "Fully Completely," The Tragically Hip (MCA, 1992)
6. "Jagged Little Pill," Alanis Morisette (Maverick, 1995)
7. "The Band," The Band (Capitol, 1969)
8. "Funeral," Arcade Fire (Merge, 2004)
9. "Moving Pictures," Rush (Anthem, 1981)
10. "American Woman," The Guess Who (RCA, 1970)
11. "Songs of Leonard Cohen," Leonard Cohen (Columbia, 1967)
12. "Reckless," Bryan Adams (A&M, 1984)
13. "Five Days in July," Blue Rodeo (Warner, 1993)
14. "Twice Removed," Sloan (Geffen, 1994)
15. "Up To Here," The Tragically Hip (MCA, 1989)
16. "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere," Neil Young with Crazy Horse (Reprise, 1969)
17. "2112," Rush (Mercury 1976)
18. "Court and Spark," Joni Mitchell (Asylum, 1974)
19. "Whale Music," Rheostatics (Sire, 1992)
20. "Acadie," Daniel Lanois (Opal, 1989)