THE TOP 100 CANADIAN ALBUMS by Bob Mersereau (Goose Lane), 214 pages, $35 cloth. Rating: NN
Any book that purports to have a lock on the 100 best anything is bound to start more arguments than end them, especially when music is involved.
New Brunswick-based CBC journalist Bob Mersereau knew that when he set out to compile a definitive list of the best Canuck albums ever made. His amply illustrated book sits nicely on your coffee table, but it should have come with an asterisk denoting the exclusion of genres like R&B, blues, funk, hardcore punk, psych, disco, gospel, opera, Celtic, fiddle music, polka, reggae, ska, soca, techno, house, electronic, avant-garde and whatever else wouldnt fit on a rock radio playlist.
The fact that the list looks like a straight tally of most frequent spins of CanCon radio staples since the 70s should make more sense knowing the jury pool of music biz insiders is skewed toward middle-aged dudes affiliated with radio stations.
Its no surprise, then, that Neil Youngs Harvest is number one, and seven of his other releases make the top 50. A quick flip through the reproduced sleeve art reveals a predictable selection of the best-loved albums by Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, the Band, the Tragically Hip, the Guess Who, Rush, Gordon Lightfoot, Sloan, Bryan Adams and others thats more likely to reaffirm conservative tastes than introduce readers to amazing recordings they never knew existed.
The few incongruous entries, like Oscar Petersons Night Train, Glenn Goulds Goldberg Variations (one entry for both the 1955 and 1982 versions) and k-oss Joyful Rebellion, smack of tokenism, as if thrown in to avoid the perception that all the jazz, classical and so called &147;urban music produced in Canada wasnt completely ignored.
To fill in some of the huge gaps, a few ringers provide their own lists. Great Big Seas Alan Doyle chimes in with his Newfoundland and Labrador faves, Stony Plain label boss Holger Peterson offers his Canadian blues top 11 and Teenage Heads Gord Lewis tosses in a selection of punk albums thatll have you scratching your head.
No less puzzling than the number-six ranking of Alanis Morissettes Jagged Little Pill, ahead of the Bands self-titled debut (!), are the many oversights too numerous to list. Suffice it to say that the absence of anything by Hank Snow, NoMeansNo, D.O.A. Robert Charlebois, Lighthouse, Bonnie Dobson and Lee Gagnon calls into queston the validity of the whole project.