Canadian LPs – The top dozen & the rest

I have a buddy who has an amazing collection of records 20,000+ and a few years back he sold me a greatest hits collection from the 60s, 70s and 80s mostly as my start at record collecting.  I love to collect – started with beer and liquor bottles in my early teens, but that is another story.

Recently he told me he was going to be selling his collection and would I be interested in any more records.  Over the past two years, I have been getting more into the local Calgary indie music scene and reading books on the music of the ‘60s and bios, so I thought I would like a small collection of iconic Canadian LPs so I told him to pick me out what he things are the iconic LPs from his perspective. 

Yesterday we met up and he sold me the following LPs with an explanation of why he thought they are iconic.  Here are his thoughts:

Dear Richard,

This is what I found and kept in 40 plus years of collecting, now in your hands. Rather than present them to you in chronological order, in a display of a steady and depressing decline, I would prefer to point out that Canadian LPs of significance seem fit into three streams:

Musical father or mother – LPs of artists who had enduring followings, especially of other artists. Usually these are singer-songwriters of the late 1960s. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but it seems to be the way the music business works – singer-songwriters have the advantage of collecting double royalties as they maintain their careers.

Virtuoso – LPs of artists who played as if their life depended on it, who had some technical skill, and typically stood apart, without gaining the following of a musical father/mother. Canada, sparsely populated yet next to the huge U.S. market, seems more than other countries to rely on this type of artist. Interestingly, they precede and follow Canada’s Musical Fathers/Mothers.

True Patriot Love – LPs of artists who fulfilled a social function. I tried to keep this selection to a dozen LPs of the finest Canadian music, but that left too many holes in the collection, so I added close to a dozen more LPs that were produced purely for reasons of True Patriot Love. They fill out the picture.

Musical Fathers & Mothers

1961 Hank Snow – Musical Father               Souvenirs, a compilation of his 1950s hits, is the Canadian country LP. His influence was acknowledged by Elvis in the Million Dollar Quartet Sessions and by Dylan in his bio Chronicles Vol 1. Also partly virtuoso, he recorded an LP of guitar duets with Chet Atkins.

1967 Leonard Cohen – Musical Father     Songs of Leonard Cohen is the Canadian singer-songwriter LP.

1968 The Band – Musical Fathers                 Music from Big Pink is the finest Canadian LP ever.

1970 Gordon Lightfoot – Musical Father Sit Down Young Stranger is his breakthrough LP with “If I Could Read Your Mind.”

1970 Neil Young – Musical Father                After the Goldrush is the best LP, I think, of an improbable career.

1972 Joni Mitchell – Musical Mother         For the Roses is the last of her classic trilogy. The cover resonates with Anne Murray’s hit LP.

1988 Leonard Cohen – Musical Father     I’m Your Man is the best LP of the latter half of the LP era.

Canadian Virtuosos

1955 Glenn Gould – Virtuoso                          Goldberg Variations is the Canadian classical LP.

1962 Oscar Peterson – Virtuoso                   Night Train is the Canadian jazz LP.

1962 Beauval Indian Boys – Virtuoso        The students of Beauval Indian Residential School in northern Saskatchewan had suffered an epidemic, a catastrophic fire, and sexual abuse. The choir sings and plays as if their lives depended on it. This LP, a complete obscurity, doesn’t deserve to be forgotten. Date is estimated by the cover of the 1961 hit “Michael,” but it could be anytime in the 1960s. The liner notes from the era are compelling reading, hinting at their struggles.

1973 Bruce Cockburn – Virtuoso                   Night Vision is his fourth LP, but this could have been any of the earlier ones.  This was chosen because there were fewer worthy LPs as the seventies dragged on.

1984 kd lang – Virtuoso                                       A Truly Western Experience is representative of the self-produced LP coming out of the punk aesthetic. This is the original pressing she was selling out of Edmonton, not the later Warner re-issue.

1990 Celine Dion – Virtuoso                            Unison is her first English record and breakthrough, the end of the LP era.

True Patriot Love

1960 Wayne/Shuster – True Patriot Love               Believe it or not, the best selling LPs were comedy LPs and people laughed with them. LPs by Bill Cosby and Bob Newhart sold as well as LPs by the early Beatles, who sold more 45s.

1962 Paul Anka – True Patriot Love             21 Golden Hits on RCA is an expanded re-recording of his rarer Big 15 on ABC, indicative of the pop origin of Canadian rock and roll, versus its gospel origins in the south or its western swing origins in western North America. This entry could have been anything by the Crew Cuts, the Toronto quartet singing earlier than Anka, or maybe even Robert Goulet.

1963 The Travellers – True Patriot Love   Something to Sing About is the Canadian folk statement, Seeger-inspired, pre-Beatles, with Blowin’ in the Wind. Classic cover art.

1964 Lorne Greene – True Patriot Love    Biggest Canadian entertainer of the LP era, with his biggest hit, “Ringo.” This entry, Welcome to the Ponderosa, could have been Shatner’s The Transformed Man, but Lorne Greene was bigger, and could do it all – even read the news. So Canadian.

1965 The Guess Who – True Patriot Love                Super Golden Goodies contains “Shakin’ All Over,” the most famous Canadian response of many worthy ones to the British invasion. This entry should be the Shakin’ All Over LP, but I’ve never seen it. After “These Eyes” on RCA, Quality Records released this compilation on its budget label Birchmount. It also contains “Flying on the Ground is Wrong” written by Neil Young from 1967 (Can., #36). Nice cover art.

1967 Bobby Gimby – True Patriot Love     Let’s Get Together has the centennial theme song CA-NA-DA, the best selling single of 1967 at 270,000 copies, all-star production support (Sheridan, Richardson), and possibly the first recording of “What a Wonderful World.” Armstrong’s version was released October 1967, but this LP surely must have been released in early 1967. Its label Quality and subsidiary Birchmount, are the most prominent Canadian labels of the era, along with Arc and Point. This could have been something by Guy Lombardo, but I think he is pre-LP.

1969 Anne Murray – True Patriot Love      This Way is My Way has the early international hit “Snowbird” buried on side 2.

1969 The Guess Who – True Patriot Love                Wheatfield Soul has the first international Canadian rock hit “These Eyes.”

1971 Stampeders – True Patriot Love       “Sweet City Woman” was one of the first of thousands of major-label CanCon hits out of the MAPL system from 1971 onward. This entry could have been Seasons in the Sun.

1973 Xaviera – True Patriot Love                  Xaviera! was released by GRT when the Happy Hooker was living in Toronto, qualifying as a MAPL artist. This commences the end of the LP era, soon to be followed by VHS, widespread pornography, and CDs. Features Rompin Ronnie Hawkins.

1988 Cowboy Junkies – True Patriot Love               The Trinity Session is another of the self-produced LPs of the 1970s and 1980s, more enduring than most. Probably this should have been an LP of the group Rush in a nod to Prog Rock, but I never held on to their records.

Cover of Oscar Peterson's Night Train

Welcome To The Ponderosa album cover 

This is the album that I am most looking forward to hearing.  I don't believe I have ever listened to it before.