Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide: The Top 100 Canadian Singles by Bob Mersereau

Following up on 2007’s successful The Top 100 Canadian Albums, music journalist Bob Mersereau dreams up a book that I think is even better and more to the point: The Top 100 Canadian Singles (Goose Lane). And while some of his findings for this book are questionable, the work is certainly not. The Top 100 Canadian Singles is thorough, entertaining and deeply researched. Purely from a user’s standpoint, the book is a delight: a treasure trove of musical memories -- many almost forgotten -- brought here to life through the author’s dexterous prose and well chosen illustrative photographs.

And then there are the surprises -- most Canadians will come across them, I think. The artists you encounter and thought you knew well who you never realized were Canadian at all. For me, one of these was signle number 22: Maestro Fresh-Wes’ “Let Your Backbone Slide” from 1989. Another is single 41, “The Safety Dance,” by Men Without Hats and 2007’s “1234” by Feist.

The number one single as determined by The Top 100 Canadian Singles is not that big a surprise: 1970’s “American Woman/No Sugar Tonight” by The Guess Who. And there they are, the four of them, standing in a field of daisies -- actually -- and looking young and fresh and ready to take on the world.

In his introduction, Mersereau stresses the importance of top singles over songs. He says he felt the top Canadian songs had been compiled before in various ways and, in any case, top singles represented some special material because “for many people there’s magic in their youthful memories of hearing those great hits on the radio.” This leads -- inevitably -- to the question: in the digital age, does the single even exist anymore? And Mersereau tackles the question nicely. Whether or not you agree with his answer, he’s done a good, solid job on The Top 100 Canadian Singles, managing to include music that represents all eras, regions and languages relevant to the topic of discussion. Well done! ◊

Sienna Powers is a transplanted Calgarian who lives and works in Vancouver, B.C. She is a writer and conceptual artist.

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