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by Adrien Begrand

8 Oct 2010


Back in 2007 Canadian music writer Bob Mersereau wrote The Top 100 Canadian Singles, a book compiled from submitted top-ten lists by around 600 music writers (including yours truly), musicians, and industry insiders. At the same time thoughtfully written and argument-inciting, it had readers across Canada vehemently debating the book’s inclusions and exclusions, whether it was complaining about its baby boomer-heavy slant or the fact that far too many Tragically Hip albums made the cut. Either way, it had Canadians talking about its musical history more than ever before, and coming from a country that doesn’t usually like to blare its own horn regarding its contributions to popular music as much as its neighbors to the South, that was no small feat.

So considering the success of Mersereau’s book, a sequel was an inevitability, and three years later he’s returned with the aptly titled The Top 100 Canadian Singles. With the list of voters even larger than the previous book (again, yours truly was all too glad to participate), one would hope for a broad selection of songs that spans the past 50 years or so, and it does so, at least to a certain extent.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

7 Oct 2010


Mendelsohn:  I love the way this album starts off with the airy feel of “Sunday Morning” and its ambiguous, non-threatening lyrics. After that it’s all downhill, like picking up a rock and peering into the seedy underbelly of urban America in the 1960s. It’s fantastic. Except the parts where Nico sings. I could do without that.

Klinger: Ah, but Mendelsohn, without Nico there might not be a Velvet Underground as we know it. Allow me to oversimplify: Andy Warhol essentially pulled Lou Reed, John Cale, and Co. from obscurity in order to have a backing band for his newly-discovered “chanteuse”, offering up his brand name and connections in exchange for hearing her Kissinger-esque tones on vinyl. After they got in the studio, actual producer Tom Wilson was so taken with Nico’s Teutonic appeal that he insisted that Reed write a single just for her. Somehow that song became “Sunday Morning”, and Lou ended up singing it anyway (I’m not sure how that happened; I’m assuming a blonde wig and some coquettish flirting were involved).

Mendelsohn: It’s funny; I can’t stand Nico, but without her Warhol wouldn’t have tapped the Velvet Underground and without the Velvet Underground, the whole art house rock/avant/noise/punk thing wouldn’t have spawned a ton of different bands that I (and you) love. Instead, rock would sound very clean and happy—somewhere between the Beatles and the Beach Boys—and that would get old quick.

by Michael E. Ross

6 Oct 2010


First in 2004 and again earlier this year, Rolling Stone placed Bob Dylan’s classic “Like a Rolling Stone” at the top of its highly subjective listing of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Given the name of the magazine, it’s easy to find an association there that rewards skeptics and cynics suspicious of such deification. But in the years since its releas —as a single in July 1965, and as part of the game-changing album Highway 61 Revisited later that August—the song’s more than held its own as an expression of rock’s foundational ethos of freedom amid chaos, a crystalline document of the times. Whatever times you happen to choose.

Times like these. Some will say trying to find a connection between an apparently angry, vituperative rock song of 45 years ago and the year 2010 is a stretch. But listening to the song with ears attuned to the present day, the perilous state of the American economy, and the general sense of misfortune and dread that blankets this country, “Like a Rolling Stone” is as vital and insistent today as it was in the summer of 1965.

by Sean Murphy

5 Oct 2010


Take a gifted and successful musician; add a dash of elan, a cup of pomposity, some shoulder chips for spice, ambition and sensitivity to taste, bring to a boil then let simmer and…voila, you have Steven Wilson.

Who, you might ask, is Steven Wilson?

Here is what I had to say, about the man and his band, Porcupine Tree, in early 2009:

Steven Wilson, in short, has been one of the better kept secrets in the industry for some time…(and) for anyone who suspects prog rock is (for better or worse) dead and buried, I offer only two words: Porcupine Tree. Led by the indefatigable Wilson, the band made strides –and accumulated a larger audience– with each successive album, culminating in what is (thus far) their masterpiece, Fear of a Blank Planet.

by Jason Cook

4 Oct 2010


Reedy and sustained, “Rite of Magic” and “Great Bird of the Sky” both make for Ennio Morricone’s most focused coda-laden contributions to his soundtrack for the ill-received 1977 horror psychedelia sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic. Guided by bells, tensely shuffling percussion, and a soft lone voice representative of Regan, the film’s possessed protagonist of sorts, “Rite of Magic” first delivers the film’s coda on the 1977 soundtrack—second in the film to “Great Bird of the Sky”, which plays only 20 minutes into the film and at its first dramatic point, a moment when Richard Burton, sweaty and orange-faced as ever, is handed a portrait of himself illustrated by a not-so-little Linda Blair as Regan.

“Flames… Flames. They’re getting bigger. We’ve got to put the fire out”, he says. Morricone’s piece begins and the weird aria starts amid buzzing strings like George Crumb’s Black Angels gone soft.

“Take it easy. It’s probably an after-effect of the hypnosis”, Louise Fletcher tells Burton.

They’ve been experimenting with a remote-viewing device, and when they do find the fire, somewhere in a basement and to the tune of silence—Morricone’s piece drops out after the soloist’s first few bars, Fletcher sees Burton standing before it, crowned with flames, and the film gets a little sillier. But the coda returns in a scene almost an hour later, emerging again with Burton in Ethiopia, praying to God in, remotely speaking to Blair who lays in bed, possessed and sweating like Burton, speaking to him: “Call me. Call me. Call me by my dream name.”

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Culture Belongs to the Alien in 'Spirits of Xanadu'

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