Top Five Canadian Bands

Posted: July 1, 2012 in The Band, The Guess Who, Uncategorized

Happy Canada Day Eh!

There is simply too much fine Canadian music for me to pick five artists. I thought about adding a second list of solo artists, but that is kind of cheating. Regardless, lots of bands and performers with lots of talent and who have enjoyed enormous success, most notably Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. Perhaps I will do a solo artist’s list next year. I chose the bands here because they are uniquely Canadian, meaning it is tough to go to, for example, England and say such and such band is England’s Guess Who. These folks are home grown and unique and I hope you enjoy listening to them.

NEXT WEEK: A first here, a guest blogger, my long time friend and largely closeted music impresario Gordon on “Top Five Albums in My Parents’ Record Collection”.

1. The Guess Who

Hailing from Winnipeg, the Guess Who remains for me the quintessential Canadian rock band. They merged the music of the times with home grown lyrical themes and images, creating music that was distinctly Canadian, without being parochial. This track, perhaps my favourite Guess Who song, embodies that idea. It is from “Live at the Paramount” a 1972 release that I remember riding my 10 speed to A&B Sound in Vancouver from Richmond to buy.

2. Blue Rodeo

If The Guess Who were the Canadian band of my youth, Blue Rodeo are the Canadian band of my alleged adulthood. This band for me fell into the same category as only a handful of other artists (Elvis Costello, Tom Petty and Ryan Adams all come to mind) where I was hooked from the first note I heard. Fronted by Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor, they have in many ways provided a soundtrack to the last 20 years or so of my life, a beautifully imaged, alt country soundtrack. This is off “Five Days in July”, released in 1992. Note the weather references in the lyric which is a something of a wonderful writing trademark for these lads from Toronto.

3. The Tragically Hip

The Hip, despite being huge, remained largely beneath my radar. My theory is there is too much music and too little time. However, my eldest son Adam is a fan and expressed some shock a few years ago that I didn’t listen to them. So I did and they really are quite something. Emerging in 1983 (right around the same time as Blue Rodeo, but a little to the east, in Kingston) they continue to make music, and tour both domestically and internationally. This is one of their classics and showcases their abilities as storytellers, which is what it is all about when you think of it.

4. The Sadies

The Sadies are Toronto based and are best characterised as alt country, although they have punk and surf stuff going on too. Brothers Travis and Dallas Good are the sons of Bruce Good of that fine Canadian country music institution The Good Brothers. The Sadies, in a very Canadian sort of way are perhaps best recognized as collaborators, appearing frequently as Neko Case’s touring band, and with Blue Rodeo and the Tragically Hip. I saw them at Malkin Bowl a few summers ago when the entire band joined all of Blue Rodeo and Barney and Dustin Bentall mid-set for a uniquely Canadian guitar fest. Here they are playing…. a house party. Great band, that for many is under the radar, to tell your friends about.

5. The Band

As we all know, with the exception of Levon, all the members of The Band were Canadian. They got their start playing for Ronnie Hawkins (“The Hawks”) who I just heard the other day is still living in I think Peterborough, Ontario (although they split ways when Ronnie moved to Canada). The Band’s influence cannot, simply put, be overstated. Combing folk, country, blues, rock and roll they forged a unique sound that still endures. This clip is from the Scorcese directed film that chronicled their last concert, “The Last Waltz”.

  1. earthboy011 says:

    So much depends on (a) one’s definition of ‘band” and (b) what counts as “Canadian”. Guess Who, Blue Rodeo and Tragically Hip all clearly belong. The band members are Canadians, They live here and they tour here–their primary focus is Canada. I think BTO should be included. The Band is terrific, all but one are Canadian, but is the group a Canadian group? Open to debate. Other possible inclusions here are Loverboy and April Wine

  2. topfivevinyl says:

    Good point regarding The Band. I think (based on what I have read) that they likely didn’t consider themselves a Canadian band. For me, it is really more a case of Canadians calling them their own.

    I think a strong case could be made for BTO: big hits, wonderful writing and so on. But the 5 slot list can be harsh.

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