Canadian Albums Turning 20 in 2017

1997 was a year that saw massive flooding of the Red River in Manitoba. Confederation bridge linking Prince Edward Island with mainland New Brunswick opened. Princess Diana died in a tragic car accident. Fourteen-year-old Reena Virk was beaten to death by classmates in Victoria. 43 were killed in Canada’s worst ever traffic accident as a tour bus fell off a cliff. Canadian film The Sweet Hereafter by Atom Egoyan about a school bus accident debuted. Motion picture Titanic by Canada’s James Cameron premiered at the cinema in December eventually setting a box office record which remained unbroken for 12 years. The Arrow, a mini-series about the Avro Arrow project, gained a large television viewership. Television comedy series Seinfeld topped the Nielsen ratings.

“Building a Mystery” by Sarah McLachlan was the #1 song of the year. Her album Surfacing was certified diamond (or 10x platinum) for sales of 1 million copies and won the Album of the Year JUNO the following year. Céline Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love which included “My Heart Will Go On” featured in the aforementioned film Titanic also went diamond. It won the same JUNO in 1999. Our Lady Peace released Clumsy, another diamond album. But surpassing all of them, reaching two million in sales, and becoming one of the most globally successful albums ever released, was Shania Twain’s Come on Over. 1997 saw the release of more Canadian albums certified multiplatinum than any other year in history with a total of 13. It was possibly the biggest year ever for album sales. Other big sellers were Loreena McKennitt’s The Book of Secrets at quadruple platinum. Play by Great Big Sea made triple platinum.

Double platinum albums in 1997 were Big Wreck’s In Loving Memory Of…, Bruno Pelletier’s Miserer, Chantalk Kreviazuk’s Under These Rocks and Stones, Diana Krall’s Love Scenes, Jann Arden’s Happy?, The Tea Party’s Transmission, and The Tragically Hip’s Live Between Us.



Saint Patrick’s Day – Bonny Portmore

saint patrick's dayToday is Saint Patrick’s Day. Patty was not from Ireland but from Wales, and his real name was Maewyn. He was kidnapped by Irish marauders when he was 16 and spent the next six years in servitude as a shepherd in Ireland when he experienced a religious awakening and proceeded to study in a monastery. Afterwards, he took it upon himself to teach Christianity through the land often using the shamrock to explain the trinity. He died on March 17 in the year 461, and the day was declared a religious festival, Saint Patrick’s Day. Two hundred years later, Ireland, as a whole, adopted Christianity.

the visitPatrick certainly had the luck of the Irish — as a young man he escaped the captors who enslaved him, and several times later in life he escaped arrest by the druids who didn’t appreciate his missionary activities. Speaking of druids, one of the most famous traditional Irish songs is “Bonny Portmore” which laments the demise of Ireland’s oak forests, especially The Great Oak of Portmore, which was uprooted in a windstorm in 1760, and the lumber was subsequently used to make boats. Canadian Celtic superstar Loreena McKennitt recorded her version of the song for her 1991 quadruple platinum album The Visit. We have embedded a video of the song below with scenes of Ireland to mark the occasion. Loreena McKennitt has sold 14 million records worldwide.

Canadians Nominated for United States’ Grammy Awards

Loreena McKennittThe Grammy Awards are the U.S. equivalent of the JUNOs.  They differ though in that JUNO awards, unless in the international categories, are given to Canadian artists.  Grammy awards are given out to anyone in the world, provided their music was popular within the borders of the United States.  In scrolling through the list of nominees to find Canadian artists, we found some amusing category titles.  First off, given that the definition of a song is “a piece of music that is sung”, the title “Best Rap Song” is a contradiction in terms.  We can at least give them credit for not using the often misplaced term “hip hop” which refers to the dance that goes with rap music rather than rap music itself.  Another peculiar one is that the U.S. uses the term “Latin” to refer not to music that is performed in the Latin language but in Spanish.  Latin is much closer to Italian than to Spanish.  Did it not come from Italy?  Let’s get the terminology right, guys, lest the rigatoni masters squirt you with pasta sauce and the sombrero dudes demand Texas is returned to Mexico.

The other bizarre thing about the Grammy Awards, and I suppose the same is true of the JUNOs, is that there are songs and albums nominated that were big prior to 2012 (i.e. old).

Congratulations to our hard-working Canadian artists on the nominations, eh.

Carly Rae Jepsen, “Call My Maybe”

Carly Rae Jepsen, “Call My Maybe”

Deadmau5, > Album Title Goes Here <

Michael Bublé, Christmas

Howard Shore, Hugo

Arcade Fire, “Abraham’s Daughter” for The Hunger Games

Melanie Fiona, “Wrong Side of a Love Song”

Tamia, “Beautiful Surprise”

Tamia, Beautiful Surprise

Drake, “HYFR”

Drake, “The Motto”

Drake, Take Care

Loreena McKennitt, Troubadours on the Rhine

Tegan and Sara, Get Along

CRJ is Rocketing Forward in the USA

Carly Rae Jepsen’s United States radio tour is paying off.  “Call Me Maybe” (which is back at #1 in Canada this week – its 3rd week at the top spot) has debuted on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 within the Top 40!  She has the 38th biggest song in that country this week.

While Carly is taking the U.S. by storm, her Canadian sister Alyssa Reid is the latest craze in Britain.  “Alone Again” (her reworking of Heart’s classic “Alone”) is at its 5th week in the U.K. Top 20.  It is the most successful Canadian single so far this year in Britain, having peaked at #2 on the charts there.

Fans of Celtic / new age music are no doubt delighted at Loreena McKennitt’s latest release, a live album of some of her classics, called Troubadours On The Rhine.  Johnny Reid, Ian Thornley’s Big Wreck, and Gord Bamford have new releases out in just a couple of days.

With all the tours going on and about to begin, we are pleased to announce that LIGHTS will be touring the land down under for the very first time.  Her album Siberia released last year is up for JUNO pop album of the year, and she will now be showcasing her dazzling electronic rock sound live in Australia.  Perhaps she can bring a little Canadian snow with her.

Loreena McKennitt

Born: 1957, Morden, MB
Debut: 1985
Breakthrough: 1991
Pop Breakthrough: 1997
Genre: New Age, Celtic, World

Studio Albums and Singles

1985: Elemental

1985: To Drive the Cold Winter Away

1989: Parallel Dreams

1991: The Visit

• Juno Award for Best Roots & Traditional Album
• 4x Platinum
• Singles: “The Lady of Shalott”, “All Souls Night“, “Courtyard Lullaby”, “Greensleeves”

1994: The Mask and the Mirror

• Juno Award for Best Roots & Traditional Album
• 3x Platinum
• Singles: “The Bonny Swans”, “Santiago”, “The Dark Night of the Soul”, “The Mystic’s Dreams”

1995: A Winter Garden (EP)

• Gold
• Singles: “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen”

1997: The Book of Secrets

• 4x Platinum
• Singles: “The Mummers’ Dance” (#10), “Marco Polo”, “Dante’s Prayer”

2006: An Ancient Muse

• Platinum
• Singles: “Caravanserai”, “Penelope’s Song”

2008: A Midwinter Night’s Dream

• Singles: “The Seven Rejoices of Mary”, “Noel Nouvelet!”

2010: The Wind That Shakes the Barley

With an angelic soprano voice, expertise of musical composition, love of classic poetry, and mastery of the piano, harp, and accordion, Loreena McKennitt became Canada’s premier new age recording artist. Beginning with what limited resources she had, she gradually rose to fame domestically and internationally. Six years after her debut she become a household name and another six years she scored a Top 10 hit on the national singles chart. She has managed to sell 14 million records worldwide.

Small town Manitoba-born McKennitt was the daughter of a livestock dealer and nurse. Early on she wanted to become a veterinarian but, born out of an appreciation for Celtic music, she learned to play the harp. In Winnipeg, she studied piano with Olga Friesen and voice with Elma Gislason. She performed in musicals and at folk clubs and sang at the Winnipeg Folk Festival when she was 17.

When she was 24, Loreena relocated to Stratford, Ontario where she launched her musical career. She began busking in Toronto, Vancouver, and London, England to earn money for her debut album, Elemental, which was released in 1985 the year that she performed at the World Expo in Japan. McKennitt established her own independent record label, Quinlan Road. All of her albums were released on this label.

Before recording, McKennitt likes to do thorough research which forms the basis of the album’s concept. She travelled to Ireland to become informed and inspired by the country’s history, folklore, culture, and geography before composing and recording her first few albums.

She released albums at two year intervals: a Christmas album in 1987 and Parallel Dreams in 1989. By this time, she was attracting the attention of the National Film Board of Canada who asked her to provide music for their documentary The Burning Times about witch hunts in Europe.

She reworked the main theme into “Tango for Evora” including it on her 1991 release The Visit which became her breakthrough album, selling a million copies worldwide and attaining 4x platinum sales in Canada. The album includes a musical rendition of Albert Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Lady of Shalott” and her interpretation of “Greensleeves”. It was perhaps the album opener, “All Souls Night”, which became the most famous track. “Bonny Portmore” was featured in the Highlander series. The album won a Juno award. McKennitt performed at the 1991 Edinburgh Festival in Scotland.

She toured Europe with Mike Oldfield in 1993 and remained in Spain to study the Galicia region, its Celtic and Arabic roots, shaping the inspiration for her next studio album, The Mask and the Mirror. The 1994 release sold over 300,000 copies in Canada and won her second Juno. A five-track Christmas EP came out in 1995 which included a musical adaptation of “Snow”, a poem by Canada’s foremost poet, Archibald Lampman.

In 1997, McKennitt released The Book of Secrets and scored her first hit single, “The Mummer’s Dance”, which peaked at #10 on the national RPM charts. It was a hit in the United States as well, helping the album to attain double-platinum status south of the border. It matched sales of The Visit in Canada. At the height of her success, however, tragedy struck.

In 1998, Loreena’s fiancé Ronald Rees, his brother Richard, and their close friend Gregory Cook took a boat out on Georgian Bay, Lake Huron. With echoes of the hurricane-sinking of the steamship Asia in 1882, an accident took the lives of the three men. McKennitt was plunged into mourning. At the time, she was working on a live album (from performances in Toronto and Paris) and decided to donate proceeds to her newly-founded Cook-Rees Memorial Fund for Water Search and Safety. After the release of the album, McKennitt announced her retreat from recording to grieve and limited her performances to charitable and special events only. In 2002, she performed for the Golden Jubilee of the Queen in Manitoba. In 2003, she joined Rita MacNeil and Philip Glass at the National Arts Centre for a concert sponsored by environmental organization The Sierra Club.

Deeply affected by the drowning, it took eight years before she felt ready to record again. The result was 2006’s platinum-seller An Ancient Muse the composition and recording of which was preceded by travel to and studies about The Silk Road. Two years later, the Christmas album A Midwinter Night’s Dream appeared. In 2010, McKennitt released The Wind That Shakes the Barley.

               Copyright 2011 by the Canadian Music Blog

Branching Out and Conquering Other Genres (1997-1999)

Canadian music showed no signs of slowing down through the remainder of the decade. What was unique about the late-90s was that, Canadian artists began to branch out and conquer other genres of music. Pop and rock had been championed by a plethora of Canadians as had folk; it was time to show that we could produce a superstar in other fields of music.

Although Canada had always done well in the country music scene, ever since Wilf Carter appeared in the 1930s, it was time for a Canadian superstar to churn out three double-diamond albums in a row, a feat completely unprecedented. Her catchy music appealed to children, teenagers, young adults, older adults, and even seniors. It was so irresistible that a few of her songs crossed over onto the pop charts. One was the third biggest song of 1998 in the United States. She teamed up with musical genius “Mutt” Lange, who had worked with Bryan Adams, and married him. Her name was Shania Twain.

So-called R&B had always been a genre that appealed more to the populace south of the border. But a Torontonian fell in love with it and decided to make a career out of performing these kinds of songs. She never became a big name in Canada, but, in 1998, her song “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here” was a million-seller in the U.S., peaking at #2 on the pop charts and topping their R&B charts for 14 consecutive weeks, smashing all records. Her name was Deborah Cox. She scored a big hit in Canada later on in 2009; “Beautiful U R” was 39th of the year.

The late-90s also saw the rise of the biggest-selling female jazz artist in the world, a Canadian. Most jazz artists could never hope to sell as many records as pop or country artists but Diana Krall sold 15 million worldwide. Eight of her albums debuted at the top of the Billboard jazz albums charts, six of them being certified multi-platinum at home.

Another genre conquered was Celtic / New Age, thanks to harp-player Loreena McKennitt and her hauntingly beautiful voice. Her three albums released in the 90s all went 3-4x platinum and in 1997 she scored a Top 10 hit on the pop charts.

Canadians were not satisfied with their newfound success in France which began not with Celine Dion but with Roch Voisine. Two more superstars arose to score diamond albums in the land of the Eiffel Tower. The first was roots rocker Isabelle Boulay. The second was to become the second best-selling Canadian artist in France (after Celine Dion). He was born in Sherbrooke and is known for his throaty singing style. He currently holds the SNEP record for the most weeks at number one. His name is Garou.

Toronto’s Our Lady Peace, thanks to a diamond album, was the hottest new band to emerge. Frontman and primary songwriter Raine Maida formed a musical family by marrying Chantal Kreviazuk, a former childhood prodigy, who, herself, became one of the most cherished singer-songwriters in the country.


Many new artists arose this year. The biggest song of the year, as mentioned previously, was Sarah McLachlan’s “Building a Mystery”. Second to that was Our Lady Peace’s “Clumsy” which appeared on the year-end chart at #14. Another new band to emerge was St. John’s folky Great Big Sea. Their song “When I’m Up” appeared in the year-end chart at #62. They managed a pair of platinum and of multi-platinum albums and scored a few more hits. The Philosopher Kings were another semi-major act, their first big song being “I Am the Man”. Band members met while in high school in the Toronto suburb of Thornhill. They scored a couple more Top 10 hits the following year. Saskatoon’s bluesy Wide Mouth Mason scored their biggest hit “Midnight Rain” (#56 YE). Another band from Saskatchewan had a hit this year. Age of Electric’s “Remote Control” finished as the 71st biggest hit of the year. Toronto’s Big Sugar added a dash of reggae to their music and had their first hit single “If I Had My Way”. Fellow locals I Mother Earth scored their biggest hit, “Raspberry” which pushed sales of their album to double-platinum status. Vancouver’s Econoline Crush attained one-hit wonder class with “All That You Are”.

Isabelle Boulay, from the town of Sainte-Félicité, on the north shore of the Gaspé peninsula, scored her first hit,” Je t’oublierai, je t’oublierai” off her debut album. Although she’d been around since 1993, Nanaimo, BC’s Diana Krall made it to the big leagues when her album Love Scenes, released this year, attained double-platinum status, a difficult feat in the realm of jazz. Chantal Kreviazuk scored her first hit “God Made Me”, the 77th biggest song of the year. Halifax’s fusion artist Holly Cole made a name for herself with “I’ve Just Seen a Face”. Another Holly (McNarland) emerged from The Pas, Manitoba and gave us the hit “Numb”. Later she collaborated with the likes of Matthew Good and The Tea Party.

The biggest name in male soloists was Sherbrooke’s Garou, a stage name that is a combination of his surname Garand and the French expression loup-garou, which means werewolf. He was discovered by Luc Plamondon while performing in a local bar and subsequently drafted to play in Notre-Dame de Paris. The song “Belle” from the musical, sung by himself, Canada’s Daniel Lavoie, and France’s Patrick Fiori, became the third best-selling single of all-time in France (after two novelty songs). In 2000, Garou released his debut album Seul, certified diamond in France, and one of the biggest-selling French-language albums in history worldwide. He eventually became the best-selling Canadian artist in France after Celine Dion.

Bruno Pelletier was another new name this year. He was born in Charlesbourg, a suburb of Quebec City. His debut had come in 1992 but, with the 1997 single “Aime”, saw his first Felix-nominated song of the year. The only other male artist to have a big hit this year was Men Without Hats’ Ivan whose song “Open Your Eyes” made the year-end Top 100 chart.


Big hits this year included Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from the number one movie of all-time (at the time) Titanic. Bryan Adams had two chart-toppers: “On a Day Like Today” and “Back to You”. Alanis Morissette’s “Thank U” was a number one single as well. In the United States, the two biggest songs of the year were “Too Close” by Next and “The Boy is Mine” by Brandy & Monica respectively. In third place was a song called “You’re Still the One” by a Canadian country artist from Windsor, Ontario, named Shania Twain. She achieved the unimaginable: three consecutive studio albums were certified double-diamond in Canada (2 million copies sold).

Manitoban Celtic new ager, master of voice, piano, accordion, and harp, Loreena McKennitt, had been around since the mid-80s, scored a quadruple-platinum album in 1991, called The Visit, and had her first big hit, “The Mummers’ Dance”, on the pop singles chart this year.

Montreal’s Éric Lapointe scored his first Felix-nominated song of the year, “Rien à regretter”. According to some sources, he had as many as 30 songs that topped the charts on various radio stations and singles charts in Quebec.

Toronto’s dance band Love Inc. scored a couple of hits this year: “Broken Bones” #31 and “You’re a Supertar” #13. A few years later they were discovered by Britain and both songs became Top 10 hits there. There are some who credit their debut with being the only dance album created in Canada to attain platinum status.

On a side-note, a dance version of Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” was performed by the international group Stars on 54 and was featured in the Mike Myers’ film Studio 54. It peaked at #3 on the charts.


The three biggest Canadian songs of the year came via new artists. While the Americans were taken by Toronto’s Deborah Cox who supplied the 9th biggest song of the year in the U.S., Montreal pop duo Sky scored the first of three number one singles called “Love Song”, the 6th biggest song of the year. In eighth place was Randy Bachman’s son Tal with the song “She’s So High”. And at 15th spot was the Toronto one-hit wonder group Len (“Steal My Sunshine”).

Besides Sky and Len, there were a number of new bands this year. Bluesy La Chicane debuted and scored the hit “Calvaire”. The Moffatts were four brothers who had grown up in various locales in B.C. They relocated to Nashville in the U.S. and released their first (country) album. Later they switched to pop and scored their first hit “Misery”. Montreal’s Les Respectables came out with “Amalgame”. Dance trio The Boomtang Boys scored the hit “Squeeze Toy”. Toronto’s dance group Temperance had the hit “If You Don’t Know” and 2 rude had “Thinkin’ about You”

Mario Pelchat, from Dolbeau-Mistassini, QC, won the Felix award for song of the year with “Je ne t’aime plus”. Francophone Italian-Canadian Nicola Ciccone appeared this year with the song “Le menteur”. Dance artist Joee scored the hit “Arriba”, the 51st biggest song of the year. Martin Deschamps saw his first hit—”Quand?” He took on the role of lead singer for the reunited Offenbach.

There were no new significant female soloists this year.

Coming up are lists of big songs and albums from the late-90s; a list of Juno and Felix song nominees and winners; mini-profiles on semi-major artists La Chicane, Nicola Ciccone, Holly Cole, Great Big Sea, The Moffatts, Mario Pelchat, Bruno Pelletier, The Philosopher Kings, and Sky; and feature profiles on major artists Isabelle Boulay, Garou, Diana Krall, Chantal Kreviazuk, Éric Lapointe, Loreena McKennitt, Our Lady Peace, and Shania Twain.