Category Archives: Influential Albums

Big Shiny Tunes 2


The unspoken Canadian classic. The album that shaped a generation. No mere compilation, this was my true introduction to pop music.

It was the wintertime, in the beginning of 1998. My elementary school had a little thing called Play Day. Essentially an elementary school combination of the winter Olympics, and American Gladiators. Grade 7 and 8 students would split up into groups of 4, and make up games for the younger kids to compete against each other in. The teams (consisting of a student or two from each of the lower grades) would go around to all the different stations, and get some kind of prize at the end, based on their win/loss record. The whole thing was basically an excuse for the grade 8 kids to revel in their “top of the food chain” status before the inevitable wake-up call known as high school.

My friends and I claimed the huge snowbank on the edge of the parking lot as our game station. The only game that really made sense was an (admittedly dangerous) toboggan relay. The game didn’t really matter to us all that much though. For us, it was all about building the ultimate snow fort. We’d spent every recess, and lunch break digging out the top section of the mountainous pile of snow and ice. We had stairs leading into it, sections for storage, chairs, and of course: the stereo.

No Play Day would be complete without a soundtrack, and Big Shiny Tunes 2 was ours. At the time, I’d honestly never heard of any of the bands featured on it a, so here’s a brief list of what I was introduced to that day:
The Prodigy – Blur – Third Eye Blind – Smash Mouth – Bush – Matchbox 20 – Stone Temple Pilots – Radiohead….

Let that sink in for a bit. It was basically alt-rock overload for my impressionable ears. From the driving electro-rock intro of “Breathe”, to the brilliant choice of “Song 2” as the second track, to the “do-do-do, do-do-do-doo” of “Semi-Charmed Life”, it was pretty much my personal version of seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. That singular moment where music meant something new. To this day, any time I hear one of these songs, I’m always expecting whatever the next track on Big Shiny Tunes 2 was to kick in.

Not every song off the album’s stood the test of time (“Fly” by Sugar Ray was overplayed to the extreme on the radio), but a good chunk of it remains irresistible to this day. I’ve never run into a party where a surprise play of “Drinking in L.A” didn’t guarantee me at least one appreciative nod and smile from somebody. Even my generally quiet and reserved great-grandfather couldn’t resist tapping his foot to the infectious riffs and “woo hoo”s of “Song 2”, when it kicked in during a beer commercial.

Although it would go on to become on of the best selling albums in Canadian history, the advent of iTunes (and the cheap/easy way to make your own compilations) pretty much killed the Big Shiny franchise. Still, I’ll never forget the lesson it taught me, about how great a really well put together mix can be. Not just a random mish-mash of songs, but a combination of genres that has the ability to bring people with diverse tastes together to have a good time. Stressing the importance of sequencing tracks to hook people in, then take them through a musical trip, full of energetic highs, and contemplative cooldowns. A well constructed mix really is a thing of beauty.

1. The Prodigy – Breathe (Edit)
2. Blur – Song 2
3. Third Eye Blind – Semi-Charmed Life
4. Smash Mouth – Walkin’ on the Sun
5. Sugar Ray featuring Super Cat – Fly
6. Bran Van 3000 – Drinking in L.A.
7. Marilyn Manson – The Beautiful People
8. Holly McNarland – Numb
9. Bush – Swallowed
10. Matchbox 20 – Push
11. Collective Soul – Precious Declaration (Remix)
12. The Tea Party – Temptation (Edit) (Tom Lord-Alge Mix)
13. The Chemical Brothers – Block Rockin’ Beats (Radio Edit)
14. Wide Mouth Mason – My Old Self
15. Radiohead – Paranoid Android
16. The Age of Electric – Remote Control
17. Stone Temple Pilots – Lady Picture Show


AC/DC Live

With my conservative upbringing, it goes without saying that hard rock wasn’t really on the playlist at my great-grandparent’s place. This is where a bit of irony kicks in.

I’d been invited to tag along to a church-league baseball game on St. Joe’s Island by my cousin, and his family. On the drive, his father opened up a CD case (which happened to have a man with devil horns on the back), and popped in the first disk of AC/DC Live.

The extended intro to Thunderstruck sounded like an approaching storm, and had this ominous feeling about. It all felt like something that I shouldn’t really be allowed to listen to, but I was mesmerized. Then, that riff kicked in, and I was hooked.

As soon as I got back to my great-grandparent’s house, I made sure to call up my mother, and tell her all about it. Setting aside the fact that I thought Thunderstruck was called “Thundershock”, she seemed pretty amused by my enthusiasm towards the whole experience.

A few years later, around the beginning of high school, I would go on to use what money I’d saved to buy my own copy from Music World. Needless to say, I felt like I was officially becoming a cool teenager.

In fact, my love of this album resulted in a Christmas gift of Back in Black from my mother, that same year. In retrospect, I think of my mother as pretty cool for gifting me that bad boy. I mean, it’s not like she was one of those oblivious parents who had no idea what she was buying her child. She knew exactly what she was doing. Song titles like “Hells Bells”, “Have a Drink on Me”, and “Let Me Put My Love Into You” didn’t phase her one bit. This was AC/DC. Her kid was showing an interest in the “classics”, and she was all too pleased to nurture that interest.

My Uncles proved to be of a pretty similar mindset. That same Christmas Day, I was over at my grandmother’s for Christmas lunch. Once my Uncles had been made aware of my interest in AC/DC, I was immediately bequeathed all the AC/DC CDs in their possession. In the course of 24 hours, my meager CD collection (maybe 8 or 9 albums) exploded to include the majority of the AC/DC discography. This, by itself was a pretty big part of my musical identity all through high school. Baggy jeans, and a big AC/DC t-shirt were a pretty iconic look for high school-era Soup. A good chunk of the other bands that I got into were by virtue of my interest in AC/DC….thinking about it now, I could probably dedicate an entire blog to the music that I listen to, as a direct result of AC/DC Live.

It goes without saying that this album left an impact.

The Best of Bill Cosby


Ok, so this one’s definitely not music, but it still has a place here.

Growing up with my great grandparents, pop music wasn’t really a thing.  The radio was pretty securely tuned to either the CBC (which I would grow to love over time), and a northern Michigan christian radio station.

In the basement, they had a pretty sizable vinyl collection, which mostly consisted of gospel records (which kind were a bit heavy for my young self to think of as a fun listen), and country records (I didn’t understand the appeal then, and I don’t understand it now).

Nestled in between all of this was one oddity. A Bill Cosby compilation album. Needless to say, as the one album that dared to be different, I gave it more than a few listens though.
From start to finish, the album provides this relatively wholesome brand of comedy that I still get a solid laugh out of to this day.

While “Driving in San Francisco” gave me an early glimpse of what it would be like to drive a stick shift, and “The Lone Ranger” really made me feel for Tonto, it’s always been “Revenge” that gets me every time.  It’s a track that’s all about the setup.  Cosby paints the perfect picture of a kid who’s been grievously wronged (a slushball to the face), and his quest for sweet retribution. I’ll still call the odd person “gunky” as an inside joke with my 9 year old self.  I’m still hoping someone else will get someday.

Have a listen:

So yeah….not music, but it was the first album that had me sitting on the floor, and listening to on repeat.  That whole idea seems pretty “rock and roll” to me.