SONG TO A SEAGULL: Edited by Robert Evans (Ryerson) $6.95
THE SOUND OF OUR TIME: By Dave Laing (Burns and McEachern) $7.25
SONG TO A SEAGULL is "a book of Canadian songs and poems" put together by Robert Evans, a co-ordinator of music for the North York Board of Education in Toronto.
It has been finely designed and illustrated by Peggy Steele, and it is a very good example of an inexpensive gift book which will make a very nice gift for anyone interested in Canadian culture. There are poems by Leonard Cohen, Margaret Atwood, Dorothy Livesay, Raymond Souster, Al Purdy, and others.
Not only is there a very fine selection of older Canadian folk songs, but most of our best contemporary song-writers are also represented: Gordon Lightfoot, Ian Tyson and Joni Mitchell. Gordon Lightfoot is the best represented song-writer, with four songs, although I am rather surprised to find that one of his finest, and most Canadian songs, The Canadian Railway Trilogy, has been omitted.
It's also quite disgraceful that only one of Joni Mitchell's song is included, despite the fact that the book's title is lifted from her first album. And it's rather surprising to find two poems by Cohen, but none of his songs.
Mr. Evans has included a few of his own poems, and, as they are not up to the standard of the rest of the book, they could easily have been left out, there place being filled with the songs of Leonard Cohen or Joni Mitchell. Despite these complaints, SONG TO A SEAGULL is a fine introduction to Canada's poetry and song.
Dave Laing is English and he is writing about the major pop scenes in THE SOUND OF OUR TIME, so he has nothing to say about that scene in Canada. His book is, nevertheless, a surprisingly scholarly investigation of the roots or rock music.
It examines both the social and musical background of the music and is one of the best of a flood of recent books on the subject. He is perhaps a bit too formally scholarly at times, and he had to reach for some of his quotations, but he does understand the music, and some of his explanations of its particular status as an art are very fine.
He correctly places rock as an outgrowth of real folk music (as opposed to the self-conscious, backward gazing "folk music" of the late fifties and sixties), and intelligently analyses the complex culture and economic situation the music and its makers find themselves in today.
In his final chapters he discusses The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and Bob Dylan with wit and understanding.
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