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Old 04-25-2012, 01:19 AM   #1
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Location: Ontario, Canada
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Default Bob Doidge on Recording the Live Album

Giving voice to the Lightfoot sound at music’s mecca
Graham Rockingham
Tue Apr 24 2012

Massey Hall is mecca for Gordon Lightfoot fans.
The Hall of Fame Canadian songwriter’s semi-annual run of shows at the venerable Toronto concert venue has become a tradition. Lightfoot followers flock in from all over the world, some even chartering private jets for the event.
Lightfoot’s best shows are at Massey. It’s home turf, a place where those special songs always seem to sound the best. He has performed there more than any other artist in the hall’s 117-year history.
About 15 years ago, Lightfoot asked Bob Doidge, owner of Hamilton’s Grant Avenue Studio, to start recording those precious Massey Hall moments for posterity. Grant Avenue had become Lightfoot’s studio of choice and remains so. He recorded his last two albums there. Doidge had produced both.
Doidge is a lifelong Lightfoot fan. As a teenager, growing up in Ancaster, the novice musician would shut himself in his bedroom listening to the records, trying to learn the intricate notes emanating from John Stockfish’s bass guitar. He now prides himself on knowing just every note on just about every Lightfoot recording.
“All I ever wanted to do was play bass for Gordon,” Doidge says during an interview from his Grant Avenue office.
So Doidge, as much as anybody, understood the importance of getting the Massey Hall recordings right. He realized that the hall’s unique sound was an important part of the Massey experience. It was a place designed before the advent P.A. systems. It could carry true sound off the stage without the help of amplifiers. Lightfoot always understood this. It’s why he loves the place so much.
“When Gordon plays there, everything’s got to be turned down to a whisper,” Doidge explains. “He wants the sound to be pure.”
With this in mind, Doidge searched for ways to capture the sound of Massey Hall, rather than the sound of the amps.
“I spent about two hours walking all over Massey Hall because I had this thought that the true sound of Massey Hall is not from the stage but from the audience. So I went to the first balcony and I sat dead centre and I listened there.
“Of all the places I tried, I felt that that was Massey Hall,” he explained. “So I made a microphone boom and put two microphones on the end of it, all shock mounted, and hung it out about two feet away so it wouldn’t get too many shocks from the audience, and I pointed them at the stage left and right. At the P.A. stacks but a little wider, so I’m picking up the walls like your ears would, sitting in the audience. It also picked up the audience beautifully.
“That sound, when you brought it up, you could hear Massey Hall plain as day, like you were sitting there. It was really quite stunning, actually.”
Doidge set up a portable 24-track sound board in a loading area beneath the Massey Hall stage. From there, he recorded more than 20 of Lightfoot’s Massey Hall shows during the late ’90s and early 2000s.
At the time, there were no immediate plans to release the recordings. Doidge was doing it for posterity. There was very little doctoring of the sound coming from the stage. After each show, he’d hand Lightfoot two CDs containing the evening’s performance.
About a year ago, Doidge got a call from Lightfoot, saying it was time to work on the Massey Hall recordings. Lightfoot had selected 19 classic songs from concerts in 1998, 1999 and 2001. Doidge spent a week remixing the sound, smoothing out bumps. It’s the standard thing to do with live recordings.
“I still like the live mixes better,” was the answer Doidge received from Lightfoot. Doidge mixed the tracks again. In the end, the answer was the same. Lightfoot went with those original live recordings, untouched, picked up by the two microphones Doidge had positioned on the balcony.
The end product is called Gordon Lightfoot, Massey Hall Moments — All Live and will be available in stores April 24, 2012. It’s exactly as the fans heard it on those nights in Massey Hall, no mixing, no overdubs, no doctoring. None were needed.
Doidge hasn’t yet fulfilled his dream of playing bass for Lightfoot, although a lot of fans might think that recording and producing the legendary artist is an even bigger honour. Still, Doidge is a bass player. Some of his best memories are playing in bands with Ian Thomas, Daniel Lanois, Ray Materick and Shirley Eikhard.
Still, he’s on the list of backup replacements for regular Lightfoot bassist Rick Haynes, and secretly sits in wait, hoping for Haynes to slip on a banana peel or catch a cold.
Meanwhile, Doidge stays in shape playing bass every Wednesday night for the Judy Marsales sing-a-long band to full houses at The Coach and Lantern on Wilson St. in Ancaster.
“Judy just loves doing those shows, which is why they’re so successful,” Doidge says. “For me, it’s a two-and-a-half-hour practice session.”
Occasionally, somebody from the crowd will even request a Lightfoot song.
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