Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lightfoot ALL LIVE

Gordon Lightfoot. Two words that say a lot about music in Canada. The first time I saw him live was in 1967, during celebrations for our country's centennial. There was a big show down at Confederation Park. Rich Little, The Big Town Boys and Gordon Lightfoot. We all went. After all we were teenagers now. It was a great show. The Big Town Boys sorta rocked. Rich Little was funny. And Lightfoot was great. John Stockfish on bass and Red Shea on guitar. I went home and learned a bunch of Gord's gold! I think he had just one album out at the time, so it didn't take too long. But I started buying Lightfoot albums after that. In April 2010 I saw him again. At Hamilton Place, with a bigger band including Terry Clements on lead guitar. Even with the added instrumentation he didn't sound that different. Lightfoot doesn't rock out. He is however, the master of his domain. He owned the stage, and everyone's attention that April night. If it hadn't been for the guy behind me singing along with every song, and the girl in front of me texting each title to someone off site, it would've been a perfect evening. As it was, it was still not bad. Not bad at all. Lightfoot prepared a collection of live recordings from Massey Hall (for years he's taken a week of gigs there) and worked with Bob Doidge from Grant Avenue Studios to make it sound just so. He wanted to capture the sound of Massey Hall. The idea was to release this album after Gord passed away. A gift to his fans. But then Terry Clements died last year. So the recording came out early, in tribute to Clements, Gord's guitarist since Red Shea left. Forty years. That's time to develop some real sympatico.
ALL LIVE is the album of these recordings. It came out this week, and I've been listening for a couple of days. Fifteen of the nineteen tracks were played in the Hamilton Place concert, so you know you're getting a collection of his best known songs. Maybe even his best songs. That's for you to decide. The tunes come from his whole career, from nearly 30 albums over 45 years. The band is tight as can be, never missing a beat. Gord's voice and phrasing seem slightly over-exaggerated, in that crisply enunciated way he has, but it's a style thing. He sounds fine. And Doidge managed to capture the room too. Massey Hall is a wonderful place to hear music. I've heard Paul Simon, Levon Helm, David Gilmour and (most recently) Blackie & the Rodeo Kings and they all sounded great in the old hall. Doidge placed microphones out in the audience to capture the ambient sound. Lightfoot himself sent back a couple of mixes til he convinced Bob to go with the pure sound. It paid off. This is a good sounding record. Thankfully you cannot hear anybody else singing along with the songs. There's no video portion to distract you with flashing cellphones. Just the sound of a dynamite band playing some classic tunes by a legendary performer.

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