Provogue – 2016
12 tracks; 52 minutes
Between 1996 and 2000 Jeff Healey did not issue a record but did record plenty of material, most of which remained unissued – until now. Painstakingly researched by former colleagues of Jeff’s the twelve tracks here present the best of Jeff’s talent, some fine songs, plenty of firepower on guitar but also gentler moments which provide several of the highlights of the album. Most of these tracks feature Jeff’s long-serving bandmates Joe Rockman on bass and Dean Glover on drums; other musicians include Tom Stephen (drums on two tracks), Paul Kehayas (guitar, bass and keys on two tracks), Phillip Sayce (rhythm guitar on one track) and Cristie Healey (background vocals one track). Jeff did write songs but always found the process difficult; here his contributions are collaborations with others including Marti Frederiksen, Arnold Lanni and Stevie Salas, together with six covers.
“Daze Of The Night” opens the album with ample evidence of Jeff’s ability to rock out on a riff-driven tune with a rousing chorus and some striking guitar fills. “Moodswing” is the first of two songs written by the members of Toronto band The Phantoms, a hard-hitting number that provides the album title in its chorus as well as finding Jeff double-tracking sinuous slide over the core riff, his multi-layered backing vocals offering a sweeter tone against the almost heavy metal guitar work. Baby Blue (T. Beattie) is a complete contrast with Jeff’s emotional vocal matched by the stellar guitar layered over acoustic backing, followed by a solid take on Richard Thompson’s “Misunderstood” with its lilting chorus and chugging rhythm. “Please” is a fast paced number with lots of aggressive wah-wah before the second Phantom’s tune “Love In Her Eyes” provides pace allied to lyrical guitar. “Temptation” is more of a slow-burner but still packs a punch in the guitar stakes as Jeff uses plenty of rhymes to match the title, sounding desperately under the spell of someone here.
Another song from outside the band is M. Ferrari and P. Huxley’s “Kiss The Ground You Walk On” which has a wonderfully uplifting chorus, Jeff accompanying his own lead vocal with multi-layered backing. Jeff had recorded two acoustic guitar parts, lead and harmony vocals for “All The Saints” and the producers pondered completing the track with drums and bass but resisted the temptation – a good decision, as what is here is simply superb, Jeff’s vocal entirely convincing as he sings that “You’re supposed to be strong, supposed to be brave ‘cos that’s the way someone I love should behave. You’re supposed to be you and not somebody else; I’ve always known more about you than myself.” Albert Collins’ “Put The Shoe On The Other Foot” is the most obvious blues song here, played in restrained but still funky style as Jeff’s wild lead work sits above Phillip Sayce’s rhythm work. Two of Jeff and Marti’s originals round out the album: “Under A Stone” finds Jeff sounding a little desperate and in need of “a hand to work it out”, his guitar break matching that sentiment; strangely “It’s The Last Time” has a writing credit for Joe Rockman but bass duties are handled by Jeff with just drummer Dean on hand to assist. It makes a fine finale with Jeff’s acoustic rhythm providing the base for some subtle slide work on a country-tinged tune with another earworm chorus.
Sadly cancer took Jeff from us in 2008, at a far too young 41. These lost recordings provide a fitting reminder of what a talent Jeff was in the blues-rock area though he was equally happy playing jazz at his Toronto club.