The Lost Album Of A Legend
His family kept it a closely guarded secret for 15 years. They were probably respecting the last wishes of Jeff Healey himself to be able to continue aiding the research centres for the diseases like the ones he suffered from and took him from us far too soon. His blindness didn't prevent him from becoming a great guitarist who will surely continue amazing listeners today with delights like Heal My Soul, the "lost" album of the Canadian native. These songs recorded in the last years of his life that never made it onto CD before were just released on what would have been his 50th birthday on March 25th, 2016.
Norman Jeffrey Healey (Toronto, 1966-2008) will always be remembered sitting down, the guitar on top of his knees, his left hand running up and down the neck at full speed while his audience wondered how in hell did he manage to do that. He was a master of the blues -and jazz in his final phase- who was lost in the legend just like Stevie Ray Vaughan, with whom he shared a stage on more than one occasion.
The "lost" album really is just that, except that Healey was prone to discard songs that were just as good as the ones he included. His heirs claim these are songs recorded over a three-year period during breaks from touring and shared a common fate. Whatever the case may be, this disc is not the usual rehash we're accustomed to. Healey's recording career ended a month before his death in March, 2008 with Mess of Blues, an incredible collection of cover versions including a memorable take on Like a Hurricane by his fellow Canadian Neil Young, played in a style diametrically opposed to his own. On Heal My Soul, in contrast, the music is his and his alone.
A dozen songs that start up forcefully with the ferocious attack of his guitar, surely a Squier Strat, on Daze of the Night. Pure rock for the road recorded virtually behind the scenes while, in real life, Healey immersed himself in jazz played on his collection of vintage Gibsons from the '30s and '40s.
On Mood Swing, Healey makes his first foray into using effects to give his playing extra impact on the quasi-psychedelic track before switching over to acoustic for the tasty Baby Blue, the moment when we also first discover a magnificent singer. The real performance with wah-wahs and other noise toys will arrive on Please, a 100% rocker with a memorable riff devoured by a series of otherworldly solos.
And on the seventh track, finally, the sound of the blues appears. Even better, a blues explodes because after the brief, deceptive introduction to Temptation, Healey seems to give full rein to all his demons to test his guitar strings to the limits of their resistance. The same thing will happen on Put the Shoe…, an exceptional tribute to the legacy of Stevie Ray.
On It’s the Last Time, officially the final song by Jeff Healey, the memory seems dedicated to George Harrison and his gently weeping guitar that gave him one of his biggest hits.
The Canadian guitar legend offered a deluxe package for many of his peers with his incredible cover versions, but he was also a great composer. A voracious record collector who had tens of thousands of 78s, his "lost" album reclaims his own legacy above all else, a perfect sample for people already familiar with his music to check him out again and for newcomers to find out why he occupies a place of honour on our jukebox.
(All images © Cordon Press)