If Wikipedia is to be believed, Jeff Healey started playing guitar when he was three years old! Grief, I was still learning to be a functioning human being when I was three! He not only became a master of blues and rock guitar, playing it in his own idiosyncratic style, but was an accomplished jazz trumpeter to boot. Me, I barely became a functioning human being.
Tragically, he died in 2008 but this year, a new Jeff Healey album: Heal My Soul was released (on March 25th, which would have been Jeff’s 50th birthday). It contains previously unheard songs and as a fan of his work, I should have been excited to hear something new. Instead I was nervous. Was this an exercise in barrel scraping? Were they just picking up the previously discarded clippings from the cutting room floor? Were they releasing bootleg quality live recordings? …Questions like these meant I started listening with some trepidation.
First track: “Daze Of The Night”. It starts… Tick. Tick. Tick. Guitar wails… and we’re off. As soon as I heard the opening few notes, I breathed a sigh of relief. No barrel scraping here! The track sounded great. This album is a more than worthy addition to the Jeff Healey catalogue. It positively fizzes with the guitar fireworks that made his name. It is an album that ranges from blistering blues to raucous rock and takes in a bunch of other influences enroute. Sometimes there are echoes of B B King. Sometimes I catch snatches that remind me of Clapton. But always there is Healey, loud and clear.
The second track, “Moodswing”, is my favourite from an album full of brilliant tracks. It has some seriously psychedelic swirls and a laid back sixties vibe to the vocals. Guitar solos are thrown in here there and everywhere. Toffs are careless; Jeff’s soloing is so good, he clearly didn’t see the need to ration them. Not just in this track, but throughout the album, there are solos everywhere. Intro, outro, bridge, between lines in the verse, under the chorus, over the verse… No grandstanding, just a guitarist so brimful of talent that the music simply bursts out. My only complaint about this track is the rapid fade at the end which leaves me wanting more.
There are no duff tracks on the album but I want to briefly mention three more that really caught my ear. Track five, “Please”, is gorgeously grungy. Track seven, “Temptation” has some wonderfully wicked solos with just the right amount of dirty distortion added to the guitar. And track nine, the acoustic driven “All The Saints”, is perfectly suited to Jeff’s voice and is positively haunting.
As already stated, I started listening with some trepidation. I have ended up not simply relived that the album is good, but positively excited that it is outstandingly good! A posthumous release that is not just about making money but has been lovingly put together to enhance an artist’s already high reputation.
This is not just an album for completists. This is an album that could win new converts and introduce a new generation of fans to Jeff Healey. Brilliant!