'The very sad news of Jeff's passing came as we were putting the final artwork together for
'Mess Of Blues'. We decided to go ahead with the original release plans which have be
in motion for the past several months and to honour Jeff's wish to release 'The Weight' to
radio. It took us all by surprise when we heard the news. Jeff was an amazing artist and
had such strength that we expected him to rebound as he had done in the past. Having
worked with Jeff over the last few years we became friends and it was my honour to work
with him on his Jeff Healey's Jazz Wizards releases and on his new release 'Mess Of
Blues'. Holger Petersen, Stony Plain Records
Jeff Healey, one of the most distinctive guitar players of our time, is releasing his first
blues/rock album in eight years. The album was recorded last year, with the musicians
who regularly accompanied him at Jeff Healey's Roadhouse in Toronto. Two tracks, in
fact were recorded at the club and two more were recorded at a concert in London, England.
Jeff formed the group to be the 'house band' to accompany guests who sat in at the
club and to perform with him on his occasional tours. He proudly called them 'the best
damned bar band in Canada'.
Jeff played his guitar with the instrument flat on his lap, resulting in what Guitar Player
magazine called 'astoundingly fluid bends and vibrato'. He blended jazz, rock and blues.
Jeff accomplished an incredible amount in his 41 years. He first came to international
acclaim in 1988 with his million plus selling 'See The Light' album on Arista Records.
'Angel Eyes' from that release reached No. 5 on Billboard in 1989. He was featured in the
film 'Road House' that same year. In 1990, a reader poll in Guitar Player magazine named
Jeff the best blues guitarist and best new talent.
Jeff's passion was vintage jazz from the 20's and 30's and playing his trumpet and guitar
with Jeff Healey's Jazz Wizards. His record collection numbered over 30,000 78's and he
hosted the long running radio show 'My Kind Of Jazz'.
About 'Mess Of Blues' Jeff said 'Making this record is a chance to introduce the band to
wider international audiences and give some great songs a new and fresh lease on life. For
the most part, they're tunes that get the best response when we play them live, either on
tour or at home in the club. My respect for the blues remains as strong as ever.'
1.I’m Tore Down
2.How Blue Can You Get
6.Mess O’ Blues
7.It’s Only Money
8.Like A Hurricane
9.Sittin’ On top Of The World
10.Shake Rattle and Roll
Don’t expect Jeff Healey to pull a Tupac and release handfuls of posthumous albums. The legendary Toronto-born guitarist’s career will end with just one record, the blistering R&B release Mess Of Blues.
And really, a more appropriate album could not come out just weeks after Healey’s death. It finds the axeman returning to his roots, playing the same kind of fast-fingered solos and straight-up blues that kicked off his career 20 years ago. Even more fitting is the fact that the record is all covers, giving fans some excellent insight into what made this guy who he was.
It’s hard to choose, but standouts include the rollicking Hank Williams tune Jumbalaya, the Band’s The Weight and the passionate and haunting Neil Young track Like A Hurricane. It’s a shame to see Healey go, but at least he left one last great disc behind.
It should firstly be noted that this album is coming out on its long-scheduled release date; it is not something the label whipped up quickly and rush-released to exploit Healey's recent death.
Mess of Blues also marks Healey's return to recording blues music for the first time in many years---he has been releasing jazz albums as Jeff Healey and the Jazz Wizards since 2002. That being said, and certainly not wanting to speak ill of the dead, but these recordings do not seem particularly inspired. Healey is a phenomenal guitarist and a decent vocalist and he is not at a lack for chops here but the material selected for Mess of Blues is questionable.
In the album's liner notes Healey says these songs, all covers, are not a bunch of favorites picked by the band. Instead they are songs that supposedly consistently get the biggest reactions when the band plays live. Somehow that doesn't translate onto this recording, especially with tepid versions of the Hank Williams classic "Jambalaya," the Band's chestnut "The Weight" and Neil Young's "Like a Hurricane." There are some hot moments though, like the rollicking "I'm Torn Down" with its smoking piano solo from Dave Murphy and an awesome reading of Leonard Feather's "How Blue Can You Get."
Four tracks here are live and the rest were done in the studio and hopefully Healey left a lot of other stuff in the can so that something a bit more cohesive can be put together for his finale.
Jeff Healey, arguably one of the most distinctive guitar players of our time, died today (Sunday March 2, 2008) in St. Joseph’s Hospital, Toronto. He was 41, and leaves his wife, Cristie, daughter Rachel (13) and son Derek (three), as well as his father and step-mother, Bud and Rose Healey, and sisters Laura and Linda.
Robbed of his sight as a baby due to a rare form of cancer, retino blastoma, and he started to play guitar when he was three, holding the instrument unconventionally across his lap. He formed his first band at 17, but soon formed a trio which was named the Jeff Healey Band.
After his appearance in the movie Road House, he was signed to Arista records, and in 1988 released the Grammy-nominated album See the Light, which included a major hit single, Angel Eyes. He earned a Juno Award in 1990 as Entertainer of the Year.
Two more albums emerged on Arista, with lessening success as the ’90s passed. Various “best-of” and live packages were released, and he recorded two more rock albums, before turning to his real love, classic American jazz from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s.
By then, however, Healey was an internationally-known star who had played with dozens of musicians, including B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and recorded with George Harrison. Mark Knopfler and the late blues legend, Jimmy Rogers.
A family man with a three-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter he preferred to stay close to home. “I’ve traveled widely before - been there and done that,” he told friends, determined to avoid the lengthy, exhausting tours that marked his life in his twenties and early thirties.
A long-running CBC Radio series saw him in the role of disc jockey - My Kinda Jazz was a staple for a while, but in recent years he had hosted a programme with a similar name on Jazz-FM in Toronto. A highlight of his broadcasts was always the use of rare — and rarely heard — music from his 30,000-plus collection of 78-rpm records.
As his rock career wound down as the millennium came, he recorded a series of three album of early jazz, playing trumpet as well as acoustic guitar in a band he called Jeff Healey’s Jazz Wizards. The most recent was It’s Tight Like That, recorded live at Hugh’s Room in Toronto in 2005, with British jazz legend Chris Barber as guest star.
At the time of his death he was about to see the release of his first rock/blues album in eight years, Mess of Blues, which is being released in Europe on March 20, 2008 and in Canada and the U.S. on April 22. The album was the result of a joint agreement between the German label, Ruf Records, and Stony Plain, the independent Edmonton-based label that has released his three jazz CDs.
Mess of Blues was recorded in studios in Toronto, with two cuts recorded at the Jeff Healey’s Roadhouse in Toronto and two at a concert in London England. The backup group on the upcoming CD - the Healey’s House Band - played with him regularly at the downtown Roadhouse, and at a previous club bearing his name in the Queen-Bathurst area.
Early last year, Healey underwent surgery to remove cancerous tissue from his legs, and later from both lungs; aggressive radiation treatments and chemotherapy, however, failed to halt the spread of the disease.
Despite his battle with cancer, he undertook frequent tours across Canada with both his blues-based band and his jazz group; he was set for a major tour in Germany and the U.K. and was to be a guest on the BBC’s famed Jools Holland Show in April.
Remembered by his musicians - and his audiences - for his wry sense of humor
as well as his musical playfulness, Healey was a unique musician who bridged different genres with ease and assurance.
Healey Band - "Roadhouse Blues" (The Doors cover)
SWR Studios, Baden-Baden, Germany, 1989