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Jeff Healey Band


It's funny how a movie, even a bad one, can boast a career. Guitarist Jeff Healey, who suffered from retinoblastoma, a rare eye cancer that left him blind since age one, was playing clubs in his native Toronto when he earned a write-up in the local NOW magazine.

A lot of bands get notices but this one led to Healey and his band (bassist Joe Rockman and drummer Tom Stephen) getting cast in the '89 Patrick Swayze vehicle Road House. Healey played a club's house musician (big stretch) and a friend of Swayze's character, Dalton. The movie folks probably thought they couldn't miss with Swayze, hot off his Dirty Dancing success, but they did. One critic called the film the "best bad movie ever made."

The film appearance landed the Jeff Healey Band a contract with Arista Records before the movie was released (which was probably fortuitous). "See The Light" arrived in '88 and contained the hit ballad, "Angel Eyes." The group picked up a Grammy nomination (Best Instrumental) but didn't win. They did nail the Juno Award (the Canadian Grammy) for Entertainer of the Year. That was as good as it got (commercially) for Healey.




"Road House Soundtrack" ('89), "Hell To Pay" ('90), "Feel This" ('92), with a version of The Beatles' (George Harrison) "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," rolled out. Then there was "Cover To Cover" ('95), where Healey and company ripped through Led Zeppelin's previously thought untouchable "Communication Breakdown" and put some teeth into Stealers Wheel's (Gerry Rafferty) "Stuck In The Middle With You." There was a five-year gap before "Get Me Some" appeared.

Always a Jazz aficionado, Healey moved increasingly in that direction as his career progressed.

He succumbed to the very same cancer that cost him his eyes in March of '08. His return to Blues-Rock, "Mess Of Blues" was released shortly after his passing.


Jeff Healey Band Discography

Albums:

1988 See The Light
1990 Hell To Pay Arista
1992 Feel This
1995 Cover To Cover
2000 Get Me Some

The Blues-Rock thing is tough - a long way from the pop mainstream yet not dramatic enough for mass Rock popularity. Every now and again, a guitarist-singer like Robert Cray or Jeff Healey slips through and everybody remembers just how good it can sound.

Though "Angel Eyes" is the most famous track on "See The Light," the album is actually a rousing set. There's the good-time Blues of "Confidence Man," the searing guitar that lights up "My Little Girl, a Blues romp in "Hideaway" and a title track that channels "Crossroads" era Cream. Not a bad start but "Hell To Pay" is superior.

The title track and "Full Circle" are undeniable as are the Gospel laced "Let It All Go" and "How Much." Healey gives a nod toward the Eagles on "How Long Can A Man Be Strong" before nailing a solid cover of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."

"My Kinda Lover," the Springsteen influenced track with a jangling piano is the breakout track on "Feel This." "Cruel Little Number" also scores while "Baby's Lookin' Hot" delivers some great licks. But "Lost In Your Eyes" is really just "Angels Eyes - Part II" and many of the remaining tracks sound like retreads.

"Cover To Cover" is a remarkably strong set with the Yardbirds' "Shapes Of Things," which was nominated for a '96 Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, and John Popper's (Blues Traveler) harmonica on "Communication Breakdown." A heartfelt version of the Hendrix chestnut "Angel" is counter balanced by a couple of tough Bluesy tracks.

"Live At Montreux 1999" takes a run at The Doors' "Roadhouse Blues" and Muddy Waters' "Hoochie Coochie Man" (both originally appeared on the Road House soundtrack) as well as other songs from Healey's catalog.



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