Jeff Healey Band
Convexe ERN 28002 www.conveyorcanada.com
Phew! Wotta Scorcher. That time-honoured Brit tabloid newspaper headline neatly sums up the inaugural release of the Convexe label, first in a series of unreleased Healey band CDs and DVDs culled from audio and video archives. With power trio regulars Joe Rockman on bass, drummer Tom Stephen plus on many cuts guitarist Pat Rush, the Canadian icon – stunningly proficient with guitar and voice - establishes a blistering pace from the start, storming through Alvin Lee’s I’m Going Home and maintaining the pace with Killing Floor, one of two Howlin’ Wolf classics that Healey jokes are just part of “another session of sonic torture!”
Chinatown venue Grossman’s has equally venerable status, one reason its hosting the Sunday jam sessions spawned the Healey band in 1985.
Today its blues and rock Mecca rep has faded, but this outing 17 years ago – one shared with local rockers The Phantoms - is fully energized though the crowd seems thin. The session was actually a rehearsal for Healey’s fourth studio album “Cover To Cover.”
The Albert King hit As The Years Go Passing By shows Healey’s skills at their best, raw voice effortlessly locked onto the beat then a launch of a typically aching solo on guitar - once again you’re reminded of how comfortable he is in blues, rock and jazz, resulting in a public appeal that was unquenchable until his death in 2008.
Vintage jukebox hit Ain’t That Just Like A Woman gets thrusting treatment, followed by a rare Beatles tune, the Lennon-penned, melancholic Yer Blues with passionate Healey vocal and general ensemble fury setting the mood ablaze and then it’s back to the Wolf for Who’s Been Talking with Michael Pickett’s vigorous harmonica.
Robert Johnson’s Crossroads has plenty of jump, as does Elmore James’ Dust My Broom, this chestnut all urgent wailing, pleading crescendos and bouncing beat. Then, unpredictably, comes a smartly done extended encore with Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower, more searing guitar work, rock lyrics and realization that a memorable hour has concluded with a grand flourish.