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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Jeff Healey

Band – Live at Grossman’s – 1994

Review by Mark Johnson

This album captures one of Jeff Healey’s favorite and most famous live sets of music from one of his favorite venues, Grossman’s Tavern in Toronto, Canada. Grossman’s Tavern in Toronto is a legendary blues location which many of the world’s best blues talents frequent.

This album has everything, and just about every major song, you would ever want to hear on a classic blues album. Jeff Healey had a great blues voice and his guitar playing was extraordinary. It is really a shame that we lost this great talent at such a young age. This set of music is probably the way Healey would have most likely wanted to have been remembered. For those who are new to his sound, you couldn’t find a better introduction. For Jeff Healey’s fans, it is probably the set they most prized for their collection. Either way, don’t miss this excellent CD of classics delivered by a great Canadian artist and musician.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
I’m Going Home

Healey and the band open with one of Alvin Lee’s best tracks, “I’m Going Home.” The crowd cheers as Healey and the band open with guitars and drums blazing, supported well by bass. Healey’s vocals are unique, but carry that same hard-life blues swagger that every great blues musician conveys through his or her singing. It is always amazing to hear any musician play guitar well, but given Healey’s visual limitations it is even more impressive to imagine it’s being delivered this deftly. The opening with that “I’m a Man” melody is quickly replaced with Healey’s blistering guitar solos set to powerful drums, keeping perfect pace.

Killing Floor
“Killing Floor” is a Chester Burnett, (“Howling Wolf”) blues classic delivered here by Healey and the band. Healey’s ripping guitar will bring back memories of Jimmy Page playing guitar on the Led Zeppelin version of this track named “Lemon Song.”
As the Years Go Passing By
Healey opens with, “We’re back for another session of sonic torture,” before jumping into Albert King’s “As the Years Go Passing By.” The slow blues guitar works its magic as Healey just keeps the rhythm solid throughout the piece as if he’s at the height of his talent level. The blistering guitar work will remind you why he is one of the best players from this era of the blues. He interpreted the track perfectly and the fans sound as though they are standing for an ovation. Healey’s laugh tells you he’s having fun and would not choose to do anything else.
Ain’t that Just Like a Woman
“Ain’t that Just Like a Woman” is Fleecy Moore and Claude Demetrius’s classic ode to the power of a woman’s magnetism. Healey’s vocals are smooth and he delivers the story well. The bass and drums help set perfect rhythm to Healey’s blistering blues electric guitar.
Yer Blues
The story behind Healey including “Yer Blues” in the set is wonderful. Healey and the band played the song the night before, without the band getting a true rehearsal. The CD booklet has a great breakdown and short history of the band. Anyway, Healey and the band pull off an amazing version of the track with few flaws. It’s a powerful song, and Healey’s vocals match the power demanded. There was only one John Lennon, but Healey does a great job on vocals and an even better job matching Lennon’s guitar playing. This Beatles White Album track does not get enough attention, but Healey and the band make up for all the missed years well, bringing this classic back to life and including it amongst some of the top blues songs in history.
Who’s Been Talking

“Who’s Been Talking” is another “Howling” Wolf song, with special guest Michael Pickett, on harmonica phone. Healey even shows his sense of humor by saying, “Sweat rolling into my eyes I can’t see him.” That harmonica phone jumps out quickly to provide enough power to overwhelm the soundscape as things get started. But Healey’s vocals and guitar catch up fast to deliver more blistering lead as the bass supports and the drums hammer home a great beat. Pickett’s solos along with Healey’s are worth the price of admission to this CD. When they team together near the end they make the moment even more special.

Crossroads
What good blues album would miss including “Crossroads?” - certainly not this great set of music. Robert Johnson’s classic blues anthem is given its coverage well here with Healey and the band playing some excellent music. It sounds like Pickett stayed on stage to help deliver the harp on this track, as well. When he and Healey get going it’s fun to listen to and probably even more fun to have watched live. Healey shreds the guitar as the famous blues guitarist Patrick Rush pulls a supporting rhythm guitar solo.
Dust My Broom
Not the ZZ Top rendition, but the more legendary Elmore James version of “Dust My Broom” is next. Healey rips this one open, without that famous ZZ fuzz, but with enough power to keep everyone happy. ZZ Top’s version is 3:07, while Healey’s version is over 7-minutes. Healey rocks this one heavy and hard as Pickett’s harmonica solos continue. I think Elmore James would be proud of Healey’s live take.
All Along the Watchtower
What better way to finish off this classic set than with Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower?” Healey opens with a nice slow guitar solo with plenty of picking and excellent rising chords. The rhythm guitar supports well creating a wonderful backdrop from which Healey can play. This sounds more like a great combination of Dylan’s version and that of the guitar master Jimi Hendrix, once it gets going. There is plenty of heavy guitar and bass, supported well with perfectly placed drum notes. Around the middle, Healey even adds a short guitar solo of Clapton’s Derek and the Dominoes tune “Layla,” just to spice up the best track on the CD. At 11:44, this is the longest track on the disc, and it’s worth every minute and note.
 
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