Album review: JEFF HEALEY BAND – Live At The Horseshoe Tavern 1993

JEFF HEALEY BAND - Live At The Horseshoe Tavern 1993

Eagle Records – [Release Date: 26.01.15]

Around eighteen months ago I reviewed Jeff’s ‘Live In NYC’ and questioned whether the world needed yet another Jeff Healey Band live album – given that there had been four releases of live and out-take material in the previous three year period.

The answer then was a resounding ‘yes’ as not only was it a great gig but it was also recorded shortly after the release of his debut ‘See The Light’ album at the very beginning of his career – an album that, in all truth, he never really matched.

So, now we are being asked the question again.

This set was recorded at the end of Jeff’s 1993 tour of the ‘Feel This’ album in his home town of Toronto – although ‘set’ is probably a misnomer as the band played several nights at the venue and it sounds from the crowd volume levels as if the best takes have been cherry-picked.

These performances stray from Healey’s usual power trio format with the inclusion of a three-song acoustic section together with the addition of keyboards (courtesy of Washington Savage) and a pair of backing singers (Mischke and Toucu).

Unfortunately, it is these add-ons that despite adding a little texture to the band’s blues-rock template also detract from the brilliance of Healey’s playing, and the question has to be asked – why would you do that?

The two backing singers in particular are vexatious to the spirit as they sound like a couple of karaoke banshees roped in from the adjoining bar, and the keyboards are, rather like Jeff’s long-time backing band, at best, frankly workmanlike.

However, such is the power of Healey’s playing, these little irritations stay just that – little irritations.

There is no doubting that Jeff Healey was a match for any blues/rock guitar player you could mention and he proves it here with a series of jaw-dropping solos of such ferocity it was likely that ‘The Horseshoe Tavern’ probably needed re-painting in the days following.

All the Healey classics are here – ‘Baby’s Looking Hot’, ‘I Think I Love You Too Much’, ‘Roadhouse Blues’, etc. plus the acoustic versions of ‘That’s What They Say’, ‘You’re Coming Home’ and the rather cloying ‘Angel Eyes’ which, despite the best efforts of the banshees to ruin them, are rescued by Healey’s virtuosic playing.

And talking about virtuosic playing, check out Jeff’s versions of ZZ Top’s ‘Blue Jean Blues’, the Fabs’ ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and his staggering fretwork on BB King’s ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ – just amazing.

So what is the answer to the question – do we need yet another Jeff Healey live album?

The answer is, on this occasion, yes, as Healey’s playing is just so good – but do we need any more? Probably not, as most of Healey’s live repertoire is drawn from a fairly shallow well and I fear that the bucket has hit the bottom.  ****

Review by Alan Jones

Album review (Live From NYC)


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