Having lost his sight due to eye cancer at the age of one, Jeff Healey is a fascinating guitarist to watch ply his trade; he plays with guitar in lap, looking something like a slide guitarist (at least to untrained eyes such as mine) with an amazing ability to make his sound quite different from that of most players. Ofttimes the front rows of his gigs are populated with fellow musicians, intent on watching Healey's fingers in order to imitate his style and approach the unique sound he is capable of producing with his humbucker-equipped Stratocaster. He began playing at the age of three and formed the Jeff Healey Trio in 1985 at the age of 19 with bassist Joe Rockman and drummer Tom Stephen. They released a single on their own Forte label which led to the band signing with Arista Records, where they released their debut album "See The Light" in 1988. The group mmediately gained the attention of blues rock circles, amassing a devoted following. Their single from the album, "Angel Eyes" went platinum in the U.S. and while later records have met with a degree of success, none have approached the popularity of their first.
Most film buffs will recognize Healey as being a supporting actor from the Patrick Swayze cult favorite, "Road House" where he gives a fine performance as the house band lead singer/guitarist, as well as an old pal to Swayze's Dalton. As if it weren't enough to be such a gifted guitar player, Healey taught himself to play the trumpet and these days is performing depression-era type traditional jazz. He's released two albums on his own label and in 2006 a third jazz recording, "It's Tight Like That" on Stony Plain.
Founded in 1967, the Montreux Jazz Festival has established itself as one of the most prestigious music events in the world. The extraordinary list of artists who have played there over the last 30 years is drawn from across the musical spectrum. With the consent of both the festival and the artists, Eagle Vision is making these concerts available for the first time on DVD. While a statement like this could be construed as hype by many, the list of concert DVDs the company has already released is indeed diverse and star-studded. This reviewer has already watched and/or written reviews of Montreux performances by the likes of Eric Clapton, Johnny Cash, Steve Earle, Alice Cooper, The Jeff Healey Band, James Brown, Candy Dulfer, Suzanne Vega, Nina Simone, Ray Charles, David Sanborn, Joe Sample, Marcus Miller, Bonnie Raitt, Ella Fitzgerald.....the list goes on and on. With three decades of great musicians and performances in the vaults I'm hopeful there will be many more gems like this to come.
Clocking in at 100 minutes, here is a set list of the show-
1. MY LITTLE GIRL
2. STOP BREAKIN' DOWN
3. THIRD DEGREE
4. I THINK I LOVE YOU TOO MUCH
5. STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH YOU
6. I CAN'T GET MY HANDS ON YOU
7. ANGEL EYES
8. ROADHOUSE BLUES
9. SEE THE LIGHT
10. HOOCHIE COOCHIE MAN
Bonus Songs (from 1997 Montreux Festival, Stravinski Hall)
1. AS THE YEARS GO PASSING BY
2. THAT'S WHAT THEY SAY
3. SHOE ON THE OTHER FOOT
4. WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS
That Healey is fascinating to watch is a given, as with any wonderfully gifted musician able to perform with such an eccentric style. I'm not terribly familiar with their studio release but from what I've read and see here is that this is a band that should to be seen in order to fully appreciate their smoking, bluesy music; as with many acts, their dynamic sytle is far better suited to a stage than a studio release. Healey, bass player Joe Rockman, guitarist Pat Rush and drummer Tom Stephen sound is raucous; Jeff has a rowdy, laid back personality and both addresses and wins over the audience with ease. They are a confident band, having opened the Rolling Stones, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, ZZ Top, Little Feat and Bon Jovi on tours prior to this. Along with their most notable hit, the John Haitt song "Angel Eyes" and self-penned songs like "I Can't Get My Hands On You" are a number of cover tunes performed here, George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"- George guested on Healey's second album- and an old Steeler's Wheel gem, "Stuck In The Middle With You" both playing well to the crowd. The Door's "Roadhouse Blues" was a no-brainer, a song the band played in the "Road House"; Robert Johnson's "Stop Breakin' Down". Finishing the 1999 Montreux concert is a particularly rowdy, zesty take on an old blues classic, Willie Dixon's "Hoochie Coochie Man". When it comes to boogie and blues, Healey and company know what they're doing and then some, having loads of talent and proficiency; they seem able to take material that might be tame in another artists' catalog and turn it into a loud, rocking powerhouse. Top notch beer drinking music, this.
Aspect ratio here is 1.33:1 fullscreen. This is actually one of the better looking Eagle Rock/Montreux shows I've watch thus far, probably because of the fact that it was filmed in 1999. Colors are clear and clean, blacks look deep and solid, and sharpness is very good. Why it is a fullscreen offering I have no idea, but the picture quality is excellent on the whole.
The choices of audio tracks here are Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS Surround Sound and PCM Stereo. Both the DD and DTS tracks are very listenable, crisp and loud with an excellent high end and a good degree of immersion.
Besides the extra tracks from the band's 1997 Montreux appearance is another wonderful extra for concert DVDs to employ; an additional audio disc with 12 of the 14 tracks from the two performances.
The Jeff Healey Band seems to be one that will always have high appeal to the rock and blues fans, but probably not achieve megastar status on the charts. Regardless, they are a great band to hear and see perform live, and this is one of the few discs available with which one can watch them strut their stuff. Great concert, a solid DVD in both the audio and video areas, and a fine extra, an audio CD for music fans to enjoy away from their TVs as well as in front of them. Healey fans should really appreciate this audio/video set, as well as the low MSRP. Recommended.