With Thanks to Casey Kasem

Jeff Healey Band - See the Light

My previous Rescued Vinyl musings have demonstrated that as a music loving teenager growing up in the UK, I quickly developed a craving for music found beyond the conventional mainstream.  Sure, we had plenty of radio stations from which to choose, but in an age where television was king, there was little ‘audio-visual’ content when it came to music.  The weekly televised “Top of the Pops” on the BBC was a 30 minute show where Top 30 acts were encouraged to lip sync for the cameras in a faux ‘live’ setting, but again, what about music ‘outside’ of the mainstream?

I do recall a short-lived British television show called “No Limits” that added the occasional music video from across the pond, and provided some exposure to music that would become very influential during my teens. However, it would be the very late 1980s when one of the four television stations would import “America’s Top 10” to their programming schedule.  Of course, such a show would be aired in the early morning hours, but this was no match for the programmable timed recording feature of our trusty VCR.  Racing home from school the following day to get my fix of Casey Kasem and his new music from America, the next chapter of listening pleasures was born.  There may have been some musical overlap with the UK scene, but there were an equal amount of artists unknown to me at  the time that truly deserved to be heard.

Browsing the boxes at a used vinyl store during a recent trip to Southern Ontario, I stumbled upon a copy of the 1988 debut “See The Light” album from The Jeff Healey Band.  How could I forget that Jeff Healey was a featured artist on the first show that introduced me to Casey Kasem?  I am almost certain that Jeff Healey was at the number 10 spot for that particular show, with his single “Angel Eyes” – and a quick glance at the track listing found the inclusion of this song.  For just a few dollars, this one had to come home with me.

In the late 1980s, there was no internet, and no research tools, so the assumption was made that Jeff Healey was just another American rock-blues artist.  It would take several years for me to learn that he was indeed Canadian, but only up until the time that the Patrick Swayze movie “Road House” (1989) was released did I learn that Healey was in fact blind; a condition he inherited at a very young age due to retinoblastoma.  As a teenager who loved American culture, rock-blues music, and the (somewhat cheesy) portrayal of Swayze’s ‘bouncer’ at the Double Deuce bar, who feuds with a prominent extortionist for lots of havoc along the way; this movie was watched many times during those impressionable years.

But while these memories are long forgotten, finding this album provoked thoughts of the amazing soundtrack for that movie that allowed Jeff Healey’s house band to shine.  Let’s face it – Road House without such quality music would have probably been a dud, yet with Healey’s unique music and small acting contribution, it worked.  For me, the music definitely outlived the movie, hence not having that movie in my DVD collection, but now ecstatic to have this vinyl to spin once more.

Released just before the movie (and subsequent soundtrack that included several Healey tunes), “See The Light” does include the cover of ZZ Top’s “Blue Jean Blues;” which of course went on to be featured in Road House.  The hits on offer here include the aforementioned “Angel Eyes” and “Confidence Man,” both of which were cover versions of John Hiatt penned tunes.  More importantly, this original vinyl version comes complete with the full length version of “Angel Eyes,” which has a great guitar outro that apparently was shortened on the CD version.

Drawing comparisons to Stevie Ray Vaughan (naturally), Healey’s niche was his unique guitar style; resting his Stratocaster on his lap to really stretch those strings and sounds.  Whether played intentionally this way, or simply due to his lack of eyesight, Healey’s music comes straight from the soul, and during the late 1980s, when mainstream music in general had little substance, there were very few artists that could claim to be doing the same.  This album continues to stand the test of time, with a great blues-rock-soul vibe that remains vibrant and distinct some thirty years later.  I am delighted to have saved this one from collecting dust in the store, and to add it to our growing collection of rescued vinyl.

~ M