Co-Administrator Of JEFF HEALEY's Estate Talks New Posthumous Album – “There’s A Lot Of Stuff On This Album That’s Really Heavy”
March 25, 2016, 2 years ago
Sometimes when an album is issued of leftover tracks by a deceased artist, it sounds like the record label is scrapping the bottom of the barrel. This is not the case with the new posthumous Jeff Healey release, Heal My Soul (released March 25th). It turns out that if all was well in Jeff's career and personal life during the late '90s, the tracks that comprised Heal My Soul would have possibly been released instead of the album Get Me Some. And upon hearing such standout selections as “Daze Of The Night”, the set contains some of the most rocking and raw recordings of Jeff's entire career. The archivist/co-administrator of the estate of Jeff Healey, Roger Costa, recently spoke with BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato about the album's background, as well as Jeff tunes that metalheads would enjoy most and an '80s cult classic film that he appeared in.
BraveWords: The new album, Heal My Soul, is being billed as a 'lost album.'
Roger Costa: "The album started…you have to go back about 17 years. All the songs on Heal My Soul were recorded between 1996 and 1998, which was a really crazy period in Jeff's life. His personal life and his professional life were in extreme amounts of turmoil. He was in the middle of going through a divorce, the band was going through a very bad patch - there had been years of built up resentments and mismanagements. Jeff was pretty much sick of the whole business side of music, at that point. And they had just left their long-standing label, Arista, and moved on to Atlantic for a very short period of time, where nothing was released. But what was supposed to be a very routine part of their schedule for a decade - which was you come off the road, you spend a little bit of time writing, you record, you go back out on the road - ballooned into four years of writing and recording. I think it was over 36 songs. Now, at the end of that, what got released was an album called Get Me Some. They put it out on their own, and it should have been a new beginning for the band, or for Jeff at least professionally, on the rock side of things. But it basically was the end of the band. The choices that were made on certain songs that were included on the album, production-wise, there were a lot of people that came and went over those four years.
“So it wasn't as strong as it should have been. There were some bad choices made, where certain things were over-produced. So at the end of it, Jeff walked, and the band broke up. So the songs on Heal My Soul were all recorded during that period, and in my opinion, are superior to anything that they released while they were together as a band. Two songs in particular, 'Daze Of The Night' and 'Baby Blue,' I remember Jeff very vividly playing me back in '98, the rough mixes of them. I don't think they even had finished drums yet on them. But they were amazing. And I remember being floored by them, and Jeff was really proud of the work that he did on them. 'Baby Blue,' I remember him talking about how he went in and did all the harmony vocals himself. There are like, six vocal tracks on that song. So fast-forward to Jeff's death in 2008, after Jeff passed away, I guess it was part of a coping mechanism, we started filling in the gaps in the archives and picking up things that were missing and tracking down recordings. One of the things that we found was that Jeff always had kept copies of these particular recordings with him for his whole life. Which was kind of a surprise to us, because as things went on, and more distance happened between him and the original trio, there was a lot of bad blood with some of the members. And legal issues and that sort of thing.
"Jeff kind of distanced himself from a lot of what he'd done in the past. So the fact that he held on to these things, to us, meant that they meant something to him. So based on those recordings and those rough mixes that he had on him and what I'd heard in the past, as far as back as 2009, I had already started thinking how this would be a great thing to have this see the light of day. And there was ongoing discussions for years about this, and every time we'd find something new, we'd put it together, and there was an ongoing, 'Wouldn't it be great if…' kind of situation. But there was a lot of legal hurdles that needed to be cleared before we could do anything. And it took us the better part of six years to get to that point, where we were finally in a position where we could work on this record. And we hooked up with some great partners at Convexe Entertainment here in Canada, and they're part of the Universal family. We were given complete creative control over every aspect of the project, which was great. So the second that we had contracts in hand, we were diving into the storage space and identifying masters and identifying tapes that we needed. Ultimately, I think there was 24 reels of two-inch tape that we pulled out and got them transferred to digital, and then the whole process started."
BraveWords: I was surprised how heavy and rocking some of the tunes are, especially “Daze Of The Night”.
Roger Costa: "Yeah, there's a lot of stuff on this album that's really heavy. And the playing on this record - and even in Jeff's vocals - it's like he's on fire. I think that all of the emotional turmoil that he was going through, he just channeled it out in his music. You hear it in every note. I've been living with this thing for years, and I still get goosebumps when I hear the solo in 'Temptation' or any of the songs on this album. It's pretty powerful stuff."
BraveWords: Which Jeff tunes or albums would you recommend to fans of hard rock and heavy metal?
Roger Costa: "Although the new one does have some softer stuff, certainly, there's a lot of pretty amazing heavy stuff on the new record. Jeff didn't slide to the metal side of things really, but his playing was always very aggressive. He had a lot of power in his playing, and just the emotion that he would put in his music. A lot of the stuff would slide more into the rock vein, but I would say Hell to Pay, Jeff's second studio album, has a lot of cool heavy stuff on it, and there's a great cover of 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps.' But there's some good, heavier rocking stuff on there, as well. And Get Me Some. Despite the problems that I see with that record, there is some heavy stuff on there - like 'Feel Better' has almost a 'Dazed and Confused' kind of feel. It's got a real good, chunky riff. Jeff does an amazing solo on Ian Gillan's solo album from 2006, Gillan's Inn - they do a cover of the Deep Purple song, 'When a Blind Man Cries.' He got Jeff to come in and play the solo, and it's really good."
BraveWords: What do you think Jeff would have gone on to do if he had lived?
Roger Costa: "That's tough to say. Jeff loved music. He loved everything about music. And he had ventured off following his heart on another passion of his - which was traditional American jazz. He recorded a handful of albums of great jazz stuff. Worked on his trumpet playing, basically, and also his jazz guitar playing. But he never walked away from the rock world, either. In Toronto, every Thursday night whenever he was in town, he would sit in with the band and they would jam all night long on all different kinds of stuff. So he was still doing those kind of shows. And just before he died, he recorded his first rock record in nine years. It turned out to be his last - it was called Mess of Blues. But I think he would have continued expanding. He probably would have gone back to a rock situation. When I say 'rock,' I mean more writing and recording stuff, as opposed to doing covers. I think he had more to say on that side of his life. And I think he would have found a way to create more in that aspect. But also, he would have kept going with the jazz and with everything else. He was getting to a point in his life where he finally felt free of expectations and record companies and bureaucracy in the business side of it. So he felt more at ease to do things that he wanted to do. It was getting to be more fun for him."
(Photo by: Margaret Malandruccolo)
BraveWords: My introduction to Jeff - as I’m sure with a lot of other people - was his appearance in the movie Road House. What were his thoughts on that film?
Roger Costa: "Road House, it was funny, because for a long of time, Jeff [didn't like Road House] because you'd get people yelling out to him all the time, 'You play pretty good for a blind white boy!' But after a while, he started to roll with it. He had more fun with it. It was the sort of thing where it would be on TV and he would laugh along with it and have a good time. The process of filming for him was not his favorite. It was a lot of waiting around. It wasn't like going into a club or a theater or arena, and playing. He had to wait for hours on end, and then you get your five minutes of action, and then you'd have to wait for a long time again. So a lot of that, he found a bit hard to deal with. But the experience itself, I think he made a lot of friends on set, and were friends for life. But like I said, at the end, he was having a lot more fun with the movie - there was a 20th anniversary of Road House, and there's a special edition DVD, and he took part in the extras for that."
(Top photo by: Taras Kovaliv)