‘Down In The Alley’ (NME 1990)
Hey folks! This latest instalment of our Essential series features a slightly harder to find session…
During a 1989 stop in Memphis, Jeff and the band made a side trip to the legendary Ardent Studios to cut a track made famous by Elvis on the soundtrack album ‘Spinout’, the Jesse Stone penned tune, ‘Down In The Alley‘.
The track was recorded for a charity compilation entitled, ‘The Last Temptation of Elvis’ for the benefit of the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy organization, a British music charity dedicated to transforming the lives of vulnerable children and adults across the UK. (it also ended up a b-side of the UK CD single for ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’.)
Jeff Healey: “The choice of song was ours. Looking through the list of songs Elvis had done in his movies, ‘Down In The Alley’ was the only one that seemed to fit what we were doing at the time.” – JHB Network
The session was produced by veteran ZZ Top producer, Joe Hardy. Two years later, Hardy would be recruited once again to produce the 1992 Jeff Healey Band album, ‘Feel This’.
Jeff Healey: “We happened to be in Memphis and a guy at our label suggested trying Hardy out. We pulled our bus up at Ardent Studios, set up our gear and recorded in about two hours. When we got the tape back, it was the best thing we’d ever done (production-wise).” – SoundCan Magazine, March 1993
The decision to record at Ardent proved wise. Memphis itself seems to have seeped into the groove, making its presence known and lending the song a smokey barroom atmosphere.
Another very special piece of Memphis was shrewdly added to the mix. As Jeff’s quote mentioned near the top of this piece, founding member of Derek and the Dominos, Bobby Whitlock brought his extensive talents to the room.
Jeff Healey: “We had played the day before in Memphis and I had run into Bobby Whitlock and asked him to sit in. That was fun.” – JHB Network
It’s hard to imagine this cut without Whitlock’s great piano and emotive background vocals. Complimentary, never overpowering, they serve to elevate the track to the next level. (Whitlock would also be invited to contribute to 1990’s ‘Hell To Pay‘.)
And as always, Jeff delivers the goods; soulful vocals (both lead and layered harmonies) and a fantastic extended guitar solo…
The rest of this 2 CD set features some outstanding performances from the eclectic likes of Bruce Springsteen, The Pogues, Robert Plant, The Cramps, Lemmy, Jesus And Mary Chain, Paul McCartney and more…
‘The Last Temptation Of Elvis’ (and the CD single of ‘While My Guitar…’ for that matter) is long out of print, but definitely worthy of Essential status and worth seeking out.
Here’s a brief excerpt of the killer track, ‘Down In The Alley’…
…and here is a great live version of the song being performed by Jeff and his dear friend Ronnie Hawkins in 1995 at his 60th Birthday party…