Welcome all to a fresh installment of our ‘Jeff Healey Rarities‘ series. Today, we’ll be checking out Jeff’s cover of the Buffalo Springfield classic, ‘For What It’s Worth‘.
Recorded during the sessions that spawned the Grammy nominated JHB album, ‘Cover To Cover‘, ‘For What It’s Worth’ was released in 1995 as a B-Side to the ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’ single. This Stephen Stills penned classic seems more timely than ever, given the current state of affairs.
‘Cover to Cover‘ had a convoluted history. The fourth and final JHB album to be recorded for Arista Records started life during a tumultuous period in the JHB’s career. The initial project was fraught with indifference and a marked lack of inspiration. It then morphed into a live album, full of life and the promise of resurrection… only to be shelved (…until its posthumous release in 2011 – more on that record HERE). That however, led fortuitously to the addition of veteran guitarist Pat Rush to the band and ultimately a Grammy nominated album of cover songs. Even the finished product was a complicated affair though, with one version of the record being released in most territories around the world, and a different version being put together for the United States to satisfy the record company’s request for a more blues-centered album… (check HERE for a comparison of the two…) Whew.
Between the two versions, 16 songs were released in total, in addition to the stunning b-side we are discussing today…
Stephen Stills wrote the original version of this timeless Buffalo Springfield song in 1966. In the recording, his vocal delivery is cautionary with an underlying tension. Neil Young’s jarring guitar tone serves as punctuation, reflecting the dissonance and anxieties of the time.
In Jeff’s hands, it became something a little different.
Jeff and Stephen Stills had met a few times over the years while out on tour… During the production of Jeff’s version of ‘For What It’s Worth’, the JHB found themselves in the States to add a few finishing touches to the song. Stephen Stills, recording down the hall in the same studio complex, popped in to say hi. The way the story goes, Jeff was unhappy with how the track was coming along and he apologized to Stills, afraid he hadn’t done it justice.
Stills played it down saying “Don’t beat yourself up. I’ve done covers that didn’t pan out, but this is your take on the song.”
Bassist Joe Rockman recalled the incident in a recent conversation, “I always thought that was very cool, and sensitive for him to say. Class.”
The JHB’s version of ‘For What It’s Worth’ has a distinctly different tone, yet it’s still evocative of the original recording’s intent. Its slowed down, percussion-heavy groove is a moody, smouldering concern. Simple drums highlight the emotive percussion played by guest, Rick Lazar. All of it sets out a distinct feel for the piece. The subtle colour added by Pat Rush’s dobro, lends Southern ambience to the song. You can almost see the heat of the midday sun, radiating in the air.
Jeff’s understated vocal delivery is weary, loaded with the weight of three decades along of, ‘more of the same’. As a counterpoint, the wonderful choir-like background vocals preach out a Baptist Church style warning of the state of the world.
His aggressive, yet tasteful electric guitar stings, punctuate the acoustic rhythm. His tone serving a similar function to Neil Young’s in the original version…
Have a listen yourself.
Thanks for joining us.
Stay safe out there peeps!