Jeff Coffey is one of those exceptional bass guitarists that is also just as comfortable behind the microphone as he is playing the downbeat. Mentioning him in the ranks of Geddy Lee, Paul McCartney, Sting, Benjamin Orr and Aimee Mann, among others, is more than fair considering his pipes. Coffey’s album Origins – Singers And The Songs That Made Me showcases Coffey’s artistry as well as his taste in music. Rock is certainly alive in these songs, as is Coffey’s jukebox hero complex.
Of the 14 tracks on Origins, only a few stood out as new to me. To be fair, I recognized a few, but couldn’t quite pinpoint who sang it the first time around. Much to my delight, Coffey’s renditions are all nearly identical to the originals. I’m one of those snobby concert goers that rolls my eye in disdain when an artist changes their beloved hit in any way that isn’t identical to the radio version. Coffey, who is from Florida, rose to great heights helming Chicago (and playing bass) from 2016 – 2019. Nowadays, he’s the bassist for ex-Eagles’ guitarist Don Felder. Rock is in his blood.
He flaunts that veracity in hits like Journey’s “Ask The Lonely”, whereas he leaves the numerous octaves to Steve Perry, but fits just as perfect into early 80s piece. An interesting choice from Journey’s catalog and as you start to go through the tracks on Origins, you start to realize some of the deeper cuts or fan favorites are what gives the listener (and Coffey) the chills.
The song “Magic Power”, a Triumph hit in 1981, is another escape into familiar territory. Followed by “Fooled Around And Fell In Love”, “Back On My Feet Again” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, Coffey swirls the listener through a songbook rooted in Americana, rock and soul. Taking on Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” is quite interesting. The dynamic between his vocals on this, compared to Kenny Loggins’ “This Is It” further proves that Coffey is fully capable of singing a wide swatch of ranges and delivery just as many emotions.
The second half of the album darts around in terms of song eras, but Coffey is consistently strong and magnetic. In “Baby It’s Tonight”, Coffey takes one of 1990’s lesser-known hits and brings it back to the spotlight. Jude Cole sang the original, and it’s Coffey that takes the baton and really runs with it. His voice never leaves the pocket. Fans of Jon Waite, too, will take a double-step wondering if it’s Waite or Coffey belting out if I ever needed your arms to hold me/ baby, it’s tonight / and if I ever needed your eyes to heal me/ baby, it’s tonight. Finally, in the Don Henley-original “New York Minute”, Coffey takes the listener back to 1989. A lesser-known track from Henley’s album The End of the Innocence, and often overshadowed by the title track, Coffey’s moving takes no second fiddle. His deep voice danced alongside the piano keys, just as warmly as he often hugs the bass guitar.