Dennis Coffey - Dennis Coffey (2011)

Dennis Coffey

Dennis Coffey Dennis Coffey.jpg

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Now THIS is how a cover album should be done. It’s not 100 percent accurate to call Dennis Coffey’s self-titled release a cover album. First of all, the instrumental tunes featured on Dennis Coffey are originals, mostly written for this project. More importantly, Coffey is connected to every track on this extremely good CD in some way. Coffey, a Detroiter, played with Motown – he was one of the Funk Brothers interviewed for the documentary Standing in the Shadow of Motown. Coffey played guitar on that harder edged, rock influenced stuff that Motown made in the late 1960s and early 70s.

Now THIS is how a cover album should be done. It’s not 100 percent accurate to call Dennis Coffey’s self-titled release a cover album. First of all, the instrumental tunes featured on Dennis Coffey are originals, mostly written for this project. More importantly, Coffey is connected to every track on this extremely good CD in some way. Coffey, a Detroiter, played with Motown – he was one of the Funk Brothers interviewed for the documentary Standing in the Shadow of Motown. Coffey played guitar on that harder edged, rock influenced stuff that Motown made in the late 1960s and early 70s.

A guitarist steeped in funk, blues, jazz, rock and soul, Coffey laid it down for Wilson “Wicked” Pickett, the Parliaments, Funkadelic and 100 Proof Aged in Soul, and hed made the theme song for the Bruce Lee martial arts flick Enter the Dragon. His instrumental work, such as the ultra funky “Scorpio,” got rocked on soul stations back when DJ’s had the autonomy to regularly play records that didn’t include singing.  

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that soul music listeners in the late 1960s and early 70s didn’t go a day without hearing something that Coffey touched in some way. Like me, most of us were blissfully unaware. You may have known that he made “Scorpio” because you saw him perform it on Soul Train. The Isley Brothers’ “It’sYour Thing?” I had no idea.

In that way, Dennis Coffey serves as a welcome reintroduction to this soul music legend. What makes Dennis Coffey a great covers album is that Coffey opted to take the path less travelled. He could have made a record filled with remakes of oft covered fare such as “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” and it would have been pretty good record – especially if he used the same guest vocalists he recruited for this project. The Dennis Coffey songbook is voluminous, and here the artist had the confidence to blow the dust off some real gems:. Listeners get reintroduced to tracks such as the Pickett’s “Don’t Knock My Love.”

I don’t have to tell you that the instrumentation on these tracks is excellent. Some top-flight Detroit musicians join Coffey on this record. However, the thought Coffey took in finding vocalists is what elevates this project. The Pickett tune is a good example. Coffey said he recruited Fanny Franklin to sing the tune because he didn’t think he could find a male singer to infuse the track with Pickett’s energy.  Franklin tears the joint up. I like the fact that Coffey went and found “All Your Goodies Are Gone,” and “I Bet You,” records made by The Parliaments and Funkadelic respectively. To hear these works – made by the pre-P-Funk George Clinton – will give listeners a true understanding of the man. Mayer Hawthorne ‘s soft tenor gives “All Your Goodies Are Gone” that doo-wop feel that The Parliaments had in the late 1960s, back when Star Child still rocked a conk. Meanwhile, “I Bet You” is a reminder that Funkadelic was at its core a funk/alt. rock band.

The instrumentals on Dennis Coffey have a late 1960s/early 1970s psychodelic sound, featuring wah wah guitars, jam band solos and in the case of the track “Knockabout,” harmonized vocals. The musicianship is so tight that nothing sounds dated. I guess that’s one of the points that comes across after listening to Dennis Coffey: excellence never goes out of style. Highly Recommended

By Howard Dukes

 

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