Coming into focus drenched in midrange, it doesn’t take more than ten seconds’ time for Jeff Coffey’s version of “Ask the Lonely” to find its full-color warmth and whisk us away with its meaty melody. This classic rock jam isn’t the only one you’ll hear on Coffey’s new album Origins – Singers and Songs That Made Me, but the first of fifteen tracks that span the spectrum of old school pop/rock in honor of legends as big as the genre itself. Golden harmonies await in a brisk “Magic Power,” ultra-swaggering “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” and pristine “Back on My Feet Again,” each song seemingly emerging from the silence with more gusto than the one preceding it just did. Origins is a grownup cover album, and it’s fully-loaded with some of the best song selections its creator could have made.
Michael Omartian lends a hand in “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” but as it is with the other ballads in this record, all of the attention is trained on Coffey’s light but beautifully firm vocal. He has the slow steps of this track down to a science, and it’s much of the same story with “When We Dance,” the funk-fused “This Is It” and vaguely alternative “Baby It’s Tonight,” one of the more deceptively simple songs here. Even when he’s playing out black and white melodies in Origins, there’s still a lot of thought going into this material – Coffey never treats this like a glorified karaoke effort, and that’s hasn’t been true of other cover albums I’ve been spinning in September.
Payton Taylor isn’t the lone reason for listening to the firebrand “It’s Only Love,” but I would be lying to you if I said she didn’t put the chills over the top alongside the man of the hour in this track. There are moments in which Jeff Coffey needs to be the centerpiece (“Maggie May” among them), and others that require a little more integration with the band (the powerful “Maybe I’m Amazed”), but he’s never made to be a background figure in favor of emphasizing an instrumental frill found in the original content. He turns “Waiting for a Girl Like You” and “New York Minute” into pure vocal numbers, never hiding what his true artistic priorities are from the audience.
We find the conclusion of Origins – Singers and Songs That Made Me with a weighty “Who Wants to Live Forever” and a bonus track in “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and though they represent two opposite sides of the creative wave link Coffey is on here, they actually bring us across the finish line with much of the eccentric charm we first began with. Sixty-four minutes long and fifteen tracks deep, this isn’t a conservative or restrained offering by any critical measurement, but if you ask me, I think it’s just a sneak preview of what Jeff Coffey has planned for this next chapter of his long and storied career. He’s ready to join the elite class, and here, he proves he can sing with the best of them without a whole lot of assistance.