“Ask the Lonely” opens Jeff Coffey’s latest solo album Origins, a fourteen song collection of covers spanning decades and reflective of the material that shaped the former Chicago bassist and singer’s musical dreams. I think it is obvious Coffey is a product of specific eras in popular music history, but he isn’t a slave to the sound of that era. “Ask the Lonely”, a popular but nonetheless relatively obscure Journey track, is a near ideal song for Coffey to cover and the vocal harmonies are especially strong. It takes more than a little chutzpah for any singer, much less one of Coffey’s caliber, to tackle songs from a Hall of Fame discography, but there’s a relaxed confidence to the way Coffey handles this and other tracks included on Origins. I am a big fan of the guitar work laced through this cut as well.
“Fooled Around and Fell in Love” shocked me in some ways. There’s a wont among older music fans to consider Mickey Thomas’ original vocal as practically sacrosanct, but Jeff Coffey never sounds intimidated. It hits all the marks you expect, but the individual character of Coffey’s voice gives the performance a different sound than the Elvin Bishop version. It launched Mickey Thomas’ time in the popular music spotlight and Coffey gives a performance no one should ever be ashamed of. “I Can’t Make You Love Me” is one of the most affecting unrequited love track in pop music history thanks to Bonnie Raitt’s career defining performance and Coffey can’t match her emotion but nonetheless turns in a very respectable take on this track. It’s a spartan affair musically, but this is a wise move that likewise approximates the mood of Coffey’s original.
The easy going trajectory of “This Is It” does a great job of nailing the same relaxed gait of Kenny Loggins’ original. The arrangement is airy and the musicianship top notch throughout. “It’s Only Love” scores big thanks to really grasping a tight hold on the rock stomp Bryan Adams established with his initial outing with the cut. The guitars are boisterous without ever being overwhelming and Coffey is quite a convincing rock vocalist. “Maggie May” is the album’s longest track by a hair, almost five and a half minutes long, and Coffey doesn’t have the same bluesy gravitas we heard in Rod Stewart’s classic, but he brings out the strong pop qualities powering this performance.
“Maybe I’m Amazed” is another example of where Coffey can’t quite reach the same emotional pitch as the original singer but nonetheless does the first take on the song a lot of justice. You don’t hear any of the near cracks in Coffey’s voice that are evident in Paul McCartney’s vocal, but he does dial himself into the needed vocal firepower to make this a memorable performance. Origins: Singers and Songs Who Made Me is a cover album, but it says just as much about Jeff Coffey’s talent as it does about the songs he chose for this collection.