If you were to take a survey of modern, young music aficionados and craft a Venn Diagram based on that data and the data from a survey of those who enjoy ‘80s rock and its nearly endless variations, you might end up with something that looks like two separate circles. There’s virtually no denying the lack of modern appreciation for rock music from the 1980s with younger audiences generally gravitating towards the ‘90s due to their nostalgia, or pre-1980’s music as they try to chase hipster trends through “rediscovering” the most obscure artists they can, playing dress-up as lame gate-keeping musical archaeologists. This is all undoubtedly only a sign of a bubble that’s about to burst, as all things flow in circular motions, and it won’t be long before the 1980’s rock movement comes back into the mainstream in full swing. For Jeff Coffey, though, it’ll never have left.
If the name Jeff Coffey looks familiar, you may have seen him during his stint as the lead tenor and bassist for acclaimed, Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame group Chicago a few years back. Otherwise, you might be familiar with his handful of solo albums he’s released over the past years, beginning in 2003. The sound he has polished across projects is something that caters to the bands he grew up on while bringing them to modern audiences via a modern approach. Before his upcoming album This Time Around, which is the focus of this review, Coffey even went above and beyond simply citing his influences by recording an entire tribute cover album of songs by musicians he admires with Origins. Having given This Time Around a few spins, the groundwork accomplished in the prior cover album felt fairly necessary, if only to help delineate the fact that the sound further honed was far from feeling derivative.
This Time Around is an album that feels distinct in its setting without ever being a concept piece. It captures the feelings and energy of a classic rock project in a distinctly fresh way that could have come from several indie acts around today. Twinkly “All I Need Is Love” pays tribute, if only in its title, to an iconic Beatles track and works dually as a grand declaration of Coffey’s desire for love above all else. “Home” is a gorgeous ballad that features arguably Coffey’s strongest vocals on the entire album, layered and sharper than ever. The overall composition of this track feels like a bridge from something as grunge as Soundgarden to something deeply musically layered out of Paul McCartney’s later solo works.
The wide breadth of influence Coffey pays homage to while keeping true to his own determined and unique sound as an artist is admirable, and it pays off fantastically. This Time Around succeeds not only at being a great addition to Coffey’s discography, but it also succeeds at being a wonderful addition to modern rock music, period. There’s no certainty in the future of Coffey’s work, whether it will continue with another original work or cover album, but the man certainly knows what he’s doing and listeners should have faith that he will take whatever next step best serves his artistic endeavors.
by Keri LaMunyon