With a slinky lead vocal to guide us into the warmth of the subtle but nevertheless brooding instrumentation, it’s clear from the get-go that Jeff Coffey has some lofty goals in mind with the release of his new album Origins – Singers and Songs That Made Me and star tracks like “Who Wants to Live Forever.” Alongside the likes of Michael Omartian, Coffey dives into the melodic wonderment of a classic rock discography familiar to almost anyone who loves music in Origins, but make no mistake about it – he isn’t treading throwback waters exclusively in this outing. He’s putting aside the rulebook in favor of raw experimentation in tribute of his greatest heroes, and despite the parameters of the venture, he winds up producing one of the more intriguing records of its kind out in 2020.

While all of the material on this record has been covered a thousand different ways prior to now, there’s a certain intimacy to Coffey’s performance of tracks like “When We Dance,” “Magic Power,” an unforgettable “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “New York Minute (feat. Michael Omartian)” that instantly distinguishes them from their original versions. He breathes life into the lyrics here in a fashion that doesn’t allow for us to directly compare one take on the composition with another without entirely diluting the original concept of the work as it stood to begin with, and the last time I checked, this wasn’t a simple task (even for someone who has played with the likes of Chicago).

“Waiting for a Girl Like You,” “Maggie May” and “Ask the Lonely” place a lot more of an emphasis on their implied grooves than the first incarnations of this content did, but let’s face it – if you already listen to Jeff Coffey’s work, you should have known you were going to get a little extra kick in a cover album. He’s got so much moxie in every appearance he makes here, to such a degree that his performance makes that of a player like Payton Taylor (“It’s Only Love”) sound rather minimalistic when judged side by side. Coffey sounds like a genuine star in this piece, and I mean that beyond the scope of his present fame in the American underground.

Jeff Coffey has submitted another superb collection of tunes in Origins – Singers and Songs That Made Me that is almost certain to stimulate your senses this September, and though it’s one of the few cover records I would describe as being heartfelt and honest in 2020, this makes it all the more of a find (particularly for audiophiles and serious indie buffs like myself). Origins has a lot in common with some of the other powerful cover sets that came before it, but with one key difference – when this vocalist steps up to the mic, he puts as much brawn into his singing as the band does the beat. His act is one of amazing quality, and here, it’s captured in perfect high definition sound for all the world to enjoy.

Sebastian Cole