Funk legend Coffey revisits his back catalogue with a lot of help from some friends.
David Katz 2011
Dennis Coffey is a musician of rare pedigree. His recording career actually stretches back to the 1950s, though he is best known for the wah-wah and guitar distortion he brought to Motown’s hit releases of the late 1960s while a member of the Funk Brothers house band, as heard on immortal records such as Cloud Nine and Ball of Confusion by The Temptations and Edwin Starr’s War to name but a few. Breaking away from Motown in the early 1970s, he cut the massive instrumental Scorpio (which has been endlessly sampled in hip hop), scored the soundtrack for Blaxploitation kung-fu flick Black Belt Jones, worked with Parliament/Funkadelic, and co-produced Rodriguez’s legendary Cold Fact LP. Now in his 70s, a new Coffey solo album is certainly surprising; though he has been sporadically active since the late 1980s.
On this eponymous disc, Coffey revisits his vast back catalogue with a range of contemporary guest artists, re-interpreting vintage material with varying degrees of success. All of the music is of a high standard, but some collaborative tracks work better than others. Standouts include Paolo Nutini’s sensitive re-working of Rodriguez’s Only Good for Conversation, Mayer Hawthorne’s decent rendition of Parliament’s All Your Goodies Are Gone, and the driving version of Funkadelic’s I Bet You featuring Mick Collins of The Dirtbombs and Rachel Nagy of The Detroit Cobras. Less compelling, but still credible, are the take of 100 Proof (Aged in Soul)’s Somebody’s Been Sleeping, featuring Lisa Kekaula of The Bellrays, and the version of Wilson Pickett’s Don’t Knock My Love featuring Fanny Franklin of LA’s Orgone.
As for Coffey himself, he really shines on the album’s instrumental tracks: opener 7th Galaxy is spacey psych-rock peppered by conga beats, while Plutonius, Knockabout and Space Traveller are deep wah-wah breakbeat grooves. Miss Millie, featuring Milwaukee’s Kings Go Forth, places bright horns and organ chops over Coffey’s distorted lead, and there is also a bonus dub of Don’t Knock My Love, thrown in for good measure. It sounds like all involved had fun putting this one together, and the listening experience is a pretty fun one too.