The Upshot: Absolutely essential archival release for any fan of music—not just hardcore ‘60s funk and soul collectors—with “grooves” being the operative term.
BY FRED MILLS
Initially released this past November as part of Record Store Day’s Black Friday event (and as a numbered/limited-to-1500 copies, sweet 180gm vinyl pressing), Hot Coffey In the D has now been made more widely available on CD and digital in case you (unlike yours truly, still feeling smug) were not able to score a copy last fall.
Dennis Coffey is, of course, the Motown guitar slinging legend, but he also continues to perform; a lucky few of us (feeling even more smug; can’t help it) got to see him burn down the house a few years ago during SXSW when he was promoting his self-titled 2011 album. I suggest you avail yourself of any and all opportunities to catch him. But I digress.
The album at hand was recorded live in Detroit in ’68, at a club called Morey Baker’s Showplace Lounge, featuring Coffey, drummer Melvin Davis, and late keyboard whiz Lyman Woodard. The exhaustive liner notes (primarily penned by the ever-astute Kevin Goins) call ‘em “the Motor City’s premiere funk/jazz trio, and that billing becomes instantly obvious once the needle drops onto the grooves—“grooves” also being the operative term here.
Aiming to document their musical chemistry once and for all, Coffey, Davis, and Woodard lined up a couple of their favorite studio rats to record them during their Showplace Lounge residency. What you get here, in 2017, is an accurate representation of their setlist at the time, seven lengthy numbers that include a pair of originals from the trio alongside extended, improv-tilting covers of Jimmy Webb, Bacharach & David, Herbie Hancock, and more. Webb’s classic “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” in particular stands out, with a song-ending call-and-response segment between Coffey and Woodard that is positively smokin’. The Coffey-led “Fuzz” is also a particularly inspired number, Coffey’s guitar hewing to the title to make the trio sound more like an uncommonly gifted garage combo than the soul maestros they were already acknowledged to be. And closing tune “Wade In the Water” rises up from its traditional gospel-blues roots to become a pulsing, thrumming slab of blooze-psychedelia of monumental proportions—you can practically feel the sweat being flung from the brows and chins of each player as they push each other to the limit.
Absolutely essential for any fan of music, and not just hardcore funk and soul collectors. Especially if you can track down—smug alert!—the vinyl release.
DOWNLOAD: “Wade in the Water,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”