Archive for November 2009

Back to Detroit

November 30, 2009

Those of us who live in Wisconsin — at least those of us who lived here when rock radio was thriving — got to sample from a big plate of musical influences.

One tremendous influence was Detroit. There was all that Motown music, of course. But also the MC5, the Stooges, a young Bob Seger and, yes, even a young Ted Nugent. Then there was Dennis Coffey.

In the ’60s, Coffey became one of Motown’s best session guitarists, one of the Funk Brothers. Even a partial list of singles on which he played is astonishing: “Somebody’s Been Sleeping,” by 100 Proof; “Give Me Just A Little More Time,” by the Chairmen of the Board; “If I Were A Carpenter,” by the Four Tops; “Want Ads” by Honey Cone; “If I Were Your Woman,” by Gladys Knight and the Pips; “Band of Gold” by Freda Payne; “Someday We’ll Be Together,” Diana Ross and the Supremes; “War” by Edwin Starr; “Nathan Jones” by the Supremes; “Smiling Faces Sometimes” by Undisputed Truth; “We Can Work It Out” by Stevie Wonder; and — whew! — most of the Temptations’ greatest and grittiest.

I didn’t know any of that when I came to dig to those tunes in the early ’70s. I came to know Dennis Coffey only when he started releasing his own stuff, starting with the smash instrumental single “Scorpio” in 1971.

As I go crate digging these days, I’m often looking for LPs I should have bought back when, but didn’t. “Evolution” by Dennis Coffey and the Detroit Guitar Band is one such record. It’s the one with “Scorpio” on it, and a lot more.

“Evolution” was Coffey’s second solo LP, recorded in 1970 at GM Studios in east Detroit and RCA Studios in New York and released on Sussex Records in 1971. Coffey has the guitar leads, as you’d expect, with many fellow Funk Brothers providing the backing.

So, tonight on The Midnight Tracker, we have a bit of “Evolution” for you. Enjoy.

“Getting It On,” “Whole Lot of Love,” “Summer Time Girl,” “Scorpio” and “Garden of the Moon,” Dennis Coffey and the Detroit Guitar Band, from “Evolution,” 1971. It’s out of print, but you might find a used vinyl copy online somewhere. This is Side 1. It runs 15:45.

The first cut is a straight-ahead funk workout. The second cut, “Whole Lot of Love,” is a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” The third cut, “Summer Time Girl,” sounds a bit like the Temptations’ “My Girl.” You know the fourth cut. The fifth cut, “Garden of the Moon,” is a dreamy, spacey bit of jazz rock.