Jeff Coffey gives me the vibe that he would cite music as one of the only things in life that truly made sense to him, and I’d be hastened to agree. The influence a song can have on a person’s mood is something deeply profound and yet hardly explored. Coffey seemingly isn’t afraid of such a lofty aspiration, though, and after coming out the other end of being a member of Chicago, a band that played a significant piece in his musical upbringing, the questions of legacy and the power of music understandably began to bubble beneath the surface of his songwriting. It isn’t every day you’re given an opportunity as big as performing for a band as significant to the culture and history of rock and roll as Chicago, but the aftermath of such an endeavor could leave a hole — the opportunity is incredible and crucial, but what comes next is what will truly matter.
What came next for Coffey, after tackling some favorite songs and artists in his cover album, was his first original album since 2007: This Time Around. Collecting a total of twelve songs that all dance between the genres of rock, pop, and country, the quality put on display within this album felt like a remarkable perspective from a man who had been on an equally remarkable journey. The album never gets lost in ego, though, and strives to use its lyrics and themes to give a fallible and deeply human approach to Coffey’s unique experience.
This Time Around’s twelve tracks begin with the upbeat “Black and Blue,” which flexes Coffey’s attention to detail with its intriguing production. The song’s lyrics discuss the improbability of keeping a relationship strong when it’s on the rocks; when you’re back and blue, broken in two, does it make more sense to fight through the storms or say goodbye? Opening the project with a song that so many can certainly find relatable is a smart choice, and the opening track stuck in my mind throughout the entirety of the album as a result. A similar standout came in the form of “Careful What You Wish For,” which comes in towards the end of the album. The range expressed on this track is pretty impressive, with the lyrical content fleshing out the age-old lesson the title is taken from and Coffey’s lyrics feeling like a substantial battle cry for listeners to recall their happiness before throwing it aside for something that could potentially put all they’ve worked for in jeopardy.
As far as This Time Around’s lasting impression goes, this ultimately feels like a rock album with pop undertones made for people who appreciate music as an art form first and foremost. It feels like an album made as a culmination response to Coffey’s fans and his most recent album Origins at the same time, as well as Coffey calling his shot for the future in regards to his ambitions, releases, and legacy. The overall ambition within This Time Around’s thesis pays off for Coffey, and there’s no doubt the future will hold even more in this regard. For now, though, Jeff Coffey seems to be enjoying his time in the sun.