Coffee – Slippin’ and Dippin’ (BBR) 3/5

coffeeBest known in the UK for the disco stormer, ‘Casanova’, included here in its full length 12″ version, Coffee were in actual fact a deeply soulful trio of female singers (not dissimilar in some respects to The Emotions) hailing from that most soulful of cities, Chicago, and were far more adept and diverse at soul music than at first appears. If anything, the success of ‘Casanova’ conceals their true musical roots and confined them at the very end of the disco era. What should have been a modern soul classic in ‘Mom and Dad (1980)’ with classy spoken intro became resigned to a medium hit in their home city, reworking the 1969 original by The Lovelites. The same re-interpretation would result in their defining moment for ‘Casonova (Your Playing Days Are Over)’ was first of all a 1967 hit for Ruby Andrews who made a top ten R&B hit out of it, before a second and, for some definitive version, was cut by then deep southern soul diva Loleatta Holloway (soon to be crowned a disco diva) in 1975 on the superb album, ‘Cry to me’. Coffee modernised the sound again with a driving, relentless percussive beat and the rest is history.
In truth nothing on the album’s uptempo numbers eclipsed ‘Casanova’, but a close second choice can be found in, ‘Can’t you get to this’, which has a proto-boogie bass line. It was, however, the title track that became the actual follow up and once again was a heavyweight slice of disco on the soulful side, but not quite on par with its predecessor. A second album followed for De-Lite records that failed to deliver a hit and the group were subsequently dropped from the label. Had Coffee been nurtured by an independent soul label, then we might have heard a great deal more of their music and they briefly recorded for the Chicago Midwest label directly prior to signing for De-Lite in 1979. As it is, their modern soul credentials were lost in the hedonistic disco era and their true soulful vibes somewhat overlooked and undervalued.

Tim Stenhouse