Coffee: Slippin’ & Dippin’ (Big Break)


Slippin’ & Dippin’
Big Break Records

Sometimes a band’s destiny is served by the uncontrollable and fickle hand of fate. Chicago based disco trio Coffee provides a great example. Their debut album appeared in 1980, but it had been recorded much earlier than that. Disco was Coffee’s bill of fare, and disco was most assuredly on the way out. Their first two singles had appeared on small independent labels, and the band word independently on their debut. Sadly, they found very little interest; after all, 1979 was the year of the “Disco Sucks” movement, the beginning era of AOR and New Wave, and that the death knell of the genre, Disco Demolition Night, took place in Coffee’s hometown most assuredly didn’t help, either.  But thanks to persistent management, Coffee would find a home at De-Lite Records, the label that established Kool & The Gang as a musical powerhouse, and Slippin’ & Dippin’ belatedly found its release date in a post-Disco world.

The six songs that constitute Slippin’ & Dippin’ are fine examples of late-era Disco; the songs offer extended grooves, while the vocals seem secondary to the arrangement. The only song to differ from the formula is “Mom & Dad 1980,” which is a somewhat rewritten cover of an R&B number, ”How Can I Tell My Mom And Dad (I’ve Been Bad),” a controversial regional hit from a decade earlier.  The original version dealt with teen pregnancy, and this rewrite removes the insinuation of the teenage girl having a then-illegal abortion. Aside from that somewhat dark moment, it’s all sunshine and rhythm; “Casanova” is the finest number here, with harmonies delivered just right and a dance beat that just won’t let you slow down.

Oddly, the bonus tracks on this set—trimmed-down single versions—don’t serve them justice; stripped of the extended instrumental passages, the songs become standard, not particularly exceptional R&B numbers. The groove was essential to their sound; removed, and the songs lose their structure.  Coffee was a disco band at heart, and their follow-up album, Second Cup, tried to repurpose the band and break away from its disco era roots, but this was too little, too late, and the group split shortly after the album’s release. Coffee might not have hit the spot in 1980, but for a fleeting moment it was indeed “hot, black, and sweet,” as the band proclaimed.

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