Thursday, July 12, 2007

The J. Geils Band reviews by Joe Viglione

J Geils Band Discography

Biographies from

20)Danny Klein

21)John "J" Geils

22)Seth Justman

23)Magic Dick

24)Stephen Jo Bladd



Reviewby Joe Viglione

Nightmares...and Other Tales From the Vinyl Jungle spawned the biggest Atlantic hit for the J. Geils Band, the wonderfully obsessive, questioning dilemma titled "Must of Got Lost." Here the Geils Band are at the peak of their powers in the days prior to Freeze Frame and lustful songs like "Centerfold," "Must of Got Lost" being the only of their three Atlantic Top 40 hits to land in the Top 15. Seth Justman and Peter Wolf share all the songwriting credits here, save the intriguing camp/funk of the Andre Williams/Leo Hutton composition "Funky Judge." It's Peter Wolf's pantomime vocal entwined with the band's serious blues that creates something very special. The final track, "Gettin' Out," is five-minutes-plus of this intense, earthy rock, producer Bill Szymczyk capturing in the studio that energy the band generated in concert. Bassist Danny Klein told AMG he loved the Jean Lagarrigue drawing on the album jacket, noting, "Wolf found the hand painting...(it) got in a best rock album cover art book." This was a natural progression from 1973's Ladies Invited, the band's arrangements working perfectly with Szymczyk's production, with "Detroit Breakdown" being a tip of the hat to the group's second home outside of Boston. Magic Dick makes a great statement over Seth Justman's foundation piano sound, one that evolves from that instrument to organ, giving J. Geils a chance to throw some haunting guitar work over its conclusion. The song's six-minute length is topped only by the nearly seven minutes of "Stoop Down #39," perhaps a dig at the James Gang's "Funk #49" from four years prior. "Givin' It All Up" and "Look Me in the Eye" are the band showing precision in their craft, releasing quite a bit of music between 1973's popular "Give It to Me," the Ladies Invited album that same year, and this solid effort. The short, one-minute-14-second title track, "Nightmares," sounds like an ode to nitrous oxide (laughing gas), and probably was. The album produces one of the effects of that drug: exhilaration, and is a fine example of their creative musical journey.


Reviewby Joe Viglione

Double-album live sets came into vogue in 1976 after Peter Frampton's sales went through the roof for A&M, Bob Seger found fame with Live Bullet on Capitol, and the J. Geils Band released its second in-concert document in four years, Blow Your Face Out. There is great power in these grooves recorded over two nights, November 15 and November 19, at the now deconstructed Boston Garden and in Detroit at Cobo Hall. Here's the beautiful dilemma with the Geils band: Live: Full House, recorded in Detroit in April of 1972, contains five songs that became J. Geils standards, and none of them overlap on the 1982 EMI single live disc, Showtime, chock-full of their latter-day classics. Can you believe there is absolutely no overlap from the first or third live album on this double disc, which came in between (except for "Looking for a Love," uncredited, which they slip into the intro of "Houseparty" on side two)? The Rhino CD contains Jeff Tamarkin's liner notes, while the original Atlantic album has an exquisite gatefold chock-full of photos, and inner sleeves with priceless band memo stuff à la Grand Funk's Live Album. Sides one and two are great, and three and four are even better. "Detroit Breakdown" rocks and grooves, with tons of audience applause...Wolfy and the polished authority of his monologues are in command as the band oozes into "Chimes" from 1973's Ladies Invited. About three and a half minutes longer than the five-minute original, it is one of many highlights on this revealing pair of discs. A precursor to 1977's title track, "Monkey Island," "Chimes" gives this enigmatic band a chance to jam out slowly and lovingly over its groove. There is so much to this album: the Janis Joplin standard "Raise Your Hand" written by Eddie Floyd, Albert Collins' "Sno-Cone" from their first album, and "Truck Drivin' Man" beating Bachman-Turner Overdrive to the punch. B.B. King producer Bill Szymczyk does a masterful job bringing it all together, and the band photos on back look...roguish. "Must of Got Lost," "Where Did Our Love Go," and "Give It to Me" are here in all their glory, a different glory than the studio versions, on an album that should have done for Geils what Live Bullet and Frampton Comes Alive did for their respective artists. If only a legitimate release of their 1999 tour would be issued to stand next to this monster -- during that tour they combined the best elements of all three of their previous live discs. The J. Geils Band is more important and influential than the boys have been given credit for. It will be the live documents that ensure they eventually get their due, and Blow Your Face Out is a very worthy component that can still frazzle speakers.



Song Reviewby Joe Viglione

The majority of the hits by The J.Geils Band lingered in the '30's section of the Top 40, with "Angel In Blue" the only one to actually hit and stop at 40. EMI America single #8100 has a lower catalog # than "Freeze-Frame and "Centerfold", though it was popular in the summer of 1982 while the two aforementioned songs came earlier, reigning in the Top 5 during the winter prior. Arguably the smartest lyric in the J. Geils Band catalogue, this could be the subject matter from "Centerfold" all grown up. It's a song about a stripper, but you wouldn't know it if you didn't listen closely - the melody so strong the words went right over many fans' heads. Those other Boston bad boys, Aerosmith, went Top 3 just six years later with their own "Angel", hard rockers also going ultra-pop a la Alice Cooper in the 1970's. But the Geils band trumps all comers by bringing back Whitney's mom, Cissy Houston, along with Luther Vandross from the Monkey Island album and three other additional vocalists making for a touch of class over a drumbeat much like The Tubes "Don't Touch Me There". "We met in a bar/Out on Chesapeake Bay" is hardly the scenario one thinks of when finding themselves in an episode of Touched By An Angel, and the story is quite sad, that of a person who never had dreams come true because she never had any dreams! Writer Stephen Thomas Erlewine calls this tune "terrific neo-doo wop." It is that and more, a folk/pop polished ballad different from any of their other nine Top 40 hits, four minutes and fifty-one seconds (on the album) of Peter Wolf reading Seth Justman's post- "Centerfold" wet dream.


Song Reviewby Joe Viglione

Three minutes and thirty-seven seconds comprise EMI America single #8102, the culmination of a decade of chart activity, a gold single stuck at #1 for a month and a half after years and years and a half a dozen singles, only one going Top 15 in that span of time, the others all over the 30's portion of the charts. It was "Centerfold" that finally did it for the J. Geils Band, putting them on the top of the pop world. This is the "homeroom homeroom angel" from school literally turning into the angel in blue... pages of blue, that is. "Does she come complete/always pulled me from my seat" such a great rhyme. Peter Wolf's lustful phrasing of "girly magazine" is so cool, it makes it even more distressing for fans that the singer and the band keyboardist/songwriter couldn't get along after reaching the pinnacle - the thing all the fellows in this ensemble worked so hard for. "Centerfold" is proof that the angst between Justman and Wolf made for some great rock and roll, and while Joe Perry and Steve Tyler found a way to kiss and make up, this huge leap was the beginning of the end for the first phase of The J. Geils Band. There would be three additional hits, but the audience - and the bandmates - deserved more of this great stuff, this amalgam of rock, pop, blues and tongue-in-cheek humor. "Centerfold" might not be the most representative song by this band, certainly Give It To Me" and "Must Of Got Lost" have more of the blues that the group was built on, but with its "nah nah nah nah nah nah" pulled right out of Joe South's "Hush" and turned upside down, it was commercial, cool, and a pop record that could stand up to repeated listenings. Na Na hey hey kiss her good-bye... "I hope that when this issue's gone/ I'll see you when your clothes are on" just more excellent sexual tension and a total party as the song concludes with whistles on the fade out.


Song Reviewby Joe VIglione

The leadoff track on the Nightmares and Other Tales From the Vinyl Jungle lp makes an even greater impact in its five and a half minute version on the live double-disc Blow Your Face Out recorded in November of 1975. Though credited to Peter Wolf and Seth Justman the song is more of a full band jam opening with a quick snag of Magic Dick's "Whammer Jammer" riff. "Detroit Breakdown quickly turns into another vehicle for Wolf to have some fun with the crowd... "Are you ready to do some stompin' baby?" Peter asks before belting out the title. With Justman's piano the predominant instrument and Mr. Geils offering tasty licks, the bass, drums and keys build a funky rhythm for Magic Dick to start a wailing. The song is as deep into the J. Geils Band musical psyche as one can get, their own brand of blues/rock defined here, Jay's howling guitar picking up where Magic Dick leaves off, Wolf then working the crowd which responds to his chants giving way to Seth and Magic Dick doing battle back and forth over the vamp. Coming before the methodical "Chimes" on the live album it's a good chance for the boys to break loose and strut their stuff individually and collectively. No one person could take credit for being The J. Geils Band and "Detroit Breakdown" shows just how powerful these six gentlemen could be when unified and pushing the energy level of the room frontwards, backwards and sideways. "Detroit breakdown/motor city shakedown" is the major lyric, Wolf's lines like "music is blasting/we're having a ball/everybody in Boston/we're talkin' to y'all" might as well have been a taped monologue off of Peter's radio show on 104.1 FM in Boston. The lyrics and the chords aren't the necessary thing here, it's the feel, and what's on the plastic is a trademarked style that separaed this original group from those that came after - Aerosmith, Boston, The Cars and other major acts that launched out of New England.


Song Reviewby Joe Viglione

The title track of 1981's Freeze Frame album by the J.Geils Band, three minutes and fifty seven seconds of a Seth Justman/ Peter Wolf tune - not to be confused with the title track composition of a Godley & Creme (of 10-CC fame) 1979 release - went gold and Top 4 on the heels of "Centerfold's success, but is strong enough that it would have certainly achieved the same status even without the momentum of the previous single. As with the other two hits from the album, it is full of sexual innuendo - a novel idea of freezing a lovely moment in time - a wonderful one night stand. "Now I`m looking at a flashback Sunday...This freeze frame moment can`t be wrong" is the lyric and Wolfy sings it with suitable panache - just not as lewd as "Centerfold." Recorded out at Long View Farm, the luxury studio in Western, Massachusetts, the stop/go chorus was The J. Geils Band taking their early Atlantic sound and spiffing it up on EMI for more punch, and popularity. The elements that are the foundation of this group's sound are sweetened up for radio, and was it ever a smart blend. The bizarre cover art only hints at the theme while a half a dozen horn players including Randy Brecker add some brass.


Song Reviewby Joe Viglione

This cover of a J.W. Alexander / Zelda Samuels tune is three minutes and forty-five seconds starting off side two of The J. Geils Band's second album, The Morning After. Atlantic single #2844 came at the end of 1971/ beginning of 1972 barely cracking the Top 40, but was an indication of things to come as the group would dominate the charts for a time a decade later. Initially "Looking For A Love" was their signature tune though they escaped the "one hit wonder" category within a year and a half, their three Atlantic singles in the early '70's giving them some breathing room on the live concert circuit before they came back with seven more. A simple and driving drum beat opens this, Janis Joplin's "Move Over" intro from the Pearl album in triple time, giving Peter Wolf a superb introduction to radio listeners, his plea to the world for someone, anyone, to "help me find my baby." Who can't relate to the simplicity of the request, "I'm looking for a love to call my own?" Wolf argues his case with one line, the band responds with the title of the song, back and forth they go under B.B.King producer Bill Szymczyk's guiding hand. The interlude was the best advertisement in the world for the group - J. Geils plays guitar for a few seconds followed by Dick's harp to Seth's keys back to the harp back to the keys, back to the intro. The backing vocals chant "I'm looking, I'm looking, I'm looking, I'm looking" while Peter Wolf wails with the best of the blues masters going pop, frantic screams of desperation following promises the singer is making to the cosmos, what he would do if all his romantic hopes and dreams came true. The song zips by feeling a lot shorter than it is, a quick blast of energetic rock & roll which should've been a much bigger hit. A five minute and sixteen second version opens up the double disc Mar Y Sol album, a Puerto Rico music festival from early April 1972. The live cut is even more driving and faster on this obscure Woodstock-type collection of musical acts from the period. Opening an album with their current hit, an album which featured B.B.King at the peak of his commercial success along with Dr. John, Jonathan Edwards, The Allman Brothers and others, must've been invigorating for this ensemble and the extended manic performance has a raspy Peter Wolf as frantic as the band, all in hyperdrive. It's a track that should be added as a bonus to their greatest hits package(s) as it shows another side of the tune that started it all for this important group.


Song Reviewby Joe Viglione

Three minutes and forty-four seconds of heavy, heavy blues/pop make up EMI/America 45 RPM #8039, a definite ode to romance gone wrong. Imagine Lou Reed's "Vicious" as performed by his Rock & Roll Animal band on Lou Reed Live at half-speed and you've got the riff, "Louie, Louie" gone hard rock with drums another Bostonian, Billy Squier, would use exactly a year later on his Top 20 hit "The Stroke". You can actually sing "Vicious, you hit me with a flower" over the music. The Peter Wolf here isn't the lustful schoolboy of the Freeze-Frame album from 1981, it's the Mad Magazine episode where they dubbed his ex-wife Faye Runaway. And speaking of Runaways, it's a song that fits Joan Jett well and her Blackhearts went and performed it on the soundtrack to the film Mr. Wrong. The oddity for The J. Geils Band is that it's such a simple riff rocker far removed from the novel integrity of "Give It To Me" or the unbridled exuberance of "Looking For A Love". The refinement of this band from an earthy bunch of blues fanatics to polished rock and roll act made for some fun, but did it lead to their going their separate ways for so many years? Seth Justman's production technique is solid as a rock, and recorded out at the legendary Longview Farm in Western Massachusetts there's a controlled intensity and in the pocket performance. Only edging the lower rungs of the Top 40 in May of 1980 this song and others on the album pointed the group in its new direction which would turn them into a platinum act. Years later it is totally different from what Peter Wolf, Danny Klein and Jay Geils/ Magic Dick would put on their solo projects, solid blues and, in Jay's case, some jazz. "Love Stinks" is The Jay Geils Band as rock stars, and during the reunion tour in 1999 they played all this material with finesse and a vengeance. Isolated from their catalog, though, "Love Stinks" is a definite anomaly.


Song Reviewby Joe Viglione

J. Geils Band are to be commended for picking up a title by swamp/blues artist Big Walter Price, the song "Pack Fair and Square" showing up on their Atlantic debut and on Full House Live as well.The two minute and one second studio version is an even shorter hundred and one seconds!!! on the live disc. Jon Landau praises the tune in his Rolling Stone Magazine review of their debut lp by saying "straight blues done as good as it can be done. The harp dominates...with its perfect lines and tone..." Landau should know as he was the original producer on the band's initial sessions for Atlantic about a year before the Dave Crawford/ Brad Shapiro/ Geoffrey Haslam album was released. For such a young group one has to marvel at the authenticity they poured into the grooves with years of roadwork still ahead of them. "Pack Fair And Square" is evidence that they were musically more mature than most with superb intuition - not only in the choice of this material - but in its execution. The live take is speedier and more condensed, a Peter Wolf monologue underscored by some gorgeous Seth Justman frills before they dive into the song with total intensity, Magic Dick's harp taking it to another level, Stephen Bladd pounding away and the singer/frontman showing a real understanding of the roots he's digging up. "Hard Driving Man" comes two songs later, and don't think the identical meter in the titles of both tunes is mere coincidence - J.Geils Band drew from their influences, Peter Wolf and J. Geils perhaps subconciously finding their own songwriter voices from the material they discovered and regenerated so well.


Song Reviewby Joe Viglione

The studio version of "Whammer Jammer" is on the J. Geils Band's second disc, The Morning After, with a killer live take on their third lp and first stage recording Full House Live. It's a short ( two minutes, twenty-one seconds) but lively cover of a Juke Joint Jimmy tune which allows Richard Salwitz, a.k.a. Magic Dick, to do his thing. Covered by harp player Mike Stevens on a 1992 release, this was the song that really put Magic Dick on the map as the quintessential rock & roll harmonica man. Where a Stevie Wonder will make the harp a sweet sounding instrument helping him rejoice sentiments like "I Was Made To Love Her", Magic Dick does the opposite, burning sounds into the consciousness as deftly as any great lead guitarist. Playing against Seth Justman's honky tonk piano, Peter and Jay stay back so that Dickie can do his thing. Songwriter Juke Joint Jimmy is a legendary figure with the Geils crew, having also written "Cruisin' For A Love" and "It Ain't What You Do (It's How You Do It"). One informed (and anonymous) source said "his 45 rpm was his first and only album."

One Last Kiss from Sanctuary lp

Song Reviewby Joe Viglione

Sounding more like Blue Oyster Cult with a heavy and fatalistic song, the group's Top 40 debut on the EMI America label - 45 RPM #8007 - is four minutes and twenty-two seconds of J.Geils Band taking their blues/rock and pouring more gloss and pop into it than ever before. That's because Joe Wissert, producer of Earth, Wind & Fire, Gordon Lightfoot, Helen Reddy as well as another Boston phenomenon, Robin Lane & The Chartbusters, made things nice and slick for the Geils guys. Helen Reddy's producer, one might say? Well, the production is much better than the job Wissert did with Robin Lane, this title coming four years and a couple of months after Jay, Seth, Peter, Danny, Stephen and Magic Dick went Top 12 when Bill Szymczyk cut "Give It To Me" at Jerry Ragovoy's Hit Factory. That purist element is still inherent in the music, though this new sound only reached #35, but the liquid guitar under the verses and the borderline metal sound everywhere else was certainly something new and derived from B.O.C., a flavor that New York group would borrow back for their own "Burnin' For You" single a couple of years later. This isn't the J. Frank Wilson and The Cavaliers tragedy, "Last Kiss" from 1964, but it is a sixties sound built into a hard rock foundation. Over a Ronettes "Be My Baby" drumbeat (which comes out of nowhere) Peter Wolf tells his paramour "the good times are the best times/the bad times fade away" but that's just the set up for the fact that it's over..."the feeling's gone, I can feel it in my veins". The final chorus comes long before the song ends with the simple and ominous riff in repeat mode allowing Jay Geils to play some great rock and roll guitar. This ensemble was becoming more chameleon like as their sound evolved and the focus mutated into a popular song direction. The album Sanctuary itself may have been a declaration of independence - free from the restrictions of the previous record deal, and Magic Dick's harp playing is more consistent with a pop/rock commercial sound, blending in as a component of a unified front. Perhaps the producer had the ambiance and feel of this episode emulating Earth, Wind & Fire as it all works magnificently, a balanced evolution and far cry from the earthy first steps on Atlantic.

Must Of Got Lost Blow Your Face Out lp

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