Wednesday, April 02, 2008

J. Geils Band – Nightmares and Other Tales From the Vinyl Jungle

Somehow, this release evaded me up until now – how, I don’t know – which means that this is almost a holy grail for me – a full album’s worth of prime-era (70’s) J. Geils Band!

Opening with one of the highlights of Blow Your Face Out, “Detroit Breakdown”, it’s obvious that this is another great J. Geils party record! There are only a couple of tunes from that live album on this release, and they are different enough to want to have both versions! The tunes lack a little of the intensity of the live takes but are still damn fine rockers!

Of course, there are plenty of songs here that I have never heard before. “Givin’ It All Up” is one of those and is a nice, upbeat r’n’b/pop tune that is vintage Geils! Another highlight of the afore-mentioned live record is “Must of Got Lost”. Of course, this studio takes doesn’t include Wolf’s fantastic pre-song rap, and, again, it is slightly more subdued but is still a terrific, boppin’ r’n’b number that shows the strength of the songwriting abilities of singer Peter Wolf and keyboard whiz Seth Justman, who collaborated on all of the originals on this record.

“Look Me in the Eye” is a funky groover with plenty of great Geils guitar licks and a beat that will definitely get ya movin’! Wolf shows off his DJ-rappin’ abilities on “Nightmares”, which is a short, percussion-dominated trippy number. Magic Dick’s incredible harp playing takes center stage on “Stoop Down #39” which starts as a wild, high-energy blues-blast before moving to half time (which is still uptempo!) so that Wolf can come in for another great Geils tune! Dick is truly one of the best harp players since the era of the greats like Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, Junior Wells, and the like – he did more with the instrument than most people would even think was possible!

They move into unusual territory with “I’ll Be Coming Home”, with its tango-like tempo. The group did like to experiment and move outside of their blues/r’n’b image (though always incorporating those genres) and sometimes the experiments worked better than others. Unfortunately, this is not one of their better tries – not bad, just nothing special.

These cats must have been one of the first white bands to ever cover Andre Williams, with their take on his “Funky Judge”. It’s another mover, in a funky/reggae kinda way, but not very substantial – more of a comedy number than anything else.

Closing with the appropriately titled “Getting’ Out”, they kick up the energy again to kick out their groovin’ jams, with everyone giving it their all. Rhythm section of Stephen Jo Bladd (drums) and Daniel Klein on bass are super tight and keep a solid bottom for the rest of the guys to play over. J. Geils again proves that he is a terrific ravin’ blues player with an amazing tone, Seth shows his mastery of all keyboards (he put in piano and organ right where they are needed in each song) and I’ve already ranted about Magic Dick!

I’m damn grateful that I’ve finally found this lost (to me) masterpiece! Another excellent showing from one of the best bands of the 70’s!