CD Review: J. Geils Band


J. Geils Band
Best of the J.Geils Band
Capitol
By David Chiu

“Some folks say the world ain’t what it is/All I know is I just gotta take a whizz.” Those lines from the J. Geils Band’ song “Piss on the Wall” best sums up the irreverent yet sincere attitude of Boston’s favorite sons. Appearance-wise, they were the type of guys you would most likely to find pumping gas than riding in limousines, which made them all the more hip. At a time in the early ‘70s when psychedelia was on its last legs, glam was on the rise, and the singer/songwriter movement was in full bloom, the J. Geils Band was carrying on the brand of manic rock and roll infused with soul and blues. The group was weirdly named after its non-singing guitarist, although its focal point was the jive talking former deejay Peter Wolf, who arguably was the first white credible rapper long before the Beasties and Eminem. Best Of is good summation of the group’s career, although it tilts more towards the EMI America material than the early Atlantic Records sides, which the previous Rhino 2-CD Houseparty anthology provides a more comprehensive and even balance. The early version of the group blasted slabs of working class rock and roll, best represented on the live material recorded between 1972 and 1975 on this retrospective, including “Must of Got Lost” (notice the quirky title and the legendary spoken word introduction by Wolf) and the Magic Dick harmonica showcase of “Whammer Jammer.”; the group even throws in a little reggae with 1973’s “Give It to Me.” The group steered a more commercial direction when it moved to EMI America, culminating with Seth Justman’s synthesizer work and the 1981 funkified/New Wave-influenced Freeze Frame album, which yielded the massively popular “Centerfold” and the title track (Hard to imagine a bar or a stadium not playing one of those tunes on any given night), although the best tracks from this successful period include the propulsive “Flamethrower,” the haunting ballad “Theresa,” and the anti-Valentine “Love Stinks.” After spending nearly a decade of reaching the pinnacle of wider acclaim, Wolf exits and the group tanked after recording one album with Justman on lead vocals. Best Of is a good place to start in evaluating the career of the little merry white-knuckle outfit that could and did.

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