Monday, June 14, 2010

TVD Class of '74 | J. Geils Band, "Nightmares"

One of the unfortunate legacies of MTV is casting the J. Geils Band as an '80s band, thanks to the memorable videos for "Freeze Frame" and "Centerfold" in the early part of that decade.

Truth be told, there are few bands that define the '70s like J. Geils. Once called the J. Geils Blues Band, it stormed out of the Boston bar scene as that decade began, an Atlantic Records contract in hand.

The J. Geils records of the early and mid-'70s are full of furious, faithfully rendered covers of old R&B and blues tunes, sizzling originals inspired by those old R&B and blues tunes ... and the occasional Top 40 single.

Most of those early records are instant party starters, particularly the live albums, 1972's "Live: Full House" and 1976's "Blow Your Face Out."

Another party starter is "Nightmares ... And Other Tales From the Vinyl Jungle," a 1974 studio album on which J. Geils regained its mojo
after two disappointing studio LPs that followed "Full House."

"Nightmares" was J. Geils' sixth album for Atlantic. The group was trying to forge its own identity, trying to go beyond being a cover band. Its previous release, 1973's "Ladies Invited," was the first with no covers. It had a batch of sensitive originals that probably baffled hardcore, party hound J. Geils fans.

The band got its groove back on "Nightmares," channeling vintage R&B on most of the eight scorching originals by lead singer Peter Wolf and keyboard player Seth Justman.
The only cover is "Funky Judge," the old Bull and the Matadors tune, pitting a jive-speaking Wolf against veteran actor George Jessel as the judge.

Each of these tunes showcases the band's remarkable musicianship. They were tight, anchored by bass player Daniel Klein, who put down the groove but rarely soloed.
Magic Dick Salwitz's harmonica sets up "Stoop Down #39." J. Geils' mandolin and Justman's slinky organ drive the Latin-tinged "I'll Be Coming Home." Justman's keyboards and Stephen Jo Bladd's drums put the urgency into "Gettin' Out."

J. Geils Band - Stoop Down #39 (Mp3)
J. Geils Band - I'll Be Coming Home (Mp3)

J. Geils Band - Gettin' Out (Mp3)

"Nightmares" is out of print but is available digitally.

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