Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The J. Geils Band

  • The J. Geils Band [Atlantic, 1970] B+
  • The Morning After [Atlantic, 1971] B-
  • Bloodshot [Atlantic, 1973] C+
  • Ladies Invited [Atlantic, 1973] B
  • Nightmares . . . and Other Tales from the Vinyl Jungle [Atlantic, 1974] C+
  • Sanctuary [EMI America, 1978] B-
  • Best of the J. Geils Band [Atlantic, 1979] B-
  • Love Stinks [EMI America, 1980] C+
  • Freeze-Frame [EMI America, 1981] B+
  • You're Gettin' Even While I'm Gettin' Odd [EMI America, 1984] B-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

The J. Geils Band [Atlantic, 1970]
I find this gritty Jewish r&b band from Boston fun but somewhat retrogressive, which is admittedly the way I once felt about Creedence. Side two pops out of the box with covers from Otis Rush and the Contours and then slows down in style with two originals that deserve to get covered back. But the vocals don't do much for John Lee Hooker (no surprise) and the two instrumentals hobble the album's build (also no surprise, since great r&b instrumentals are almost as hard to come by as great white blues singers). B+

The Morning After [Atlantic, 1971]
Tight, funky, and what else is new? Well, three good songs: "Looking for a Love," "The Usual Place," and (especially) "So Sharp." All of which are old. B-

Bloodshot [Atlantic, 1973]
Never has the mass audience blunted a group's fine points so quickly. Tight arrangements? They boogie endlessly through riffs they were playing three years ago. Low-profile funk? Peter Wolf now shows off every emotional inadequacy of his phony growl. Resourceful material? The borrowed songs are almost as bad as the originals. Humor? Their idea of a funny is to rhyme"shiny" and "heinie." I hope they know where to shine this one. C+

Ladies Invited [Atlantic, 1973]
So much better than Bloodshot that for a while I thought it was something special, and in a way it is--an r&b album that includes a song about wind chimes. Would they were all as tuneful. Still, a lot of the ersatz-funk macho has disappeared from the lyrics, Peter Wolf's singing has picked up several layers of sweetness and nuance, and a couple of times they even try a harmony-group move. Inspirational Title: "The Lady Makes Demands." B

Nightmares . . . and Other Tales from the Vinyl Jungle [Atlantic, 1974]
Sure "Must of Got Lost" sounds great on the radio. But the rest of this is more self-imitation--two shuffles, one diddy-bop, and a laugh to the bank backwards from Ladies Invited. C+

Sanctuary [EMI America, 1978]
I like the tender fatalism of "One Last Kiss" and the demented abstractions of "Sanctuary," but if they really want to be the American Stones they have to do something equally good every track. Mick Jagger would also be useful. B-

Best of the J. Geils Band [Atlantic, 1979]
Here's where we catch up with their good moments, right? Wrong. Between the three cuts from Bloodshot, where they announced their arena-rock proclivities, and the two from Blow Your Face Out, where they reified them, "Musta Got Lost" is as well-named as ever. B-

Love Stinks [EMI America, 1980]
So it's broad--nothing wrong with broad. Just ask the uproarious single and title tune. But really, the rest is more overbearing white r&b--Seth Justman's organ blams, not to mention his furbelows on the endless-at-3:35 "Desire," are the work of a man who thinks "No Anchovies, Please" is funny. C+

Freeze-Frame [EMI America, 1981]
For me, their best since Monkey Island if not the debut divides neatly into three groups of three: slick get-me-off trash (hit single plus two music-as-escape songs), slick get-'em-off trash (opener, closer, and "Angel in Blue," a whore with a heart of brass that I'm just a sucker for), and slick get-offa-me trash (two throwaways at the end of side one plus "River Blindness," a more pretentious try at "Monkey Island," that album's sole bumout). If you're discovering the great audience these days it might even change your life for a month. But I guarantee you it didn't change the band's. B+

You're Gettin' Even While I'm Gettin' Odd [EMI America, 1984]
This has always been an unnecessarily obvious pop group, and while fill-in vocalists Seth Justman and Stephen Bladd eschew illusions of grandeur, they're neither gifted nor skilled enough to dance that nuance. And so the hooks pound on, making the wordplay in the sex lyrics seem unnecessarily salacious and the poetry in the political lyrics seem unnecessarily overwrought. B-