House Party Live In Germany By The J. Geils Band

June 5, 2015

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Today, The J. Geils Band is remembered mostly for their slick 1980s hits, such as “Centerfold” and “Freeze Frame,” but back in the 1970s they were a gritty rock and blues band. Just before they achieved huge mainstream success, they appeared on the German television series Rockpalast as the opening act for Patti Smith and Johnny Winter. The date was April 21, 1979, and the tapes were running as the band ran through an energetic 14 track set. That set now returns as a two-disc CD and DVD combination titled House Party Live In Germany.

Vocalist Peter Wolf, keyboardist Seth Justman, harpist Magic Dick, guitarist J Geils, bassist Daniel Klein, and drummer Stephen Bladd had been playing together for over a decade when they toured Europe in the spring of 1979.

They had just released their Sanctuary album and perform six of its nine tracks, including the concerts first five songs. While front man Peter Wolf dominates the stage, it is the harp work of Magic Dick that provides the instrumental focus for the band. He provides the unifying element for such songs as “I Could Hurt You,” “Sanctuary,” “One Last Kiss,” and “Wild Man.”

If you are not familiar with the early J Geils Band, this live performance will introduce you to material they played as a bar band. The powerful “Nightmares” and “Pack Fair And Square,” the kinky “Give It To Me,” and the rowdy “Whammer Jammer” and “Ain’t Nothing But  A House Party” all add up to a fun filled evening.

As with most of the recent Rockpalast releases, the video is surprisingly good for 1979 technology. There is nothing creative or cute; just the basics, which tends to fit the bands persona at the time.

A couple of years after this performance, the J Geils Band were superstars as their sound became a lot smoother. House Party Live In Germany is an important document of a great house band at the height of its power, just before they changed for better or worse.


Centerfold 45 by The J. Geils Band

April 5, 2011

The J. Geils Band are a gritty American rock ‘n’ roll band that produced some of the best rock of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Named after guitarist Jerome Geils, and featuring lead singer Peter Wolf, they have sold millions of albums.

The band placed 18 singles on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart between 1971 and 1985. Their biggest hit was released November 7, 1981. “Centerfold” topped The American singles charts for six weeks. It ranked as one of the top 15 charting singles of the 1980’s.

“Centerfold” may have been a little more pop/rock oriented than most of their material, but it was great pop/rock. A great story of worshipping a girl in school and later seeing her as a centerfold in a magazine.

It remains on of the great party songs.


Midnight Souvenirs by Peter Wolf

June 27, 2010

Peter Wolf roomed with eclectic film maker David Lynch while in school, married (and divorced) actress Faye Dunaway, and fronted the legendary J. Geils Band for close to sixteen years, 1967-1983. He still re-unites with the band every now and then as they and Aerosmith will play together in Boston’s Fenway Park August 14, 2010.

He has now returned with his seventh solo album and first in over seven years. It was well worth the wait as in my view it takes its place as one of the better releases of the year thus far.

While he is now reaching the traditional age of retirement, Midnight Souvenirs proves there is a lot of life left in this old rock ‘n’ roll dinosaur.

The album is grounded in the type of melodic rock which made him famous but he stretches out into some blues and a little country along the way. He voice is still a fine instrument and his songwriting ability remains superb as he co-wrote twelve of the fourteen songs.

While a number of strong up-tempo rock tracks grace the album it is three ballads with vocal duets which are at the heart of the release. He wisely intersperses them throughout the CD and they are the first, last, and sixth tracks.

The ballads deal with love, mortality, and relationships which have been recent themes for Wolf. “Tragedy,” with guest vocalist Shelby Lynne, is a slow country blues piece which explores the theme of romantic turmoil. The true highlight of the album is “The Green Fields Of Summer” where he shares the vocal duties with Neko Case, and the lady can really sing. It is a smooth flowing ballad as it combines his thoughts and feelings about relationships and mortality into a tale of hope and contentment. He unites with one of his musical idols, Merle Haggard, for the album ending “It’s Too Late For Me.” Haggard sounds better than I have heard him in years and their voices mesh well together on this mellow song.

The rest of the album rocks along. “I Don’t Wanna Know,” “Watch Her Move,” “There’s Still Time,” and a bluesy cover of Alan Toussaint’s “Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky” are filled with energy. “The Night Comes Down” is a poignant tribute for Willy Deville.

Midnight Souvenirs moves Peter Wolf to the head of the class of 2010. If this album is any indication his concert at Fenway Park will be a home-run.

Article as first published on http://blogcritics.org/music/article/music-review-peter-wolf-midnight-souvenirs/