Rolling Stone, Jan 7th, 1971 – By Jon Landau.
The J.Geils Band is the best album I’ve heard in some time. Made by six men who have spent the last five years learning their craft around Boston – Cambridge area, it is a good-time, modern piece of rock and roll; it is also totally devoid of the self-consciousness and pretensions that usually mare this kind of thing. In its energy, understanding, and execution the album not only reminds me of the early Stones, but compares favorably with them.
Lead singer Peter Wolf has been an R&B fanatic since he can remember. Out of his knowledge of the music he has put together a truly personal and distinctive style that apes no one and expresses his point of view naturally. Guitarist J.Geils, on the other hand, came to R&B only after spending years studying jazz. Like Wolf he has gotten past the purely derivative stage and on this album establishes a distinct identity with his solos and outstanding rhythm playing. His timing is impeccable and he can be as mellow as he is hard.
In many ways the album belongs to harpist Magic Dick. There are only four cuts (out of the 11) that could be called straight blues and on them he displays as broad a grasp of his instrument as i have heard by anyone recently. But even better is his ability to use the harp naturally and intelligently on material that would not normally call for its presence at all. Songs like “Wait” and “Homework” would normally rely on horns, but does the job so skillfully the listener never notes their absence.
Seth Justman plays a real piano as well as organ. Most of it confined to rhythm playing but it is done expertly and distinctively. Underneath everything Stephen Bladd and Danny Klein provide the kind of loose, unobtrusive drums and bass that are the cornerstone of R&B.
The albums’ two instrumentals, “Ice Breaker” (dedicated to Mario Medios) and Albert Collins’ “Sno Cone” are short and to the point. Everyone steps forward, blows a chorus and steps back and lets the next guy burn. “Sno Cone” has the shortest and one of the nicest drum breaks I’ve heard lately.
“Wait” introduces us to the uniqueness of Wolf’s singing and song style:
The bartender says you’re disengaged,
and i thought i saw you look my way….
Steve Cropper might well be envious of Geils’ rhythm while the arrangement has the kind of sway to it that makes it all sound so easy.
“Cruisin’ For A Love” and ‘Pack Fair and Square” are two straight blues done as good as it can be done. The harp dominates both with its perfect lines and tone while the guitar supports perfectly and takes the lead with force and control when it is called for. All of it happening as Wolf sings us the lyrics of the immortal Juke Joint Jimmy; “I’m back on Broadway, cruisin for a love again.”
“Serves You Right to Suffer” distills the essence of the genius of John Lee Hooker like it has never been done before: “Serves you right to suffer, / Serves you right to be alone, / You’ve been living in the good day / The good day is gone”
“Homework” is an Otis Rush tune that comes back as an R&B single styled burner. The ending is something else.
Finally, “On Borrowed Time” is a straight soul ballad, written by Wolf and Justman. It is a highlight of the record and nowhere is the uniqueness of the band better shown. Instead of using horns, the harp and organ (the two instruments in the group that can sustain notes) fill out the arrangement, not only making it all sound full, but direct and honest as well. The singing and the rest of the arrangement are fine.
The nicest thing about this album and the band is the balance they have found between the personal and the formal. They have chosen to work within certain conventions and modes. At the same time, they have completely avoided the route of slavish imitation and instead have put together an amazingly intimate and personal view of this kind of music. The material is perfect, the execution flawless, and the spirit never fails them.
John Lee Hooker is fond of saying “Nothing but the best, and the rest for the garbage.” He could have been talking about the J.Geils Band.
Magazine Unknown, LP re-issue (EDSEL 300) – By Andy Gill.
At one time regarded, with some justification, as the best live band in the world (check out Full House, their first live album), The J.Geils Band were the acme of blue-eyed R&B, not least because in Magic Dick they had one of the few white boys capable of assaulting the blues harp as powerfully as Sonny Boy Williamson. This, their debut album, mixed a judicious selection of blues standards like Otis Rush’s “Homework,” Albert Collins’ “Sno-Cone” and a particularly brooding, cavernous version of John Lee Hooker’s “Serve You Right To Suffer” with their own compositions.
It would be the home-grown material of the songwriting team of vocalist Peter Wolf and keyboardist Seth Justman that would eventually enable them to develop beyond the status of hot club band into stadium rockers that made “Centerfold,” but here their numbers are still hard blues-oriented. Still heartily recommended for those whose blood flows blue. (***)