Rolling Stone, 11-21-74 – By Tom Dunson.
This is mean music — violent and funny, frenzied and sexy, woman-loving-and-woman-hating rock & roll. On their past five albums the J. Geils Band aimed for complete accessibility. On Nightmares…and Other Tales from the Vinyl Jungle, they attain it. The Jewish blues band from the Brox and Boston finally sounds like a bunch of rock & roll naturals. No longer in awe of the music and minus the last vestiges of insecurity, they still sound crazy, but they also sound comfortable.
Peter Wolf has gradually mastered the craft of singing rock and has freed the band’s instrumental potential. They couldn’t have played anything as eloquent as “Givin’ It All Up” until he was ready to sing it. He eases into the flowing arrangement with astonishing poise and confidence. He is surrounded by the equally self-possessed overdubbed harp section of Magic Dick (they sound as big as a horn section only tighter), the masterful soul lines of guitarist J. Geils and the big-sounding bottom of the rhythm section which plays with a flair of its own — all aided and abetted by one of the masters of the studio, producer Bill Szymczyk.
“Givin’ It All Up” is one of two songs on the album that has single potential. The other, “Must of Got Lost” isn’t as good. Despite their best intentions, the band winds up sounding mile like an even blander Doobie Brothers.
But “Must of Got Lost” is really the only lapse on the entire album. Nightmares consists primarily of punchy stuff that combines the musical sophistication of the band’s commercially most disappointing LP, Ladies Invited, with the energy and primitiveness of their bestselling Bloodshot. The lyrics to the Peter Wolf and Seth Justman (keyboards) originals never go far beyond street talk, but reveal an increasingly sharp ear for satire, parody and good-natured self-deflation.
The J. Geils band are like painters doing variations on the same sight or model, attempting to refine their vision until there is nothing left to add or subtract. With Nightmares…and Other Tales from the Vinyl Jungle, they may have finally finished their painting. At the very least, they are writing an American version of street talk, grown-up nursery rhymes and nonsense, while playing an American version of the rock & roll blues.