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J. Geils and - Centerfold

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Uploaded on Feb 15, 2010

1981) "Take out your false teeth, mama . . . I wanna SUCK on your GUMS." With these gentle words, the J. Geils Band's frontman, Peter Wolf, seared himself onto rock history, and his henchmen took their place as the finest Jewish blues-rockers ever to do the Boston Monkey. The J. Geils Band had a lean, mean approach to old-school R&B, blasting through John Lee Hooker and Otis Rush classics in a completely nonacademic way, making everything sound tough and crass and ironic. Wolf, the self-proclaimed "Woofa Goofa with the Green Teeth," made David Lee Roth seem like the shy type; Magic Dick played the harmonica; in album-cover photos, the entire band dissolved into one giant Jewish Afro with shades; and naming the band after the nonsinging guitarist (who could barely play) was so rock & roll. The Geils gang didn't do much songwriting at first, covering obscure blues and soul treasures instead, though the 1973 hit "Give It to Me" was a freaky seven-minute move into early reggae. But Full House (source of the aforementioned "false teeth" patter) proved that J. Geils could rip it up live, from "First I Look at the Purse" to the pounding finale, "Looking for a Love." The Magic Dick showcase "Whammer Jammer" became the "Smoke on the Water" of the harmonica.
Nightmares was the best of the early J. Geils studio albums, with the house party "Stoop Down #39," the stoopid-fresh "Detroit Breakdown" (for some reason, Boston bands are always obsessed with Detroit), and the breakup ballad "Must of Got Lost." The double-live Blow Your Face Out had a classic live version of the latter, beginning with a long preacherly rap from Wolf ("this is a song about L-O-V-E and if you abuse it, you're gonna lose it, and if you lose it, you ain't gonna be able to choose it," etc.), and whomping renditions of "Love-Itis" and "Where Did Our Love Go?" But J. Geils was starting to mature, calling itself just "Geils" on the cover of Monkey Island as Wolf recited a nine-minute poem about alienation in the title track. Sanctuary was even tougher, with the touching "I Don't Hang Around Much Any More," the Italian-girl-worshipping "Teresa," the manic "Jus' Can't Stop Me," and the confusing but kind-of-intense title anthem.
Sanctuary was so damn good, it seemed that J. Geils would never be able to match it, but to everyone's surprise, the band bought a synthesizer and promptly became 10 times bigger than ever. Not with a pop sellout, either: "Love Stinks" was one of the great trash-rock singles of the '80s, with a three-chord riff that later showed up as "Smells Like Teen Spirit." The album added the rollicking "Till the Walls Come Tumbling Down," the failed Eurodisco experiment "Come Back," and the Firesign Theatre rip "No Anchovies, Please." Freeze Frame updated the band's rock attack with arty synth-funk beats, resulting in a couple of huge singles ("Freeze Frame," "Centerfold") and a hit album that bridged traditional rock, new wave, punk, disco, and slick pop. The best was the finale "Piss on the Wall," where Wolf pondered the nature of reality: "Some people say the world ain't what it is/All I know is I just got to take a whizz."
Unfortunately, after years of white-knuckling it to the top, the band responded to mainstream success by kicking out Peter Wolf. Keyboardist Seth Justman took over the vocals for You're Getting Even While I'm Getting Odd, one of the most disastrous followups in music-biz history, a career ender for everyone involved. (Chili Peppers fans take note: It did include a song called "Californicating.") Wolf went on to solo success, but J. Geils fans still wept for what might have been. Showtime! was the band's third and weakest live album. Flashback is a flimsy best-of from the band's three big EMI albums; the two-disc Houseparty is a much better compilation of both early and late J. Geils. But the best places to start are the Atlantic collections Best of, with the bowling pins on the cover, and Best of Two, which has classic album tracks such as "Stoop Down #39" and "The Lady Makes Demands." (ROB SHEFFIELD)
From 2004's The New Rolling Stone Album Guide

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