Ella and I do not often review greatest hits albums, but for
this amazing collection from the career of the J. Geils Band we are going to
make an exception. 5 stars are hard enough to get, but a greatest hits
collection with 5 stars only happens once in a blue moon. Ten Years After got a
5 star review for their collection Essential, but that was it.
So what’s the fuss about ‘Houseparty’? Well, let’s
just say that if you don’t find yourself jumping up and down to every track
that’s on this 38 song, 2 disc set then you have just got no rock ‘n’
roll in your soul. This was the sort of music that is played constantly at the
famous Tahitian Queen Rock ‘n’ Roll Happy Hour, and why do people go to
Tahitian Queen Happy Hour? It’s to have a good time, and this is music to
have a good time to.
History tells us that the year 1967 was all incense,
peppermints, kaftans, beads, lots of vegetables, paisley shirts, people
finishing sentences with the word man, and being so laid back they fell over
themselves. But those lazy, hazy, crazy, daze of way off also produced one of
the world’s wildest, finest, all-time great, hard-driven rhythm and blues
show bands that were ever put on this planet to entertain.
For the next 15 years and 14 albums and what must have been
a million gigs, the J. Geils Band, in the words of their front man Peter Wolf,
“Felt obligated to give 100% of ourselves to our audience. We were a bunch of
guys who had the passion and wanted to share it”. Where else do you get that
commitment from a band? They were together for those 15 years without one
change in line-up - unheard of in the unstable world of rock ‘n’ roll. When
it came time to go they just left at the top.
This collection, with it’s informative 52-page booklet,
has songs from all 14 albums, but is not in chronological order, allowing the
compiler to put all the great studio cuts from the debut album in 1970 on the
first disc, through to ‘Surrender’ from their 1977 album ‘Monkey
Island’. That includes the hit ‘Must Of Got Love’ (no 12, 1974) and all
the great covers such as Willie Dixon’s ‘Dead Presidents’.
Then disc two kicks off with 10 tracks from the three live
albums that the J. Geils Band released in their career, Live - Full House
(1972), Live - Blow Your Face Out (1976), and Showtime (1982). These songs
really give you a feel of what it must have been like at a full blown J. Geils
Band concert. It’s all there.
‘Whammer Jammer’ gives Magic Dick a chance to live up to
his name on his harmonica solo number and most of the songs give J. Geils’ a
chance to run his furious guitar solos. All with the rock solid support from
the rhythm section of Danny Klein and Stephen Jo Bladd, and the wall of sound
that was put out by the keyboards of Seth Justman (he was also producer and
arranger for the band in the second half of their career). Peter Wolf’s
in-between song raps are left in place, and his vocal performance on ‘First I
Look At The Purse’ would leave anybody breathless.
If this was not enough, late in their lifespan the band had
a resurgence in popularity, which brought their music to a whole new generation
of fans with the release of the album ‘Freeze Frame’. It reached the top of
the album charts over Christmas 1981, spending four weeks at number one and a
total of 70 weeks in the charts.
The single from the album ‘Centrefold’ also hit the
number one spot, and the title track, when released as a single, went top 5.
Don’t you just love a happy ending? When it was time to go
the boys packed their bags and exited stage left. I leave you with the words of
Peter Kay, always the J. Geils Band’s spokesperson, a band named after the
guitarist, not the vocalist with the shades.
“The J. Geils Band was a real American band - six guys
with a love of music. Really feeling blessed that we were able to prevail and
keep going. We were no frills, no tricks, just hard, sweaty Rock ‘n’ Roll.
And when we hit the stage it was Showtime!”