J. Geils - guitar; Peter Wolf - vocals; Magic Dick - harmonica; Seth Justman - keyboard, vocals; Danny Klein - bass; Stephen Jo Bladd - percussion, drums, vocals
By the mid 1970s, The J. Geils Band were at the top of their game, having toured extensively for nearly a decade and riding high on their most successful studio albums to date, Bloodshot and Ladies Invited, both released in 1973 and the follow-up, Nightmares...and Other Tales from the Vinyl Jungle, released the following year. For the first time, the band's studio efforts were becoming as popular as their 1972 live album, Full House, which captured the band on stage in all its high-energy glory.
Although based in Boston, nowhere was the group more popular than in Detroit, where the onstage charisma of front man, Peter Wolf, and the band's dynamic mix of blues, rock and R&B would whip audiences into a veritable frenzy. Detroit's most popular venue, Cobo Hall, had become like a second home to the band and the wild chemistry that always occurred there made it an ideal location to capture the band on stage. Indeed, the group recognized this as well, as the album that broke them internationally, the aforementioned Full House, was recorded at Cobo Hall and both of the band's subsequent live albums, Blow Your Face Out, released in 1976 and 1982's Showtime, also prominently featured performances captured live at this Detroit venue.
When the King Biscuit Flower Hour pursued the J. Geils Band for their syndicated radio show, they wisely chose to record two additional Cobo Hall performances that occurred in November of 1974, when the group was headlining a tour that included powerhouse rockers, Mountain, as the opening act. Here we present excerpts from the late show of November 3, 1974, as the J. Geils Band once again take Cobo Hall by storm. (Highlights from the early show are also available at Wolfgang's.) Presenting a pair of choice cuts from their new album at the time, in addition to a pair each from the Bloodshot and Full House albums, this recording is sure to delight new and old fans alike, capturing the band onstage at a peak moment in their career.
The recording begins with one of the highlights from the Bloodshot album from the previous year, "Southside Shuffle." This highly danceable opener serves as the perfect vehicle to get the audience riled up. This is exactly what singer Peter Wolf immediately goes for, supported by the highly energetic thrust of the group, which features particularly outstanding piano and organ work from Seth Justman. The band's current hit single at this time, "Must Of Got Lost," follows, with Wolf in fine form, before continuing with the keyboard driven rocker, "Detroit Breakdown." For obvious reasons, this number is ideal for the Cobo Hall audience and the entire band starts hitting their stride, with Justman all over the place, contributing acoustic piano, funky gurgling synth and swirling B-3 organ, all tastefully delivered, sometimes simultaneously. Magic Dick wails on the blues harp, Danny Klein and Stephen Jo Bladd create a funky James Brown-influenced rhythm and Geils burns on his extended guitar solo. The band doesn't seem to want to stop, as the song contains several false endings, where they collect their breath for a moment only to take off again. Magic Dick's infamous blues harp showcase, a cover of Juke Joint Jimmy's "Whammer Jammer," kicks things up another notch with a frenetic blowout that whips the audience into a frenzy.
However, the best is saved for last, beginning with a frantic paced reading of "(Ain't Nothin' But A) House Party." This organ fueled rocker is one of the songs responsible for making Bloodshot their highest charting album to date and this live version doesn't disappoint, building up the tempo faster and faster before Bladd's final frenetic drum break slams it home. The recording winds up with the band rocking out on one of their most popular older songs, a remarkable cover of Smokey Robinson's "First I Look At The Purse." A Motown hit for The Contours in 1965, this tale of the pursuit of money over beauty is tailor-made for Wolf's high-energy, comedic on-stage delivery and closes the recording with a bang.
This particular era, which found the J.Geils Band crafting a highly energized blend of rock, rhythm & blues and funky soul into a sound all their own, propelled this hard working band into one of the hottest and most popular live acts in America. (Bershaw)