LIVE from Your Speakers: J. Geils Band, FULL HOUSE

Thursday, December 27, 2018
J. Geils Band, FULL HOUSE

To hear J. Geils Band front man Peter Wolf’s scat-jive intro to “Whammer Jammer” on 1972’s FULL HOUSE is to hear a transmission from another, much funkier planet — a skiggity-strange liggity-language that kiggity-kicks off another, longer miggity-missive from one Richard Salwitz (Magic Dick to you and me), blown through a blues harp with exceptional power and acuity, with a powerhouse band thumping behind him. Thing is, these were not alien beings — not an extraterrestrial among them, unless Boston went into orbit when the rest of us weren’t looking. This was perhaps the best live band on the planet at the time, and FULL HOUSE captured Geils and Co. at an early, exceptional high point.

Recorded in Detroit, the band’s second home, FULL HOUSE is the quintessential party on a platter, something you put on when you want to feel good and pass that feeling on to others, as well. The record is occasion-agnostic — put it on at a barbecue, a house party, or a first date, and feel the feel-good vibes coming off the vinyl. Your turntable never had it so good.

It all kicks off with a big-time banger in the Countours’ “First I Look at the Purse,” as the band establishes their R&B bonafides from the get-go. The band’s shows at the time werel high-volume, high-energy, fully rockin’ tributes to the likes of the Contours, Otis Rush, James Brown and other forebears. Rush’s “Homework,” in fact, gets a thorough workout, complete with a stinging guitar solo from J. Geils himself.  It’s hard to imagine a better way to tip one’s hat than to take those songs to the stage and do what Wolf and the boys do to them.

The crowd in Detroit loved it, too. On “Hard-Drivin’ Man” Wolf gets them into the act, compelling them to yell back his “Ooh yeahs,” as Seth Justman pounds out the piano and Geils does a bit of chicken pickin’. Then there’s the slow blues of John Lee Hooker’s “Serves You Right to Suffer,” which gets an extended 10-minute jam. You can almost feel the heat in the room, see the sweat on the stage, sway with the others in the audience, as the band rides the waves of soft and loud, everybody getting solo space, wringing every drop of blues out of the room.

The record closes out with the R&B chestnut “Lookin’ for a Love,” a four-on-the-floor blast with Wolf lookin’ for his baby through every hangout, side street and even a false ending in the city, and you just imagine the level of exhaustion he’s fighting off, so hard is he lookin’. He feeds off the crowd, which is cheering him on in his search, and the whole thing ends with everyone in the place soaked and exhilarated, hanging onto one another for support as the band walks off the stage, back onto their space cruiser, to take off for the next jump across the galaxy.

So maybe J. Geils Band were from another planet, a sextet of jive-shootin’, blues-boppin’ ambassadors of cool sent to Earth to show us how to get down and let us know everything would be all right in the end, if we just put a little more rhythm in our lives. We could use a little more of that today, don’tcha thiggity-think?


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