by Jeff Fiedler
Albums from the Lost & Found is a regular feature on thegreatalbums.com in which contributor Jeff Fiedler reviews and helps us rediscover great pop albums that seem to have been lost to time.
One of the weirder oddities of classic rock is that it’s generally acknowledged among rock critics that the J. Geils Band were one of the quintessential live bands of the ‘70s and that their music was never more impassioned than during their run of distinctly blues-influenced albums for Atlantic Records from 1970 to 1978, and yet, at the same time, classic-rock and oldies radio stations today all but ignore everything the band did prior to “Love Stinks,” “Centerfold” and “Freeze-Frame,” even though the band had five Top 40 hits prior to those singles. Mind you, it is undeniably true that those three singles rank as the band’s most iconic 45s, and it’s every bit as inarguable that the truly definitive way to listen to the J. Geils Band is via their two amazing live albums of the ‘70s (Live/Full House and Blow Your Face Out). Still, the band’s studio albums of the ‘70s are much too overlooked by radio and critics alike and rank among some of the most underrated studio albums of the classic-rock era. Nightmares … and Other Tales from the Vinyl Jungle may be the best platter in the lot (and spawned the band’s first Top 20 hit in “Must of Got Lost”), but the most underrated of those titles may be Bloodshot.
The band already had released two studio discs and a live album (and scored their first Top 40 hit, a cover of the Valentinos’ R&B hit “Lookin’ for a Love”) by the time they made Bloodshot. Like a lot of other classic-rock albums of the ‘70s, Bloodshot noticeably loses a bit of its charm and its sonic warmth if listened to on CD and is better appreciated by listening to it on either 8-track or, of course, vinyl, and Bloodshot had the added collector’s bonus of having all of its first-run copies pressed on red vinyl, a truly perfect packaging touch.
The album easily eclipses its studio predecessors (The J. Geils Band and The Morning After) for three primary reasons: the band sounds tighter than ever before, their personality shines through in a way that was only previously evident on their live album (and this band had an awful lot of personality, in no short part thanks to lead vocalist Peter Wolf, whose stage banter is simply legendary and who was apparently given more free rein on this album to ad-lib than on previous studio outings), and they’ve expanded their sonic palette, even experimenting with funk.
All these changes are evident right away on the album’s leadoff single, the heavily reggae-tinged Top 40 hit “Give It to Me,” which sounds at first like a hybrid of The Rolling Stones, Jimmy Cliff, and War. The single edit of the song unfortunately splices the song up and keeps the reggae vibe intact throughout, but the full-length album version is the version you really want to hear: following a great organ solo from Seth Justman, the band comes to a dead stop and Geils unleashes a soulful R&B guitar lick before the rest of the band jumps right back in and embarks on a three-and-a-half-minute full-blown, unadulterated, instrumental funk jam that closes with a minute-and-a-half of nothing but Danny Klein’s bass and a bed of percussion. It’s a breathtaking showcase of the band’s abilities as a rhythm section, and had the label just issued the song as a single in unedited form, with the closing funk jam intact, it might actually have eclipsed “Centerfold” for the title of the band’s finest 45.
The rest of the album is just as playful. “Back to Get Ya” is a continuation of the band’s newfound love for funk, highlighted by Stephen Bladd’s tight drum work and Magic Dick’s harmonica. The inventive and mildly retro-flavored “Make up Your Mind” takes a simple-but-catchy ‘50s-R&B-like melody and tacks on some unpredictable accents, from an acoustic guitar to a relentless bed of congas. The gospel-infused rock-and-roll of “Southside Shuffle,” which sports one of Geils’ finest guitar solos, is the emotional high point of the album, the track ending with an extended handclap-laden vamp-out that could have gone on for even several minutes longer without losing any of its entertainment value. The high-octane soulful rock of “(Ain’t Nothing But a) House Party” recalls all the best Wilson Pickett, Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, and Young Rascals dancefloor-fillers of the ‘60s.
While Bloodshot did make the Top Ten on the U.S. album charts (their only album besides Freeze-Frame to do so), it’s a bit surprising that the album is not better-known today, not simply because it was more responsible than any of their ‘70s albums for making the band a household name, but because the band stays focused on keeping the energy of the album going throughout, and it’s consequently as good a party album as you’ll find in all of classic-rock, not a genre usually known for getting people out onto the dance floor. Slip this one at a party sometime, and sit back and watch the fun begin!