There are more than a few instances of what is arguably a band’s best work being overshadowed by lesser later work that was hugely popular. ZZ Top is more associated with a ’33 Ford and long-legged women than they are with the fat guitar tones and loose Texas boogie of their 1970’s output. When most people think of Genesis, 80’s pop records like Genesis and Invisible Touch come to mind before Selling England by the Pound and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. You could even argue that Pink Floyd’s most exciting work is forgotten in the wake of Dark Side of the Moon, though at least it is forgotten by other great work. That being said though, none of the great albums by these bands are as thoroughly forgotten as those by the J. Geils Band.
While the band had nine studio releases before the smash hit Freeze Frame, those records are almost entirely forgotten. Aside from a few who might remember “Love Stinks” from the early days of MTV, the average person on the street just doesn’t remember earlier records like The J. Geils Band, The Morning After and today’s topic, Nightmares … and Other Tales from the Vinyl Jungle, which as an album is so sufficiently forgotten that it’s single, “Must of Got Lost,” is probably familiar after showing up in film and TV with hardly anyone knowing it’s a J. Geils Band tune.
While still under the production of Bill Szymczyk and before a new wave sheen tempered their sound (courtesy of Seth Justman phasing out Szymczyk’s involvement), the J. Geils Band turned out a lot of bar band R&B and on their best records, there was all the energy of a live recording. Nightmares isn’t their last record before they were completely polished up for MTV, but it was the last to have that raw immediacy and intimacy that brought the band right into your room through your stereo speakers. For the most part, the songs are standard fare, but the performance is what lights them on fire. Nightmares is the band’s last album that feels like stumbling into some hole in the wall and being blown away by a band that is just better and tighter than they ought to be under the circumstances. Every listen has that same surprise.
Released: September 25, 1974