Well, well, well! Look who’s back! And it’s good to be back! There’s been so much we’ve missed, don’t rightly know where to start! That’s a lie!
Might as well start the first column of the new year by telling y’all where I’ve been. Moving, mostly. I’ve moved Reservoir Music from the log cabin on Route 28 that we’ve occupied for the past two years, into an office in the historic Stockade District of Kingston! The retail store is closed, but we remain in business working by appointment and online. Over the next few months, I will be working feverishly to get all of my inventory listed on our website, www.reservoirmusiccenter.com. You know the site because it’s where you go to read this column online, or, should I say, one of the sites, the others being www.brooklyncowboys.com, www.hvmusic.com, and, of course, www.thetownsman.com.
I made this move for several reasons, those reasons being time, family, health, and financial. It’s a hand that can’t be beat! Without going into the details, which are personal, I’ll just say that I’m very happy since the store closed. I can still be reached at 845-657-6127 and firstname.lastname@example.org. The focus of the business is now buying and selling vintage guitars, doing repairs on all instruments, and rentals of band instruments, PA systems, and stages, so if anybody’s got any vintage gear to sell, get in touch, please. We will also still sell items on consignment, and we look forward to serving the needs of the Hudson valley musical community for another nine years, and beyond!
Driving over to the theater, I was a little worried about the nature of the music that Peter might present. You see, the early J. Geils Band was one of the hardest rockin’ blues and rock bands that America’s ever produced! Their first two albums, with songs like “Cruising for Love”, “Floyd’s Hotel”, “Homework”, “First I Look at the Purse”, and “Lookin’ for a Love”, both kick serious ass, and so does their first live album, “Full House”, but as time went on, the band became more Pop, less Rock, until, by the late 1970’s and early 80’s, they went full on Pop with songs like, “Love Stinks”, “Centerfold”, and “Freeze Frame”. This was not my favorite J. Geils period, but these songs were all huge radio hits! From what I’ve heard, this musical direction was the cause of the split in the Geils Band songwriting team, with Peter continuing to favor the Rock and RnB roots that the band came of age with!
Wolf left the band in 1983. His first solo endeavor, “Lights Out”, written with the great Don Covay (Hitchhike, Chain of Fools), attempted a return to form, but still had a Pop sensibility to it, IMHO! So, I didn’t know what to expect. Would I get the hard drivin’, blues and RnB based, rocker of the early J. Geils Band, or the somewhat more subdued popmeister of the 1980’s? I hadn’t heard much of Wolf after his early solo hits (to be fair, I also stopped listening to the radio around this time) and I didn’t know what to expect.
As I drove up to the theater with my windows down to let in the unseasonably warm night air, the band had just started their first song, and it sounded pretty darn rockin’! So far, so good. As I stood on the porch talking to my friend, Gary McKeever, I heard the band launch into “Homework”, the Otis Rush tune that was a mainstay of the early J. Geils Band, but, oh no, they were doing it as a Country Blues, almost always a sign that an artist has mellowed out, and is not gonna rock!
I almost didn’t go in, but I decided to put my preconceptions aside, and let the music speak for itself, and I am so glad I did! The first two songs I heard were new songs that hearkened back to Exile era Stones, and that’s never a bad thing! Rockin’ along in a relaxed groove that wouldn’t quit, Peter and his outstanding band were winning me over. Then they launched into “Cry One More Time”, a song from the second J. Geils Band album, “The Morning After”, that was covered by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris on Gram’s first solo record, “GP”. They had me!
From there, Wolf went on to reveal his newly reinvented self, as a fully matured rocker who encompasses all forms of music, my favorite kind of musician! Next up was a cover of Bill Monroe’s “When my Blue Moon Turns to Gold”! What’s this? Peter Wolf, doing Country and Bluegrass? Yup, but it all rocked! As if to drive home the point, the next song was “Love Stinks” done as a Bluegrass tune. Killer! I suddenly loved this song that had never really done anything for me before!
Wolf, looking like an elegantly wasted vampire, prowled the stage with a presence reserved only for the great Rock n Roll frontman, completely relaxed and in control, telling stories about Tennessee Williams and Bill Monroe, showing off the moves and vocal gymnastics that proved, once again, that this man is in the same league as Jagger, Iggy, Springsteen, and the great Soul singers that he draws inspiration from! And the band was right there with him! Every musician was right where they should be. Not a note was played that wasn’t required. The rhythm section couldn’t have been yanked out of the pocket with a crane (to paraphrase John Lennon talking about Ringo). The guitar solos were exquisite! The band played at a level commensurate with their leader. Two guitars, bass, drums, and keys. Classic!
Now, in case anyone got the idea that Peter Wolf has lost touch with his RnB roots, with all this Country music creepin’ in, he channeled my favorite Soul singer of all time, Joe Tex, towards the end of the show, and then encored with a Gospel tinged RnB song called, “When Women Are Lonely”. Don’t that title tell you everything you need to know! You can almost hear the song from the title alone!
The band got two or three encores from the appreciative audience. One of them was “Give it to Me”, the Geils Band hit from back in the day. As I was listening, I thought to myself, “Damn! This is as funky as anything Sly or War ever did”! And it was, proving that great artists can work in any genre of their art, and make it funky! Oops. I meant good. LOL!
About four years ago, in a particularly bad year for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees, I wrote a column about ten artists who should be in The Hall, but aren’t. One of them was The J. Geils Band. Most of the rest have made it in, but the Geils Band, despite being amongst the finalists two years running, have still not been inducted!
Peter’s two most critically acclaimed solo albums are 1998’s Fool’s Parade and 2002’s Sleepless, which feature guest appearances from Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Steve Earle! Sleepless was named one of the 500 best albums of all time by Rolling Stone! The J. Geils Band albums I recommend are the ones mentioned here. And the Peter Wolf show that I recommend you seeing is the next show he does, anywhere near where you are!
After the show, we hung out with Peter and his band for a while, and he seemed to be one of the most level headed and down to earth rock stars I’ve ever met (and I’ve met a lot of them). A genuinely nice guy, HE insisted on taking a picture with ME! That’s a rare commodity in the music business!
Before I took my hiatus, I wanted to do one last column in which I profiled two young film makers, Justin Martinez and Kevin Smith, of Upstate Moving Images, who have lent their considerable talents to capturing images of new and up and coming bands, including my new band, Ghosts of Electricity. However, I hit a wall, and just couldn’t do them justice with my move on my mind. I really wanted to write their story for my first column back, but Peter Wolf hijacked me, so next week they will finally get their due. Look for it!
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, that while I was on hiatus, we lost two of the great ones, Phil Everly and Ray Price! What a legacy those two left behind! They will be missed.
Now for this week’s live music picks!
Have a great week, and I’ll see you here next week. Good night and good luck!
Fred Perry is the owner of Reservoir Music Center in Kingston, and founding member of Alt-Country supergroup, The Brooklyn Cowboys, is from a 3rd generation musical family and lives in the Hudson Valley, where he does what he can to promote live music.