November 1973 (#51 US)
Rolling Stone, #152 – By Jon Landau
Ladies Invited is the J. Geils Band’s best album since their first. The beauty of the J. Geils Band was in its distillation of years of live performing into a rough, recorded-in-three-days introductory statement that suggested so many directions for the future. Those included the beginnings of the Peter Wolf-Seth Justman songwriting team, the potential progression from blues through R&B, through Sixties Stones’ rock, up to and including just a taste of a then-emerging personal style.
The succeeding albums have been more consistent, better recorded, but limited in scope; delivering more, but suggesting less. Still, each of them has been 10% better than its predecessor (except for The Morning After). So Ladies Invited’s superiority rests simply on the fact that it is a bolder step forward: 20% instead of ten.
The musicianship is now as geared up as I ever expected it to be. Magic Dick’s harp actually sounds like a three-piece sax section on “Did You No Wrong.” Stephen Bladd’s drumming has become freer, more varied and more specifically related to the individual song. Danny Klein has absorbed new styles, as witnessed by his work on “Did You No Wrong.” And J. Geils has continued his subtle growth, both on straight leads (”Chimes”), slide (”No Doubt About It”) and in his re-creation of older styles (his Meters’ work on “I Can’t Go On” and “Diddlyboppin’”).
Producer Bill Szymczyk has continued to develop as one of the masters of white rock sound, giving the record’s bottom exceptional depth and its top a fine, cutting edge. But finally, the most important advances come from Wolf and Justman. The latter is clearly in charge of most of the arrangements. Less impressive for his leads than his ability to lead the group and build a sound (a la Felix Cavaliere), he always seems to be doing the right thing, in the right place, at the right time.
But if he now dominates the group’s musical personality, Wolf defines the band with his bizarre, cliche-ridden, but somehow still original lyrics, ingratiating, off-the-wall sense of humor (see the intro and close of “Diddlyboppin’”), and (most surprisingly) by the coming to life of new vocal range and depth, most in evidence on the one complete departure, the Dylanesque (in mood) “Chimes.”
“Did You No Wrong” is closest in drive and spirit to “Looking for a Love.” It’s my favorite and would make a good single. “That’s Why I’m Thinking of You,” their best ballad since “On Borrowed Time,” is one of their most personal recordings, and quite moving. “The Lady Makes Demands” sounds like a Major Lance-Curtis Mayfield-J. Geils Band collaboration and it really works. In fact, the only thing missing is a continuation of the groove opened up by “Give It to Me” on Bloodshot.
I continue to find the group’s lyrics somewhat one-dimensional, projecting too limited a concept of sex. And some of the arrangements still make use of gratuitous breaks. But that aside, I take Ladies Invited as a healthy sign of continued growth from one of this country’s most entertaining and proficient rock bands.
Magazine Unknown, CD re-issue (Atlantic 81431) – By Sid Griffin