One might wonder why I didn’t pick their two later albums: Love Stinks and Freeze Frame. Simple, I believe this is more derivative of the J. Geils Band before they made a huge left turn for commercialism. I like those two other albums, but Sanctuary was the first Geils album a bought.
In the 1970s, there were two American bands that played blues-rock with an R&B flavor: Aerosmith and the J. Geils Band. Aerosmith became more popular but faded in the early 1980s when the J. Geils Band found their window of stardom.
The J. Geils Band delivered a burst of blues-rock and never overstayed their welcome with long, meandering solos. They did their business and moved on. These guys never forgot they were a bar band where attention spans were short.
Peter Wolf – vocals
J. Geils – guitar
Magic Dick – harmonica
Seth Justman – keyboards, vocals
Danny Klein – bass
Stephen Bladd – drums, vocals
Sanctuary has a ton of power and you should listen in one setting. Thirty-seven minutes of blues-rock, with only three songs over four minutes. The album only reached number 49 on the chart and “One Last Kiss” barely broke the top forty. The album was produced by Seth Justman and Joseph Wissert (Boz Scaggs).
“I Could Hurt You Baby” has a decidedly Rolling Stones riff to it, and Peter Wolf has a voice malleable like Jagger that is at home one gritty rock songs. J. Geils and Magic Dick provide the solos. This could have been a Jagger/Richards original.
“One Last Kiss” is more traditional rock song with a pulsating beat. Idea for a single. Haunting with a great Geils solo, then heats up even more for the last third for a rocking outro.
“Take it Back” sounds a lot like the group War, a thumping beat, riffing guitar and group chorus. This is a good time song that you want to rock to the beat and sing along to.
“Sanctuary” has an R&B beat with distorted harp by Magic Dick and a banging piano by Seth Justman. Wolf sounds a lot like Jagger and Alice Cooper in his growls. If you were near a dance floor you might be on your feet.
“Teresa” is a piano ballad with Wolf digging deep in his emotion. These guys don’t get sentimental but there is great feeling in the loss. Great music by Justman.
“Wild Man” is an uptempo rocker with Geils providing the driving guitar work. The band pulls out all the stops for rocker. It’s straight-forward in the arrangement, just gritty vocals and driving music.
“I Can’t Believe You” is a bluesy, mid-tempo song with a big organ accompaniment. The song shifts gear in the second half and then winds up for a big finish.
“I Don’t Hang Around Much Anymore” is a slow R&B flavored ballad, it is a fine song, not much to say about it.
“Jus’ Can’t Stop Me” a Stones-type rocker, like “Rip This Joint”, an upbeat, all hands on deck effort. A great way to wind up the album.
After the band broke up in the 1980s, there were a few short reunions for concerts, but nothing lasting. Peter Wolf had a long and successful solo career. Other members had their own bands. J. Geils became estranged from the band that bore his name. They toured without him, and that set off a legal battle over the use of the J. Geils name. Geils sued and that effectively ended his association with the band. J. Geils passed away two years ago.
The J. Geils Band had a great lifetime. Superstardom escaped them, but they had a very successful run and their recording legacy is a good one. Freeze-frame.