The J. Geils Band's chart profile had been steadily slipping since the Top Ten success of their third record, Bloodshot. Even the awe-inspiring live album Blow Your Face Out, the band's near-maniacal dedication to the live stage, and their nonstop presence on the FM dial couldn't get them a hit album. By the time of 1977's Monkey Island the band seemed a little confused by it all and maybe even a bit weary of the effort to make it on their own terms. In most cases this would make for an artistic disaster, but hearing Geils branch out and lie back makes for one of their more interesting and challenging, if not most coherent, releases. Ranging from the wall-shaking funk of "Surrender" to the soft rock sweetness of "You're the Only One" (which comes complete with Magic Dick impersonating Stevie Wonder at his most romantic), the bopping AM-friendly R&B of "I Do" (the album's only cover), and the roaring hard rock of "Somebody," the album covers a lot of territory. Add to that the epic-length and overblown "Monkey Island," the smooth ballad "I'm Falling," and the shockingly slick modern R&B confection "So Good," and the album becomes near schizophrenic. Luckily, despite all the soul searching, dead ends, and obvious commercial overtures, the album retains enough of the innate Geils Band charm (and a couple good tracks like "Surrender," "So Good," and the loose blues rocker "I'm Not Rough") to make it work to a certain extent. Not a classic by any means but worth hearing at least once if only to hear why Sanctuary(on which they figure out how to make a totally commercial record the Geils way) was such a stunning return to form.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra