Saturday, September 2, 2017

CD Odyssey Disc 1048: Bob Seger

I just played two hours of Ulti in the sweltering August heat. It was awesome fun, but I’m knackered. When I’m done this review it is nap time!

Disc 1048 is…Greatest Hits
Artist: Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

Year of Release: 1994 but featuring music from 1976 to 1994

What’s up with the Cover? Bob Seger tries to look hip and cool, but falls a little short. Sorry, Bob.

How I Came To Know It: I originally had a Bob Seger greatest hits cassette tape that I bought from some guy in bar in exchange for a beer back in the early nineties. It made sense at the time. That tape (like all the others) has been consigned to the Island of Dead Technology. Sheila bought me this CD edition as a gift as part of her ongoing mission to add music to my collection that I wouldn’t buy for myself. Yeah, I know, it is dead tech these days as well, but not for me – at least not yet.

How It Stacks Up:  This is my only Bob Seger album but even if it wasn’t, it is a greatest hits package, so it can’t stack up.

Ratings: Greatest hits albums don’t get rated, because they’re not true albums (even when you throw on two new tracks at the end Bob. More on that later.

Ah, Bob Seger. You silly schmaltzy devil of a rock god. You Platonic ideal of the expression “guilty pleasure”. We all want to mock you but we can’t deny that you write a fine melody and an irresistible hook.

Listening to this album I was reminded of the tape I used to have (there was a lot of crossover) but I also wondered how it was I hadn’t listened to Bob Seger through the seventies and eighties. Probably it is because even in his prime, Seger’s brand of down-home rock and roll and heartfelt groove is more suited to a mature ear. Or to put it a little less kindly, it is Dad Rock.

I’m not a dad, but I know good music when I hear it, and Bob Seger just knows how to write a song. These are solid little rock ditties about workin’ hard, rockin’ hard and the love of a good woman. The topics are so universal that they sometimes can feel bland and corporate, but Bob sings them with a heartfelt gusto that gives them a veritas they otherwise wouldn’t deserve.

Bob is also the master of arrangements. These songs know exactly when to use a guitar, or when to let the piano take the lead. Seger’s vocals are rich and powerful and he never feels like he’s straining for a note (part of this being he carefully writes for his range).

My favourite song on the record, “You’ll Accomp’ny Me” has all of these elements. The piano carries the tune, and the way Bob promises “someday lady you’ll accompany me” you just know it is going to happen. Halfway through the song, a chorus of the ladies add additional oomph, and as the song grooves along Seger throws in “oohs” and “yeahs” and random shouts of “you’ll accompany me!” in just the right spots. Is it schmaltzy? You’re damned right it is, but it is the best kind of schmaltzy.

Seger also speaks for the underdog. “Against the Wind” makes you proud in those moments you stand strong against ill fortune. “Like a Rock” hearkens back to the bravado of youth when you had nothing, but had a spring in your step nonetheless. Decades of overplay on FM radio and corporate commercial use have turned these songs into caricatures of themselves. Hell, maybe they were always caricatures of themselves, but I can’t help but like them. They’re catchy, damn it.

While “You’ll Accomp’ny Me” is my “guilty pleasure” favourite, the best song on the album is “Night Moves.” It is about nothing more exciting than a make-out session at the drive-in, but that Bob makes into an anthem about everything that is great about youth:

“Out past the cornfields where the woods got heavy
Out in the back seat of my ’60 Chevy
Workin’ on mysteries without an clues
Workin’ on our night moves”

Damn, Bob, that’s good stuff but seriously stop with all the apostrophes and spell those words.

At 14 songs and 62 minutes this record also has a lot of filler, which is a particularly bad thing on a Greatest Hits record. A nearly naked Tom Cruise notwithstanding, “Old Time Rock & Roll” is a song that exemplifies the dangers of overplay. It was never a very good song, and after countless high school dances and diner soundtracks I am ready to permanently retire this goofy, soulless attempt at boogie woogie.

This record has two new songs as well: a cover of “C’est La Vie” and something called “In Your Time” which I wish had never been in my time. These songs annoyed me for two reasons. First, they’re just not good, and compare poorly against all the hits Bob has pumped out in his golden years (all the other tracks are from 1976-1986). Second, this is back when bands would try to make long-time fans buy their Greatest Hits package to get two new songs not available elsewhere. In this case I didn’t have any Bob Seger so it didn’t affect me, but seriously Bob, that’s wrong.

There’s lots about loving Bob Seger that seems wrong, but I can’t help it. The guy knows how to write a good song, and I’m not going to deny him his due. I won’t be delving into his complete discography or anything, but this Greatest Hits package is a welcome addition to my collection.

Best tracks: Night Moves, Turn the Page, You’ll Accomp’ny Me, Against the Wind, Main Street, Like a Rock 

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