Right in the middle of just about every televised sporting event in the '90s there was a commercial for Chevy trucks. As the truck rolls through potholes that look like canyons and mud puddles that are closer to lakes, there is a gruff voice singing, "Like a rock." That's Bob Seger - and for a lot of people that IS Bob Seger. It figures Seger would be associated with a truck promoting itself as hardworking and durable.
Hailing from the Motor City, Seger began recording in '65. His records were highly successful - in the Midwest - and nowhere else. He tried it solo; he tried it with a group. Nothing seemed to broaden his audience. And it took nearly a decade for that to change.
Seger's first big national break came in '75 with the "Beautiful Loser" LP containing "Katmandu" (which wound up on The Mask soundtrack) and "Nutbush City Limits." It went gold, but the follow up, in '76, "Live Bullet" went further. It blew the doors off.
Back in the studio, "Night Moves," had the title track ballad, which turned out to be a monster, and Seger's proudest moment - or so he says. It also had the rough unsentimental ballad "Mainstreet." A great record. "Stranger In Town" hit in '78 and was notable for "Old Time Rock and Roll" which celebrated the '50s -'60s. It didn't directly attack disco but it was clear the singer wasn't enamored with latest trend. In the '80s, Seger got around to recording "Like A Rock" and the rest is history.
Things were going slowly as Seger worked on his first studio album in more than a decade. However, his '04 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame helped motivate him to finish "Face The Promise." "I wanted to deserve it with this album, so I started working harder," he explained. "I wanted to make sure to leave some blood on the page." He got help from fellow Michigan native Kid Rock and Country star Patty Loveless for the '06 release.
For a time, a very long time, it looked as though Bob Seger was just a Midwest thing. "Live Bullet" has Seger and the Silver Bullet Band unleashed. It would have made an excellent encapsulation of Seger's career except, fortunately, it turned out to be a launching pad. "Night Moves" out later the same year ('76) has the title ballad but it also has "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" and "Fire Down Below." "Stranger In Town" is not as strong. It too has a pop ballad hit, "We've Got Tonight," but it also Rocks with "Hollywood Nights" and the working man's "Feel Like A Number." While Seger's '80s and '90s albums are strong his '70s work is better. Then there's "Face The Promise."
The great thing about Seger is that he is consistently Seger. Never one to jump on trends, Seger is true to himself as a purveyor of blue collar Blues. It's so steeped in his soul, one suspects that had he been born south of the Mason-Dixon line, rather than Michigan, Seger would have gone Country. "Face The Promise" is no different. The trademark acoustic guitars, emotive piano, airy yet haunting female background vocals that provide a contrast and support for Seger's gruff voice effectively come together on the single, "Wait For Me," a mid-tempo ballad in the "Against The Wind" vein.
For a man who's had several ballad hits, it's odd that the slower songs don't resonate. The fiddle and Loveless (Patty), "The Answer Is In The Question," and set closer "The Long Goodbye" are forgettable. Too bad.
Seger is at his best when he cuts loose. Album opener "Wreck This Heart" and the title track are patented Seeger kickers. But as good as these songs are, they pale in comparison to the duet with Kid Rock on "Real Mean Bottle." The two have more than enough backbone and spit to take what is structurally a County song and put the devil in it and Rock the hell out of it. Seger gets gritty on "Are You" and uses horns and a tough guitar line to bring "Simplicity" across.
Going back to the beginning, "Greatest Hits," covers all the obvious high points. '03 release "Greatest Hits 2" compiles second tier but still notable tracks including "Katmandu," "Beautiful Loser" (the title says it all) and "Rock and Roll Never Forgets." There are two additional tracks, the acoustic Blues "Satisfied" and the far superior two-guitar Rocker "Tomorrow."