Monday, March 23, 2020

Bob Seger before Night Moves

SEVEN
Bob Seger
Palladium/Reprise


Image result for seven Bob Seger Bob Seger's SEVEN album is  are rare item, a mature rock and roll statement at a time when rock stars, the megastars that is, were becoming a species of Professional Celebrities in their late careers. It seemed the rock stars one admired for verve, passion and invention had lost the talent for redefining themselves and reassessing what they could create with their gifts as they aged and instead issued mediocre albums, bad volumes of poetry and starred in elaborately awful movies as they lived off the remains of a what was once charisma. Now many were merely famous, better suited for Hollywood Squares. Our friend Seger didn't get that summary of middle aged duties though; a deep if not profound thinker, the singer here reflects on what he's done so far, seems the length he still needs to go to achieve his career goals, and with the songs on Seven, lets his audience know he's more than a bit burned out, more than a little cynical, just a little pissed off to have toured, recorded and endured so much grief in the search for American success for so little gain. The songs reflect it, and this is ,I believe, a fine bit of wit and honesty gere. He's a bit of an asshole, a jerk, a heart of gold that can sometimes go cold and become brutish in spirit , not kind, giving, not a hippie ethic in sight. He is not Lou Reed nor Dylan , but rather more like Chuck Berry or John Fogarty if they dropped the crowd pleasing grins and shared some of their culminated aggrevation with their respective crowds of fans.  Seger doesn't wear funny hats, tight pants showing the width of his rig, or bandy about the stage gasping and wheezing, acting like the power of the music has possessed his soul. No, Seger is content to sing his hard rock straight forward, letting the rough-edges supply its own excitement. 

And Seger is a singer of such manic power as to lay to rest forever all the inept rabble-rousing Slade, Foghat and Humble Pie indulge in. Seger has his finger on the rock and roll pulse—beat. "Get Out of Denver “opens the album, a Chuck Berry chop done the way Berry meant it—fast, intense and over with, quick. The truck driver as dope smuggler theme makes a believable image of a Semi hauling ass down a Midwest highway from a slew of county sheriff’s cars. "Need Ya" is a great lift from the Faces' "It's All Over Now." Seger's voice is breathless and hoarse, laden with an obvious base desire while some slippery slide guitar from Jim McCarty riffs under it. "School Teacher" is the weak link in the album's progression. Neither the rapid redundancy nor Seger's all stops pulled grate manage to salvage this nothing exercise. Fortunately, this fluke is one of a kind, and everything that follows is an ecstatic upward climb. "UMC (Upper Middle Class)" smacks of brilliance. Brandishing a mocking Mel Torme blues scamper while fine-tuning a witty, Mose Allison outlay of mid-century consumerism, Seger announces that he wants All the Money and everything it can buy.Why not? One can sing the blues convincingly if one's led a wretched life to back up bragging about hard times. But who sings about wanting to be poor? Seger at once lampoons his white culture and expresses a universal aspiration anyone with an eye for better things can identify with. 

"Seen A Lot Floors" is a great rock and roll touring song, a terse blues grunt whose matter of fact lyrical sparseness amplifies its meaning. "Seen a lot of flooooors....Seen a lot of dooooors " shouts Seger, letting the words drop into an oblivion of existential negation. The details of toad life—the motels, the groupies, the larger than humanly tolerable concert halls— all become an amorphous drug drenched blur. A Jim McCarty guitar solo starting with a ruthlessly stretched harmonic enters, followed by  drawling, rasping sax solo, returning bluntly to Seger's bone-tired voice. Indicative maybe that after a while even the music ceases to have meaning, that it becomes part of the systematized routine that earns the artist a living. "Floors" is great. "20 Years from Now" is the only let up in the up tempo phases of SEVEN, a mawkish love song crammed to the gills with Van Morrison phrasing. But the song is worth the listening effort, if only to hear Seger squeeze his words in an affected (but effective) Otis Reddingisms. 

The last song, "All Your Love," again cops from the Faces. The guitar chords are chunky, metallic without approaching heavy metal, and Seger's phrasing cleanly takes from Rod Stewart without once suggesting imitation. Bob Seger is his own man, able to take from any number of mainstream rock sources and use them to his own best advantage SEVEN fires no innovating trails in the history of rock and roll, but at least it's honest, which is more than you have a right to expect from a scene dominated with disposable personas.

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