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Bob Seger Faces The Promise On New Album
On the title track of “Face the Promise,” his first album of all-new material in 11 years, Bob Seger declares that “I’ve got fevered dreams, mighty plans.”
And his Home Studios compound on a wooded Clarkston lot about 25 minutes north of the family’s residence certainly looks like a place where those plans are being realized.
Silver Bullet Band gear is laid out in the upstairs of the barn/ garage while the group rehearses for some upcoming TV appearances — and, perhaps, a tour, which Seger says is “80 to 85 percent sure” to happen. Guitars and a ProTools computer recording rig fill the living room of the nearby house.
And at a small wooden table in the kitchen there’s Seger - self, fi ddling with a pack of Marlboro Lights and an ashtray. Sporting a black Puma T-shirt, jeans and black boots, he looks Midwest rock star fi t, and he smiles as he discusses the release this week of “Face the Promise.”
“I’ll tell ya, I’m really excited about Tuesday,” the 61-year-old says, then throws back his head and roars towards the ceiling, “It’s fi nally out!!!”
Seger’s not the only excited one. Fans have been waiting for a new Seger album since “It’s a Mystery” in 1995 — the longest wait of his 40-plusyear recording career. And two new songs on 2003’s “Greatest Hits 2” set hardly sated that appetite.
Seger reckons he worked on around 45 songs since “It’s a Mystery.” He even had a Silver Bullet Band album called “Blue Ridge” ready to go in the late ’90s but scrapped it because he felt the sonics measured up to what he was hearing on the radio.
The final push, Seger notes, came from his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2004.
“It was kind of like, ‘Oh, man, now you’re in the Hall of Fame — (the album) better be pretty damn good!’ ” he says. “I don’t want to put some dog meat out there if I’m in the Hall of Fame — know what I mean?”
Being a family guy
What took 11 years? Blame Seger’s kids — although he doesn’t. Rather, he notes, son Cole, 13, and daughter Samantha, 11, became his muse.
“Everything changes when you have kids,” says Seger, who married his wife, the former Nita Dorricott, in 1993. “I like being around my kids, and I feel a certain responsibility to help my wife. We’ve never had a nanny — never. So we were there in the trenches, all the time.”
That’s included three years coaching fi rst base for Cole’s Little League team and driving Samantha to gymnastics classes — where he’d stay and watch rather than just dropping her off. Seger
opportunity to talk about taking them to see Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” or about sailing with Cole on Labor Day.
“The best times we have is when it’s just the four of us, in a different environment, and we interact as a family,” says Seger, whose own father, a musician, left his family when his youngest son was 12. “That’s when it tightens up.”
He never stopped writing songs, however, and it was inevitable that Seger’s children would make an impact to them — though not necessarily as their subjects.
“They we starting to get a little older and ask me questions,” he explains. “You start thinking about mature things and commercialism and ecology and politics and rampant consumerism and all this stuff.
“And you’re talking to your kids about it — ‘Yeah, you want this, you want that, but do you really need this?’ So a lot of the songs are, in a way, me talking to my kids and telling them what to look for.”
“Face the Promise,” he notes, is “the promise of America, the American dream” — a loose concept around which he wraps the album’s songs about ecology (“Between”), materialism (“Are You”), responsibility (“Won’t Stop”) and the pointed anti-war protest (“No More”). “Simplicity” was inspired by the Detroit Pistons’ 2005-06 season (“They were, like, 38-5 at the time I wrote the song, and they were doing it with team play, fundamentals,” Seger notes), while “Wreck This Heart” is a prototypical Seger working man’s lament — the “Beautiful Loser” getting tired of being a “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man.”
“The Long Goodbye” closes the album with a rumination about Alzheimer’s disease, though out of context the final line — “I wonder if it’s wise but I’m still here” — seems even more provocative.
“I never thought of that,” Seger says with a laugh. “That’s a good question!”
As the years dragged on some certainly wondered whether we’d ever see a new Seger album to let us know that he was indeed still with us.
“Bob is one of the most thorough and methodical artists I’ve ever worked with,” says David Cole, who’s been Seger’s main recording engineer for the past three decades. “He takes his job seriously. He agonizes over every single square inch of a record. He really wants to make sure he gets it right.”
Most of “Face the Promise” was recorded in Nashville with session players, although two of the songs — “Won’t Stop” and “The Long Goodbye” — were done at home with Seger playing most of the instruments. Seger considers the result to be “my first solo album,” though only by circumstance.
“The (Silver) Bullets aren’t on anything, so I thought I shouldn’t call it a Silver Bullet album,” says Seger, who’s routinely worked with players outside the band on his albums. “This is kind of like my ‘Full Moon Fever,’ ” he adds, citing Tom Petty’s first album without the Heartbreakers.
Working with the Nashville musicians, Seger notes, was simply “an expedient way of doing things.” “With the (Silver Bullet Band), I’d write the song, then I’d have to teach ’em the song here. Then we’d have to go (into the studio) and get a sound. ... All those steps were eliminated when I just used studio guys.
“I just walked in with a fresh song and, boom, four takes later it’s a monster. Eight takes later it’s either better or you go back to Take 4, or Take 2. It was very fast, and it would get me to the next step, which was singing them and mixing them and doing overdubs.”
“My hat’s off to him for having that tenacity and drive,” says engineer Cole. “The fact he fi nally came to a dozen songs he felt represented what he wanted to say after eight years of recording, this is a minor miracle — and a victory.”
“Face the Promise” also rocks, much more than the plaintive fi rst single, “Wait For Me,” indicates. It starts off with the Rolling Stones-style guitars of “Wreck This Heart” and keeps plenty of crunch in tracks such as “Between,” “Are You” and the funky “Simplicity.” A cover of Vince Gill’s Merle Hag gard tribute “Real Mean Bottle” with Kid Rock — with whom Seger shares manager Punch Andrews — is rowdy fun, and even mediumtempoed numbers such as “No Matter Who You Are” and “No More” boast a muscular kind of energy.
“Yeah, I was surprised,” Seger, who also duets on a track with country singer Patty Loveless, says with a laugh. “I listened to Tom Petty’s new album (‘Highway Companion’) and I put mine on and went, ‘Whoa...’ There’s no let-up on mine. It’s pretty relentless.
“But those were the best songs. We’ve got a bunch of ballads that didn’t make it. They’re not bad ballads, but these were just a little better, so we put ’em on. Why not use the best songs?”
Cole agrees, noting, “I’m glad he kept writing songs, let’s put it that way. There was a period where there were a lot of what Bob calls ‘mediums,’ which were certainly good Bob Seger songs. But this sounds to me like a great body of work that you’d love to go and see him play live.”
Seger plans to make a decision about touring soon, after some medical tests “to make sure I have the stamina to do it.”
He knows the demand for live shows is high, but for now he wants to revel in the fi nished album that’s been so long in coming.
“I had so much time to write, obviously, and I took the time to write and record a lot of songs,” he says. “I just enjoyed the process, and I tried to get it just a little tiny bit better each time. It’s very rewarding to be at this point, lemme tell ya.”
RAMBLIN' GAMBLIN' MAN
Bob Seger stepped out of the spotlight 11 years ago, when his “It’s a Mystery” tour closed June 21, 1996, at Pine Knob, and has made only rare appearances in it since. His most visible public moments in the interim include:
April 25, 1997 — Seger presents old friend and Eagles member Glenn Frey with a Distinguished Achievement Award at the Detroit Music Awards at the State Theatre in downtown Detroit. April 7, 1998 — Seger releases his fi rst-ever recorded duet, “Chances Are,” with country singer Martina McBride for the “Hope Floats” fi lm soundtrack. July 24, 2001 — Seger and the crew of his 53-foot sailboat Lightning win the Bacardi Bayview Mackinac Race from Port Huron to Mackinac Island. It was Seger’s first win in several attempts. July 15, 2002 — Seger and the Lightning crew win their second consecutive Bacardi Bayview Mackinac race. Nov. 4, 2003 — Seger releases “Greatest Hits 2,” featuring two new songs. March 15, 2004 — Seger is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Kid Rock at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Seger and the Silver Bullet Band perform “Turn the Page” and “Old Time Rock and Roll.” April 23, 2004 — Seger accepts a Detroit Music Award for Outstanding Anthology/Compilation/ Reissue at the State Theatre in downtown Detroit. Aug. 2, 2005 — Seger joins 3 Doors Down at DTE Energy Music Theatre for a performance of “Landing in London,” which he recorded with the band for its album “Seventeen Days.” Feb. 3-4, 2006 — Seger joins Kid Rock & Twisted Brown Trucker on stage at Joe Louis Arena for Super Bowl weekend performances of “Rock and Roll Never Forgets.”
While Bob Seger deliberates about going on tour to promote his new album, “Face the Promise,” fans will be able to catch him on TV. Seger and the Silver Bullet Band will perform the album’s fi rst single, “Wait For Me,” on Thursday — two days after the album’s release — on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” “We’ve been playing that about 10 times a day, every time we rehearse, ’cause we want it to be utterly second nature,” Seger says.
The group also is slated to perform Sept. 28 on ABC’s “The View.”
Some other Seger TV appearances are being considered, including “The Late Show with David Letterman” on CBS and a possible CMT “Crossroads” episode that would pair Seger with an admirer from the country music world.
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