After 10 years off the scene, an artist needs to drop something that shows he can still do it. This one completely reestablishes Bob as the Big Chief of the Nothern Lands. It's a feast for old Seger fans (like me) and a peek at some possible new roads in the old territory.
On this one Bob is a worried man. Worried about his responsibilities, worried about his freedom, worried about his country, worried about the future, even worried about his critics. I like hearing what he has to say. And I like his professionalism. The sheer amount of talent he brings to the table. Bob is still one of the best singers in the game-- and this time it sounds like he's added another color to his vocal toolbox; a kind of full-throated, well, croon. I like it. And I like listening to this CD. The little melodic turns that come back to haunt you. The lines that pop out at you (I like the one about the jungle now being a desert). And that ability to switch easily between rippin' rock and touching thoughtfulness. And listen to that duet with Kid Rock--nothing like a little friendly competition to bring out the best in these guys...
He's left a few things behind on this CD, but he's left himself a lot of new options. Now he can do anthing he wants. Go forward. Go back for revisits to favorite haunts.
A few years ago we got Dylan back. Now we've got Seger back. We're lucky to have him. We sure do need him.
Fontaine Brown's group, Doug Brown and the Omens, was important in Seger's early career and backed Seger on "East Side Story." Brown produced the record. -- The Seger File
I was born the week "Back in '72" was released. First week of 1973. I guess I first "discovered" Seger when we had "Stranger in Town" on 8-track upon its release in '78, and we played it pretty regularly for months.
Seger always sort of bounced around the edges of my musical consciousness. It was just after 9/11, I think around Thanksgiving of 2001, when I came across your site, and THAT'S when I started searching for the older albums.
This is a little off-the-cuff, but I wanted to put it together as soon as possible, especially since I picked up the disc on its release date.
I took a cue from your notes with "Ears Two" and just dashed down my thoughts on the first playing, then replayed the disc today and touched them up a bit.
First of all, the cover art struck me as soon as I saw it on the rack. I was expecting something a little darker, maybe because I already knew ahead of time that this album goes back to his hard-rock roots (which I am aware of, since I've tracked down nearly all of Bob Seger's LPs and singles from the pre-Bullet years).
The golden hue of the cover is both beautiful and telling. There's a storm behind him, but brilliant sunshine in front. I love the image of this; it's something I can relate to weatherwise as a Midwesterner, and also personally.
"Wreck This Heart"
Would fit right in on "Seven" or "The Distance," piledriving rock. Man, he can still hit some of the notes! The lyrics remind me of "Roll Me Away" from the "Distance" album. References to Robert Frost, great touch. We got Seger back, all right!
"Wait for Me"
First chords smack of "Night Moves" and "Against the Wind"... great chord progression in the intro. A classic "medium," but still has more kick than even a lot of the late '70s hits.
"Face the Promise"
Catchy beat, nice guitar hook. a great "Todd and Joe" tune (that's an "in joke" from my school days). A great radio tune, even in today's fractured radio climate... this would be a good single. The lyrics hearken to "Katmandu." Is he finally gonna make the move? I hear there's been unrest in Nepal this year.
"No Matter Who You Are"
Very "Segeresque" lyrics. One of the newest tracks, copyrighted 2006. This might honestly be the weakest link, can't think of a whole lot to say about it, but if it woke me up on my alarm clock, I'd let it play.
The toughest, meanest track yet. Background voice sounds spooky, almost digitalized (guess it really isn't 1978 anymore).
Nice touch with the line "I bust a move," just to show the kids that he hasn't been in a coma for the past decade! This definitely sounds like the man who gigged 300 nights a year back in the day. Maybe the best vocal so far... interesting Stax-like horn lines, somewhat rare on a Seger record. I especially like the "Mmmm..." at the end.
Great to hear the acoustic guitar on the intro. This is poetry: "2+2=?," four decades on. Something tells me you won't hear this on Clear Channel stations. This made me misty on the first play, which hasn't happened since a few weeks after 9/11. The vocal on the chorus brings to mind "Something Like," from the end of the "Brand New Morning," though that'll be lost on 96% of your readers! A beautiful track, indeed. Now I KNOW he's still got it. I'd call this my personal favorite.
"Real Mean Bottle"
The only cover on the CD, and I bet the Kid was seriously pumped to do a track with his hero! A good rock interpretation on a country tune, written by Vince Gill. Makes me believe Kid Rock picked out the tune to dedicate to Seger. Killer ending!
The melody reminds me of some of his really early albums, "the stuff nobody knows," although the lyrics definitely have the taste of thirty-five extra years of wisdom. I like the reference to the comet turning to dust; I know Seger's into astronomy like I am. Musically, this could almost fit on "Brand New Morning" or possibly "Mongrel."
"You'll know that it's just another show." What Seger classic is that line reminding me of? Can't place it... Interesting recording trick on the bridge, where his voice sounds electronically distorted. Great to hear songs with an actual bridge in them; it's almost a lost art in pop/rock music these days.
"Answer's in the Question"
I ain't much for country, but this is a fine duet, with some very pregnant lines which foreshadow the last track. Especially the last verse: "How will I be remembered?/Will my critics be unkind?/The answer's in the question/You must leave this all behind." It carries the voice of a man in a relationship, but it changes into a statement about his career, in my ears.
"The Long Goodbye"
I figured this would move me "sound unheard," and there's an unfathomable sadness in this one. On the last line, "But I'm still here," you can actually hear his voice break. Again, it takes the "vehicle" of singing to a partner or a wife, but there's a real sense that he's speaking to us fans as well. For someone who's typically been upbeat and positive the great majority of his life and career, this is one of the saddest songs in Seger's annals. Amazing that "Question" was recorded five years before "Goodbye," because they fit together so neatly.
My most succinct advice would be for all Seger fans to enjoy this to the marrow, because I feel it's highly probable that this will be the last full album the man ever releases; look how long it was in coming. Even if it is his farewell, though, this is a worthy way to depart. The leanest, meanest album he's done since before "Live Bullet" broke him through, with the lyrics to match. For those who can't or won't get their hands on the early albums, this listen is probably about as close as they can come.
Worth the wait? I'll say that answer's in the question.
[...a few days later]
"You Know Who You Are"
THAT was the song that "Between" reminded me of. "You know that it's just another show" made me think of an older song... and it was, "But in the end, it's just another show" from "You Know Who You Are" on the "BNM" album.
I KNEW I'd heard that somewhere from Seger before. Hell, I'm no genius, I just have a halfway decent memory. I'm slipping, really; it shouldn't have taken me five days to find this, even without playing any of the older albums.
I put on my tape of "Brand New Morning" last Monday, and man, did I enjoy that. That's the greatest album in the world to play when spring is starting. I still have to fight tears when I hear the line from "Railroad Days" about keeping records in old loose-leaf notebooks, because I used to do exactly the same thing when I was 10. I still know where mine are today, too. Even if Seger's acoustic guitar was a little out of tune, that's a special album, and still worth every dollar of the $100 I paid for it.
Just one word.... WOW.
No wait...a few other thoughts too.
Maybe I'm over reacting but this just hits me as a defining album...one that is the crown jewel of a great artist's career. EVERY cut is a gem. I hated the wait, but now feel that it was, unquestionably, worth every year.
As I listen to Face the Promise, I find a nostalgic quality in that it's my all-time favorite artist cranking out great music that is unique and new. It's nostalgic in that it reminds me of my younger years and racing home from the record store to put a new Seger vinyl platter on my turntable (70s high-tech, quartz-locked of course!) to hear the new tunes.
Bob Seger was the first rock artist I ever saw in concert way back in 1972 and from that moment forward I was a fan. His energy and enthusiasm won me over 34 years ago and Face the Promise does nothing to diminish the infectiousness of his music. In fact, it only takes it to the highest levels he has ever achieved.
I'll be the first to admit, I'm totally and completed biased. I love Bob Seger's music and I'm busting with pride over this album (like I had anything to do with it!) I sort of feel like one of those people that can say "I knew Bob Seger when " Well, okay, I've never met the man but I do know his music and I was one of the ones on the bandwagon BEFORE Live Bullet and I'm not even from DEE-TROIT, Michigan where the rock fans were obviously way ahead of the rest of us.
From the rockin' of Wreck This Heart, to the fun of the duets with Kid Rock and Patty Loveless, to the sentimentality of The Long Goodbye and Wait for Me, I'm just blown away by the album. There's so much that's familiar in its sound and as comfortable as an old pair of sneakers, and then there's just as much that's unlike anything I've ever heard Seger produce before.
Wreck This Heart is CLASSIC and the best of an incredible lot in my opinion. It's a rocker in a category with Lucifer and few other songs that Seger or anyone else has ever produced. I knew all was right with the world when I played the album the first time and before a word is sung, there are two of Seger's signature "huts" in the first 10 seconds of Wreck this Heart.
I could walk through the track list and give you a rundown of my thoughts on every song, but I won't. I'm just a fan with no musical ability whatsoever. I just know what I like. EVERY song is terrific and I believe this may well become Seger's biggest album ever --and with it will come a new legion of young fans who are gonna realize that us old folks have some pretty good taste in rock music!
I was frustrated waiting for the new album, thinking it just might never happen but I can say unequivocally that it was worth every YEAR of waiting. Face the Promise is, to me, the crown jewel of a remarkable career that epitomizes uncompromising hard work. If Bob Seger never makes another album, his place in Rock 'n' Roll history is solid, like well, a rock.
I can't wait to see Bob and the Silver Bullet Band perform these tunes in concert.
Bob if you read this, thank you for the fantastic music you've made. You can never know the joy I've derived from every album and every song (and I've got 'em all, at least the ones that have been issued.) Don't you think it's time for a career retrospective boxed set?
Here's my attempt at a balanced review of Face the Promise. I'd give the album a "B" overall. It's better than most Seger albums but not up to, say, Live Bullet or Beautiful Loser.
Wreck This Heart
Kicks ass right out of the gate. That's a good thing in general and an especially good thing in this case, considering the lyrics and the age of the singer. (When a 61-year-old man talks about wrecking a heart -- his own, no less -- it's enough to make you wonder what rhymes with defibrillator.)
Wait For Me
A beautiful song for those of us who loved "Fire Lake" and "Against the Wind." This was the perfect choice to put Seger back on the map and I'm very happy that it was the first single. One thing I don't get, though: "If it only means something to me?" I'm guessing "If it means something only to me" is what Seger intended.
Face the Promise
A solid rocker, no doubt about it. This is the sort of thing Springsteen used to do a lot -- even though it's a pretty good bet neither Bruce nor Bob have any recent first-hand experience with being " down in the delta, workin' these fields / Breakin' my back ". It'll play well in arenas if (when?) Seger tours. Actually, it may be a little awkward because it features shout-outs for places unlikely to be on any tour schedule: Olean. North Dakota. "Alabam" (sic).
No Matter Who You Are
A fine tune with almost uniformly mopey lyrics. The last two lines save it (barely) from being maudlin.
I don't like this cut much at all. It's bombastic in all the wrong ways; there's too much of everything. The free-form gospel-like backup vocals often bring to mind a cat whose tale was just stepped on.
The first line includes the phrase, "It works for me," and that's what this song does. Seger's voice has often been nicely paired with a horn or two and it sounds terrific with three saxes, a trumpet and trombone in the mix. There's a slightly annoying too-repetitive guitar figure lurking in the background, but everything else about this song works superbly and reminds me of the best stuff Blood Sweat & Tears did with David Clayton-Thomas.
This may not be the catchiest song Seger's ever written, but I give it high marks for the war-weary lyrics alone.
Real Mean Bottle
Rollicking good fun, Lynyrd Skynyrd-style. The band's hot as can be, and Seger's in fine form. Kid Rock's vocals don't seem to add much and I can't help but wonder if this might have been even better if it wasn't a duet. (Then again, from what I've read, it was Kid who pushed the tempo.)
Not a bad song, but it seems a little thin -- maybe because Seger apparently played every instrument himself, except for drums. In the Seger File "Vault" review of this track a few months ago, your friend "Ears" said a jarring guitar solo was practically unlistenable. It's not that bad, but it's not among Seger's better solos.
One of my favorites from this album, this song is relentless. That's also the only negative: It may be a hair too long. Hey, there are worse problems to have than too much of a good song!
The Answer's In the Question
Why on earth is this a duet with Patty Loveless (who I like, by the way)? "Sharing" the lyrics dilutes the impact of an elder statesman asking, "How will I be remembered? Will my critics be unkind?" Bad idea, interesting words.
The Long Goodbye
Somehow, despite the title, this seems like an odd choice for the album closer. But it is a touching song on a tough topic (Alzheimer's).
It'll be interesting to see what the four "bonus" tracks are when the expanded version is released, and whether the sequencing of these 12 is handled differently.
A final thought: The cover and liner note pictures are too Harley-intensive (four of five include the bike, and the other is just a close-up of a guitar neck with no Bob in the frame).
Bob Seger on a Harley. Threatening skies and wheat fields rolling off to the horizon. It's an iconic image that encompasses everything we think we know about the man. He's the heartland's storyteller. He's the blue collar, Midwest rebel. 25 years later he's still charging against the wind.
That's what I thought the first time I saw the cover art for Seger's new album Face the Promise. That's what I thought when I heard "Wait for Me" -- the leadoff single. It was Bob doing Bob and to be frank, I was disappointed. Keyboards leading the melody line and backup singers wailing plaintively on every chorus -- I had heard it all before and I wanted more.
Ah, but there's the rub. I had only heard one song. I had only seen the photo. Context is everything.
The context began with the glass-pack crunch of J.T. Corenflos' guitar licks on the opening track "Wreck this Heart", and wound on through the lyrics and melodies of what, in my opinion, is Seger's strongest album in nearly 25 years.
At first I was just so pleased to hear him rockin' again. For a man who ripped through freight-train classics like "Ramblin Gamblin Man", "Katmandu" and "Get Out of Denver", Seger's more recent efforts have reflected a middle-of-the-road sensibility. Don't get me wrong. Tunes like "Roll Me Away" and "Real Love" are brilliant, but as much as I love singing along to both of them, nothing gets me energized like sides three and four of Live Bullet. That was the gutty, in-your-face Bob Seger that hooked me all those years ago and that is the same guy I hear coming through loud and clear in songs like the title track "Face the Promise" and the afore-mentioned "Wreck this Heart". By the time you get to "Are You" and hear Shaun Murphy's amazing vocal accents, I defy any Seger fan to tell me this isn't the CD they've been waiting for. And by the way, Murphy's sexy growls and echoed phrasing prove that she has learned at the feet of the man who practically invented rock vocal ad libs.
After a mid-tempo, Come to Papa-style song called "Simplicity", the album appears to take a left turn with the anti-war (or is that anti-Bush?) "No More". The lush string arrangement and the syncopated work of Nashville session drummer extraordinaire Eddie Bayers give it an historic, protest song feel. The lyrics remind us that forty years after Vietnam, the only thing that's really changed is the backdrop. Good men are still coming home in flag-draped coffins and 2+2 still equals what the hell are we fighting for?
If "No More" is a hard left, then "Real Mean Bottle" is a hairpin turn. Vince Gill's honky-tonk tribute to Merle Haggard is now a barrelhouse rocker complete with Kid Rock doing his best Seger vocal fills.
The last four songs of the CD include the spare and haunting "The Answer's in the Question" (a duet with country star Patti Loveless) and the staunch and chugging "Between" a wake-up call to the self-obsessed.
In true Seger fashion, I listened to the album exclusively on a weekend of road trips -- first with my 16-year-old son and then with my wife of 22 years (on our anniversary no less). We had our first date at a Seger show in Toronto in 1983 and since then, I can't really get a sense of a Seger CD or record without her close by.
So with my wife behind the wheel I finally got to listen to the songs and read the lyrics. I was reminded of an interview Seger did during the press for The Distance. He was talking about "Little Victories" and the break up that inspired the song. He told the reporter that a long drive was his favourite way to resolve issues between him and his partner. My wife and I have followed that advice successfully for nearly a quarter century.
So as I was remembering our many midnight drives and looking at the photo of Seger on the cover of Face the Promise, it hit me like a (silver) bullet. Bob's pissed at the state of the union and he's asking us to join him on a road trip to sort things out. On the journey you'll feel the anger of wasted lives and taste the bitter avarice of a society caught up in material gain. There's a chance that the things you see could wreck your heart but there's also a chance you could find your very own El Dorado along the way.
Travel has been a constant theme in Seger's best work - from the more literal Travellin' Man to the soaring beauty of Roll Me Away. Face the Promise lives up to that theme and, if it turns out to be the last album from the man who gave Michigan rock and roll to the world, it's a bookend worthy of a Hall of Fame career.
An album of wisdom and introspection...Only one complaint: There are no fluid moments on this record where Seger holds his listeners spellbound,(i.e.,Night Moves, Brave Strangers, Like A Rock, The Long Way Home, West of the Moon). Instead Seger seems to have deliberately chosen to pack Face the Promise with as much wisdom and observation as he can--almost as if his REAL audience is his posterity. That's not how he captured his fans. Night Moves and Brave Strangers are timeless because he spontaneously sang about a single moment.
Nevertheless the album works for me. The heavy power chords, the pounding war drums, the thundering bass and the GIRLS---all of it plays great when played loud.
I'm forty-seven years old and I found myself head banging again like I was eighteen.
I LOVE the Seger snarls! They are back! I'll wager Seger opens his shows with Wreck this Heart. What do you think?
Wait For Me while I try to catch up...I'm now listening to Face The Promise for the third time. Can't get enough...It's Simplicty, but much more than that if you listen Between the lines. It's pure Seger. And, as far as I'm concerned Seger is sounding better than ever. His voice has a maturity to it that makes me want to listen deeper, more carefully, then ever before.
The old Seger comes through with the driving rock that we all love. He doesn't miss a beat or a chord. What could be better? I'll tell you what's better...the lyrics. Once again he makes you want to listen to what it is he's singing about. Over time I'm certain there will be more memorable lines like "wish I didn't know know what I didn't know then". Just wait and see..."When the truth comes closing in"...just may make it. The Anwer's In The Question.
Okay, so I'm a true Seger fan. That means I'm going to give a positive review. Some of that is because that's what a true fan would do. But, the most important part of my postive review is because his new album deserves a GREAT review.
One trait of a great performer is having the ability to consistently produce more great stuff. Seger has done it time and time again over the past forty years. While listening to Face The Promise I kept feeling like I'd heard the music before but, I knew I had not heard the lyrics before. Don't jump to the conclusion the music is the same...it isn't. Yet the sound is true Seger. Hope that makes sense to you...No Matter Who You Are, if you like rock you'll like this album.
It really doesn't matter if you are an old fan or a brand new fan. I can't comprehend how anyone that enjoys rock music wouldn't love the driving beat, the clever lyrics, the deep meaning, the range, the feeling and everything else Bob has wrapped up in his new album Face The Promise.
Now Bob needs to take his new album on the road, dang we need to hear he's going on tour. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind...he'd be playing to sold out audiences across the country.
Lastly, Wreck This Heart, Wait For Me, No Matter Who You Are, Won't Stop and The Answer's In The Question have "hit" written all over them...
Eleven years. I have waited eleven years for Bob Seger to release new material. I still remember buying his last CD, "It's a Mystery" on cassette at Strawberries in Peabody (it is now a Kabloom), November 2, 1995. The sun shone bright, but it was in the 40's and winter whispered, "I am coming." I loaded the tape in the cassette player of my '91 Civic and blasted my favorite song, "I can't save you Angeline" as loud as the tinny stereo would tolerate, and let Seger's voice carry the car along the highway.
It was one hundred percent worth the wait.
This is Seger's best album since "Stranger in Town." Cruising down route 95 from Newbury to Salem, listening to his new CD "Face the Promise" set to (7) or so on the volume, Bob is back, maybe better than ever. His voice is in fine form. The duet with Kid Rock ("Real mean Bottle") is great! It moves along at a "It's Saturday night and I am putting on a good buzz, dancing, drinking, and getting laid" pace." Kid Rock lets Seger drive the car on this song, and his accompanying vocal is subdued and complementary. The duet with Patty Loveless on "The Answer's in the Question" matches her sweetness with Seger's husky voice as they sing the "look in the mirror" lyrics. Always a proponent of peace over power, the anti-war "No More" is my current favorite. "Wait for me" makes the hair on my arms stand straight up and goose bumps rise and fall on my skin.
Listen to the album that starts with a bang, builds to a crescendo, and brings the listener back home.
"Simplicity it works for me" states Seger on track number six. Amen to that Bob. And even if this album is his swan song (Track twelve is "The Long Goodbye"), it's a beauty.
It is such an amazing album... I think what most of the songs say to me is that Seger is getting back to his roots, Singing about political situations, Singing about the things that matters in peoples lives. I have read in some of the reviews that Seger gave up some of his power in the mid eighties to be "popular" But the new Album restores all the power of Persecution Smith and 2+2 it is absolutely amazing. Im not a big fan of Patty Loveless so Im just going to ignoring that song for now, but if the country stations play it and get some of the more country oriented people to buy the album and they listen to the words of the rest of the songs, I think that this can be as important a political expression for Seger as "2+2" , "Leanin on my Dreams" and "Looking back" were back during the Vietnam era.
So I sat here all night, listening to the album over and over again, posting my brief reviews of each song over on the Segernet site....eating my pork chops and listening to the songs, some over and over again (and some not)...can't believe it's finally here. My overall feeling....4 out of 5 stars, a great effort, some killer rockers and mid tempo ballads, some SERIOUSLY different sounds for a Seger album, a very modern feel to it, but a slightly slow ending like on 'The Distance'. Don't quite get why I'm not on board like everyone else is for 'Face the Promise' (the song), I just feel it's a bit redundant musically and not my favorite, but I will give it credit and it DOES rock, so that's a good thing...really like 'Wreck this Heart' like everyone else cuz it just SMOKES...GREAT opening song and lets you know the album is gonna have some energy to it...'No More' sounds like an interesting narrative story to me and is one of my favorites....'Wait for me' is fantastic both visually and as a song, as you pointed out, a very Seger like mid tempo song and one that takes me back to other albums with songs similar. The Kid Rock duet on 'Mean little bottle' kicks ass and I hope they work together again...the Patty Loveless duet didn't go as far for me and I think the Martina McBride/Seger duet on 'Chances Are' was a HELLUVA lot better....Overall, the album really had some surprises on it for me and I just hope we don't have to wait another 11 years for his next effort...and I don't think we will...
Have to wonder if he had'nt pulled two tracks from this album to put on GH 2 ('Satisfied' and 'Tomorrow') how they would've fit in?
I think we need to push Punch and Seger now to get the video for 'Live Bullet' out on the market before the film rots away to nothing...seriously.
The Phase-Techs in the living room are history. Damn it, Bob. I really loved those speakers. I guess I love your new CD more.
Face the Promise is loud, passionate, smart, rocking, and intimate. It does what a Seger album should do -- it shows his amazing breadth as a songwriter, musician and performer. And it does was a great album must do -- it goes straight into your chest and your feet and your heart, and stays there.
The only thing missing is a consumer label. WARNING: This album produces extremely high euphoria levels. And it may destroy your speakers.
Wreck this Heart
It's hard to imagine a better lead-off track than "Wreck this Heart." It bursts out of the gate with a kick of the bass drum and snap of the snare. (Indeed, seven of the 12 tracks start with a drum intro.)
After that, the guitars rule. The song just demands volume, and when the bass kicks in under the first chorus, you simply cannot sit still. The song just radiates joy. If I ever slip into a coma, use this track to test my vital signs. If I'm not smiling by the time the chorus comes, pull the plug, honey, 'cause I'm gone.
A+ for the lyrics. Another early winter Michigan storm. A good long ride on your rodeo.
Some minutia: Does anybody else hear that little hint of "Lock and Load" in the deep bass guitar fill early on?
Ten out of ten stars. Scratch that. A zillion out of ten stars.
Wait for Me
Who could have imagined that a Seger Medium this good was yet to come? I thought the genre was played out, then this totally surprised me. From the opening, I knew the song was great. By the bridge -- "I will fight for the right to go over that hill" -- I knew it was more than great.
But it's the chorus at the end that really hooks me: The way they hit the word "Me" in the last two "Wait for me's," and Seger's wail in between. When the volume is high and I'm paying attention, the ending gives me chills.
In some of his radio interviews, Seger has sounded as enthusiastic as a kid over that fact that he's also singing background with Laura Creamer and Shaun Murphy.
I got a huge kick out of that. He doesn't say "That's me singing lead!" He says, "I'm singing backup, too!" But now I can see why. "Wait for Me" is a contender for Best Use of Backup Singers Ever -- although "No Matter Who You Are" gives it a strong run for the money.
Seger loves to create these lush layers of sound, and form them into a pocket for his voice. Here it sounds terrific. A zillion out of ten stars.
Face the Promise
From the instant it blasts out of the gate, you feel the urgency and the joy and the determination. The cymbol work! The guitar! The way Seger bites off the words! And the lyrics: I've been down in the delta. These nothing nights. There's a line inside I think I've crossed.
The intensity of this song just stuns me. How does Seger connect with these feelings of yearning, of desire? How does he remember, at 61, how it feels to be young and hungry? Somehow, he gives us the actual feeling, 100 percent pure and unfiltered.
I want to mainline "Face the Promise", to get in my bloodstream. From the opening guitar to the amazing cymbal ring-out, every molecule is perfect. A zillion out of ten stars.
(Trivia corner: Does anyone remember Seger singing of a promised land before? Stumped? Then get out the most underrated Seger album you own and listen to the first track.)
No Matter Who You Are
I overlooked this song at first. As the number four track, it sits in the shadow of "Face of Promise" where any track could get overlooked.
Then, someone from the music business suggested that "No Matter Who You Are" would have made a good single, maybe even better than "Wait for Me." I started listening to the song with new ears. And sure enough, I heard what I'd been missing.
First of all, the music is tremendously upbeat and catchy. Listen to this track on its own a few times in a row and it'll be playing in your head all day.
And it builds. Two and a half minutes in, the backup singers kick the song into the stratosphere. Seger takes it down for a verse, and then they come back. The way they play off Seger's voice knocks me out all over again.
I think what kept this from being the single is the subject matter. The idea that the world has a way of corrupting things, of taking what's pure and killing it with greed -- that's not quite as uplifting as "straight to your side, I guarantee," from "Wait for Me." Seger seems to realize this, saying, "Don't let it bring you down."
"No Matter Who You Are" is also a song full of aural references. The vibrato guitar chord that starts the fifth measure carries a hint of the Cranberry's hit, "Dreams."
More obvious is the "Night Moves" chop in some of the chord changes. And the "Night Moves" structure is there at the end. Hear it? The song goes quiet, Seger sings earnestly over strummed guitar, a drum crescendo takes us into the girl singers, who sing out the name of the song, followed by a Seger wail. It's not a bad thing -- in fact, I like the reference. And it's right for the song, which is all that matters.
I love the opening lines the idea that no matter how good you are, or what you do, there will always be someone who wants more (the way, I suppose, that we fans always want more from Seger.)
Some of the lines remind me of past songs. Seger has wailed "And start again" before ("Lock and Load"). In fact, trying again to get things right is a motif both of his career (the albums that he's set aside and started over) and his songwriting. He is often concerned with sorting out, as he once put it "what happens when you do it wrong and when you do it right." In "Roll Me Away," he is sure or at least hopeful that "Next time / we'll get it right."
And "this great big town" connects to both the unreleased "Crossfire" ("Things are breaking down, in this great big town") and "Manhattan" -- both songs about death and drugs. In those songs, the great big town was New York (or in "Crossfire," maybe Detroit). Here it's bigger -- it seems to mean the contemporary American world.
Seger has said "No Matter Who You Are" was inspired by Joni Mitchell's Dog Eat Dog. I'm a huge Joni Mitchell fan, but like a lot of folks, I found Dog Eat Dog to be highly inaccessible. The fact that Seger was inspired by the song tells me he is completely serious in his appreciation of Joni Mitchell.
Despite owning the album, I have no memory of the song whatsoever. When I went back to read the lyrics, I found this:
You can see how Mitchell's line -- "all that is genuine will be scorned and conned and cast away" -- might connect with Seger's -- "Discover something pure, then sit and watch it die."
Seger has also said "I was thinking about the world my kids will face and questioning my own career decisions and desires" when he wrote the song. I wonder what career decisions was he thinking about and how deep the questioning goes. I don't really need an answer. Just by raising the subject, Seger gets me to pay attention to my own life and my own decisions.
What more can you want from a song? A zillion out of ten stars.
Short answer -- no, I'm not. I've really tried to like this song, and there are parts of it that I do like, specifically the bridge. "This is a whole new faith, almost like a new religion. The lights are always on, the doors are never locked." Seger's howl is perfect. And there are many great lines -- "most of what we're told is misdirection."
I hear a very smart songwriter at work. And the snarl at 3:09 is priceless.
What I don't hear is the joy. All right, the song is a critique of modern culture, so maybe emotions like joy don't really figure into it.
I'd go so far as to say that the four tracks that precede "Are You" all come from the heart. "Are You" comes from the head. It's based on an idea, not an emotion. Nothing wrong with that. But, smart as Seger is, I like him best when his heart is exposed.
No problem. I've got four copies of the real CD in my house, so I feel empowered to burn one more for my car, where I do most of my listening.
On the Face the Promise: Mazda ReMix, the track list is slightly different. "Are You" has been replaced by "Red Eye to Memphis." Now you got me howling at the moon. A zillion out of ten stars (for "Red Eye to Memphis.")
It's alive. It's got a deep, deep groove. Here is where Seger's ability to create a lush wall of sound really shines. He creates this huge pocket of sound all around the vocal, and then he gets in the middle of it and totally takes command. It shows off his mastery of the form.
The lyrics, I have to say, don't send me. It's almost like a new genre -- the self-help song. In "Won't Stop," when Seger sings "you can drink from the bottle, no ice and no glass," I see the bottle. I even see the room around the bottle and the person holding it. When he sings "keep your focus on your goal," I see well, I see the groove. There are no word pictures, no story arc. The fact that it was written for the Pistons neither helps nor hurts.
Like "Are You," it's a song about an idea, rather than a song about an emotion. But there are ten tons of emotion in that groove. Half a billion stars out of ten.
It's been said before, but let's say it again right here, straight out: Bob Seger wrote the first anti-war rock song ever.
Dylan and others were already singing folk songs protesting the war. But in 1968, Seger took the message to rock and roll, with "2+2=?" And he released it, front and center, as a single.
Put it another way: Steve Earle, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Neil Young and all the others who have rocked against war since are following a path that started with Seger and "2+2=?"
I'm not saying these other artists copied or were inspired by or even knew about "2+2" necessarily. I'm simply saying it should surprise no one to hear Seger sing about the war in Iraq -- especially considering that "2+2" was later followed by "Leanin' On My Dream" and "Lookin' Back" and a host of other songs with a social conscious.
What's fascinating is how much has changed since Seger started the genre. "2+2" was a shouted challenge, a full-throated roar of heat and defiance. "No More" is a wiser, calmer song. Roy Orbison strings have replaced the angry guitar. In place of assertions ("it's the rules, not the soldiers, who are my real enemies") Seger asks questions -- are you sorry how it's worked out, are you sorry about men who died because of your mistakes. He asks these questions in an almost gentle way. The anger and the accusation are there if you want them, but you have to look for them in the lyrics.
That strikes me as extremely smart. Times have changed since 1968. We were polarized then, true, but not like today. The establishement was still in power, and to be heard at all you had to shout.
Today, everyone's shouting -- and we're all sick of it. Raising these issues the way he does -- with strings, with a melody -- seems to me like the smartest thing he could have possibly done.
And yet there are similarities between the songs. "No More" starts out with questions and ends with "someday you'll be ordered to explain."
"2+2" gives us, "I just want a simple answer."
And both songs speak of truth and lies ("well if he died to save your lies,"and "a billion waves won't wash the truth away.")
The vocals, in Seger's final phrase, have a tone that reminds me of the ending of "Little Drummer Boy." And in the closing line, there is an unspoken reference. It's unspoken because it's only in my head. That's as it should be -- once Seger releases a song into the wild, it lives in my head -- differently, perhaps, than it lives in yours. I hear it this way: I have had enough no more. Two plus two is still four.
A half billion out of ten stars.
Real Mean Bottle
Kick-ass, house-shaking, lighting-up-the-whole-feakin'-world rock and roll! No song ever sounded so joyful or made me feel so glad to be alive.
This is it, man: you take this song off the album, and it's not the same album. Some songs you could trade out, maybe. Not this one. "Real Mean Bottle" is a huge, red-blooded heart pumping joy into everything within a ten-mile radius. The vocals!?! Why even try to describe them? The music? Kid Rock is seeming like a production genius. And that second guitar solo?!? -- shades of Blue Miller scorching the speakers with his "School Teacher" solo.
This song is a flat-out miracle. A zillion zillion stars.
From a song where drinking is almost celebrated, Seger goes to a song about addiction and alcoholism. Putting these songs side by side is itself an amazing act.
And "Won't Stop" is as intimate as "Bottle" is raucous. Like "Bottle," this song feels absolutely essential to the album. It's open, and honest and personal, and to my ears it might just be the best song on the album. I am forced revise my list of Top Ten Seger songs, and maybe my Top Five.
The songwriting is brilliantly evocative -- "there's always a chance you can stand in the spotlight and not have to dance." I know it's supposed to be about addiction, but I think it transcends that, particularly with its lines about tryants and kings and comets and dust.
For me, "Won't Stop" traces a line back to Brand New Morning, when we first heard Seger alone in our living room, strumming his guitar, revealing his heart. Since then, he's mastered the form.
I love all the other songs on Face the Promise, but who knows. Maybe in ten years I'll be tired of them. Not this one. "Won't Stop" is beyond stars.
Man, did this song flip for me. I hated it at first. Well, maybe hate's too strong a word. But I hit the skip button whenever it came up. I just didn't get it. Big drums. Shouted lyrics. Scolding message. Huh?
I was especially puzzled when Ears Two said it was his favorite track on Face the Promise. Then, Seger said it might be his favorite track, too. When that happened, I had to go back and re-listen. My conclusion: Big drums. Shouted lyrics. Scolding message. Huh?
What finally did it for me was darkness. I was driving home late one night and I played the song around 11 p.m. And it just came alive. It was like one of those weird Escher prints -- my perspective totally flipped and there it was right in front of me. The grove, the power, the lyrics.
I particularly love the end, with its Quackenbush-like guitar and its "I Am The Walrus" layers. "Between" makes me want to buy very expensive speakers, so I can hear every element that's built into the ending.
I listened to the track again the next morning, and some of the power was gone. Honestly. "Between" is a beast that comes out at night. Nothing wrong with that.
A half a billion stars.
The Answer's in the Question
I can't make up my mind about "Answer's in the Question," and it's because of the darn Vault. I listened to "Answer's" in the Vault four years ago. As I wrote later, the track I heard that day was very spare, "with no back-up singers, no big swell of music -- just Seger, his voice slightly haunted and very powerful." It was darker than the version on Face the Promise; the feelings of loss and despair were stronger. It was probably too dark, in fact, for a lot of tastes. But I loved it.
The released version loses some of its emotional power simply because it's a duet. Take a song like "Real Mean Bottle" -- bring in an extra voice and the joy is doubled. Two people having a blast is more fun than one person having a blast. That's because joy is meant to be shared; the more the merrier.
But despair and doubt are solitary emotions. An extra voice waters them down. So I keep wanting to hear "Answer's" as I heard it before -- one to one, from Seger's heart to mine.
At the same time, it seems stupid to compare the song to an unreleased version. A better question is, what would I think of the track if I had never heard the Vault version? And then it gets circular, because if you have to ask...well, you see where I'm going.
Bottom line. Great song. Not my favorite version. On the Mazda ReMix version, I've sandwiched it between "Satisfied" and "Tomorrow." Any songs sound great in that neighborhood.
A million out of ten stars.
The Long Goodbye
This track has the one-to-one, Seger-strumming-in-your-living room warmth that I miss in "Answer's." That intimacy totally makes the song for me.
Knowing that Seger wrote it about Alzheimer's doesn't particularly add to my appreciation. In fact, I kind of need to forget that in order to let my version of the song grow. My version, the way it lives in my head, is that the song is just about the distance between people, and they way we close it, and yet the way it is ultimately still there. There are some lines from Joni Mitchell's "Coyote" that I bet Seger knows which I associate with this:
That's what we are, all of us: stations in some relay. And "The Long Goodbye" takes me there: I don't know if it makes any sense, Seger says, but here I am, I'm still here. It's about the need to connect and the faith behind that need.
I was desperately hoping that he would end the album with another song that I heard in the Vault -- "All Brand New," a song with a similar in-your-living-room feel. But "The Long Goodbye," in its own way, is nearly as good. A zillion stars.
So there it is. I've written more than I intended to write. I've listened to the album every day for almost three weeks, trying to let the songs blossom and to understand what I felt. My feelings about certains songs have changed during that time; they'll probably change again. But I feel solid about my conclusion.
Face the Promise is the album we've been waiting for. Buy it, play it, live it. But guard your speakers.
First off, I bought my first copy over iTunes, because I couldn't wait the 15 minutes it would have taken me to get to the store. Then, once I finished listening to it, I stopped by the store to get a real copy before heading off to rehearsal. I also bought a copy for my Mom. I lent one copy to 2 different friends, who, after listening to the first track, both said they were going to buy their own copy. Something tells me Face the Promise will have no trouble going platinum.
Wreck This Heart
God, how I missed that sound. What a way to start off such a long-awaited album. THUD! BOOM! GRIND! Everybody get out of the way, there's a freight train coming through, and Seger's driving! I've always said that it's the beat, as well as the voice, that makes Seger's music so addictive to listen to. While other bands concentrated so much on the rock, Seger was always able to supply plenty of roll. Listen to the build in bridge between "Travelin' Man" and "Beautiful Loser" off of 'Live' Bullet to hear what I mean. This track is no different. It has you pounding the air with your fist by the first chorus.
Wait For Me
Another fantastic "Seger medium," to quote a certain website author. I thought Bruce Hornsby had returned to work on another Seger album when I heard the keyboard on the beginning of the track, but saw that it was another familiar face, Billy Payne. And, speaking of familiar faces, how 'bout those girls, Laura Creamer and Shaun Murphy? Could it be a Seger album without them? The session musicians Seger dug up out of Nashville did very well copying the hard sound of Tim Mitchell's guitar, as well as a decent horn arrangement on later tracks to compensate for an absent Alto Reed, but no one could replace the backup singers any more than they could replace Seger. It was very wise to use them on the album.
Face the Promise
Thus end the singles, and thus begin the album tracks. Though I'd put this song in the bottom half of the album if I had to rank it, at the same time I identify with it. A little over 4 years ago, I was giving up my own small-town lifestyle in Ohio in order to chase a dream in L.A. It makes sense to put this song early in the album, as Seger quickly grows more cynical as the album progresses. Also, I think this song shows a touch of the influence Seger must have felt recording in Nashville. That repeating low-end guitar riff sounds a little twangy...or is it that country music has copied so much of Segerian-style rock that the two have become indiscernable? After all, it only takes a little tweaking to make the chorus of this song sound just like the chorus of "Rite of Passage."
No Matter Who You Are
So THAT'S what the bottom keys on a piano are for. God, those thundering chords are awesome! Basic, simple, pounded out to anchor themselves in your head for the rest of the day after you listen to it. This is the first track that convinced me that Seger still had the chops to sing a ballad beautifully. He sounds completely unafraid to go higher in his register than he did on "It's A Mystery," and the payoff is spectacular. I think Seger put himself in kind of the same place that he was in during the writing of "Stranger In Town," which is my favorite album. Except this time, rather than writing with the cynicism of being trapped within a jaded industry, he writes with the straightforwardness of someone who's detached enough to be completely honest with you. This is a song Warren Zevon could have written, though only Seger could perform it.
Whoah. Lookit Shaun Murphy go! OK, so Seger's not going country on us. Instead, he's gotten his backup singer to sing gospel over a telephone while the band crunches out another great rocker. When Seger said in the 90's that he was writing music to have a big beat, this had to be what he had in mind. Also, this track convinced me that this could be Seger's most contemporary album since the 80's. Rather than limiting himself to a single niche, say, the one that would satisfy the 2 million or so people that always buy his albums, he's allowed himself to broaden his horizons, delve into his other tastes, and stuff a sock into the mouths of all the people I've heard accuse Seger of making his songs with a cookie cutter.
CRUNCH! CRUNCH! CRUNCH! I love the way this track starts out. The horn arrangement sounds great too. This is what Stax Records would have come out with if they were still around to sign a band like Nickleback. A great blend of hard rock and Motown, which I guess is what Seger really is when you boil him down to the essentials. Simplicity. Get it?
Seger's most contemporary song on this album, in my opinion. The track has a great Top 40 sound, and the string arrangement is the most beautiful I've heard since "We've Got Tonite." The lyrics are topical: "and the jungle, not the desert, heard the guns." The point of view is that of someone who's lived long enough to see history repeat itself, and Seger's vocals on this track almost bring me to tears. I can see this song being included on a dozen movie soundtracks in the coming year.
Real Mean Bottle
Remember what I said about country music? Here's another case to argue. Bob Seger, Kid Rock, Chuck Berry-influenced guitar, and a fast, hard-driving beat. This is definitely rock and roll, yet it keeps sounding like country music to me. Hey Country, give us our music back! Sincerely, Rock n' Roll. What's great as a Seger fan is the knowledge that Kid Rock is not on this album to do Seger any favors, but rather, it's the other way around. Kid Rock must have peed himself when asked him to join in on this track, but he does a surprisingly good job of holding his own against a master like Seger.
In the liner notes of his Greatest Hits album, Seger said "Still the Same" was based on "an amalgamation of characters I met when I first went to Hollywood. All 'Type-A' personalities." On this track, it's as though enough time has passed that even the Type-A's have seen better days, but it hasn't changed them. "It's not in your nature, and you won't stop there." A relaxed, detached Seger giving the I-told-you-so to the arrogant and self-destructive.
Here comes that heavy-handed sound again, and it still hasn't gotten old. It's used as a forceful conveyance this time to drive home the points that Seger makes about culture and politics. "Hey folks, wake up. Antarctica just melted." The minor guitar scale played near the end sounds like a harbinger of doom. It's almost like rock's version of "The Carmina Burana."
The Answer's In the Question
A great ballad in the same 3/4 vein as "Always In My Heart" and "The Long Way Home." Beautiful enough not to require a female lead vocalist, but Seger has proven in the past that that kind of thing doesn't spoil his music. In fact, hearing him harmonize is a rare occurrence, and it's nice to hear a voice with as much character as his bolstering a pretty female voice on top. The thing that began to worry me was the lyrics. As the album was beginning to draw to a close, the words began to sound ominous: "How will I be remembered?/Will my critics be unkind?/The answer's in the question/You must leave this all behind." Suddenly, the question I didn't want to hear the answer to was, "Is this Seger's swan song?"
The Long Goodbye
The first time I listened to this song, it was with great trepidation. Was this to be the last song on on the last album Seger would ever do? Was he going to end his career without ever releasing "Can't Hit the Corners No More"? Was he coming into the spotlight one last time just to say thanks, then leave again, this time for good? Maybe it's the fact that he's 61, maybe it's the fact that he was gone so long the last time, but I have to admit, I was very worried. I listened to the song, revelling in its simplicity, enjoying every note, every chord. Every bit of it is Seger; the liner notes say that he played or programmed every single instrument. I enjoyed the song like it might be the last one I would ever hear. Then, the reassurring words I had waited for. The last words of the song, the last words on the album: "I'm...still...here." And he definitely is.
It isn't often anymore that I play an entire album from beginning to end. MP3 players and iPods, itunes and other downloadable music sources...the entire culture has allowed us to buy a single song, or to chop up an album and listen to just the songs we like best. They've ruined the consumers as much as they've ruined the artists.
However, I listened to each song on this album in order as I was writing this, and I have to say, this is an album. Seger's always been good at stringing together his songs in ways that tell a story, or that arc their way through a spectrum of emotion. In this case, Face the Promise starts out with feeling, with raw emotion, then delves into the wisdom and cynicism that comes with experience. Yet, by the end, Seger's back in the role of someone who might have seen it all, done it all, and felt it all, yet he cannot predict the future, or know anyone else but himself. But we all feel like we know him, because he's us, too.