Forward Into the Vault

A Seger File Special Feature
The Seger File is an unofficial web site about the music of Bob Seger. This section of the Seger File last updated October 30, 2005. For the most current updates, click here. Written and Edited by Scott Sparling

"I write a lot of songs people don't hear. . . . I fall in love with every single one of them. I finish them all, and I don't think there's a whole lot of difference between the bad ones and the good ones. But every now and then you hit something you really like a lot. Every now and then, you'll nail one that's really special. And that's what you live for."

Bob Seger, quoted by Brian McCollum, October 31, 2003 Detroit Free Press, "Interview with Bob Seger: I'm just trying to keep things simple."

Blue Ridge
The Hard One
The Reckoning
Mr. Bottom
Forward Into the Past
I Knew You When
It's Over
At Sea
You're My Girl
Good Neighbor
Love Changes All The Time
Your Best Friend
Hard to Make It Home
More of You
It Passes For Love
Full Circle
Hard Enough
Maybe In A Minute
Fly Away
All Brand New
(Some questions about whether it's fair to snoop in the Vault are explored here.)

Seger File Contents

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The Seger File's Birthday Party
Unreleased Tracks
Vault V
10 more unreleased tracks
Vault 4
16 more unreleased tracks
Forward Into the Vault --
26 more unreleased tracks
Return to the Vault -- 18 More Unreleased Tracks
The Vault --31 Unreleased Tracks
Recorded but Unreleased --Unreleased Seger from A-Z
Photos 1Photos 2
Photos 3Photos 4
Hall of Fame Photos
Settle Annex
A collection of great Seger photos
Dylan's "Denver"
The Albums
Ramblin' Gamblin' Man
Brand New Morning
Smokin' O.P.'s
Back in '72
Beautiful Loser
Live Bullet
Night Moves
Stranger in Town
Against the Wind
Nine Tonight
The Distance
Like A Rock
The Fire Inside
Bob Seger's Greatest Hits
It's A Mystery
Greatest Hits 2
Face the Promise
Other Albums
The Promised Live Album
The Promised Studio Album
Seger on the Edge
The Bob Seger Collection --(Australian Greatest Hits)
Seger Classics
A Very Special Christmas,1987
Other Album Appearances
The Seger Tribute Album
Sing Your Own Seger
Perfect Albums?
Selected Singles
Check the Label
Who Picks the Singles?
Early Singles
The Lonely One
TGIF/First Girl
Ballad of the Yellow Beret
East Side Story
Persecution Smith
Sock It To Me, Santa
Vagrant Winter/Very Few
Heavy Music
2+2=?/Death Row
Ramblin' Gamblin' Man
Looking Back
If I Were A Carpenter
Bombs Away
Chances Are
My Take on Chances Are
Reaching Number One
Other Seger Tracks
Released on Singles, But Not on Albums
Covered by Others
Written By Seger, Recorded by Others
Night Moves (SNL)
Making Thunderbirds
Old Time Rock and Roll
American Storm
Like a Rock
Real Love
Fire Inside
Night Moves (New)
Turn the Page
It's A Mystery
Chances Are
Ten for Two
The Cobo Hall Tapes
The Palace Tapes
Influences/Other Bands
TV Appearances
Like a Truck
Who Does the Song Belong To?
Ancient History Dept.
How Seger Sees Rock/Truck
Singer or Salesman?
Gatsby, Seger and Victory
The Mystery Man
How the Song Became An Ad
Good Song, Great Ad?
Bad Press, Bad Precedent
Through the Lean Years
Bob's View
Insults and Dead Horses
Fix Or Repair Daily
The Early Years
Early Days
Motor City's Burning
Places He Played
More Dues-Paying Years
Career, Misc.
Lead Singer Vs. Guitar Player
The Slow Road to Success
The Requisites of Greatness
Theories: Why It Took So Long
"You Are Now Leaving Seger Territory"
Breaking Out
What Is Success?
Early Bands
The Decibels
The Town Criers
The Omens
Democracy Rocks
Later Bands
Bob Seger and the Last Heard
The Bob Seger System
Julia/My Band/Borneo Band
Muscle Shoals band
The Silver Bullet Band
Back-up Systems
Shaun Murphy
Karen Newman
Related Bands
Detroit All-Stars
Alto Reed
Blue Highway (Drew Abbott)
Bio, Part 1
Detroit? Ann Arbor?
We Even Sang the Parts the Instruments Were Playing
A Father Leaves
Fire and the Memory of Love
All the Wild, Wild Good Times
Interests and Hobbies
Predicting the Future, Then and Now
Bio, Part 2
On Growing Older
The Seger Work Ethic
You Can't Miss That Driving Rain
Friends and Family
Let's Dig Up Something Really Nasty
I'm Gonna Tell My Tale, C'mon
Of Caves and Barbed Wire
Early Tours and Shows
The Oakland Mall
The Primo, R&R Farm, Suds Factory and Chances Are
The Agora
On the Road
Jackson County Fair
Pontiac, the Michigan Jam and Other Victories
Seger in the Arena
The 1983 Tour
The 1986-87 Tour
The Last Tour?
They'll Never Be in The Arena, But They Get to Write the Reviews
San Francisco
New York
Los Angeles
Vancouver (Canada)
The 1996 Tour
The Set List Discussed
The Set List Presented
The Set List Analyzed
Bringing the Family
Tour Notes
Thirsty for Seger
A Review of the Reviews
Palace of Auburn Hills
The 2006-07 Tour Pages
Readin' O.P.'s
A compilation of e-mail messages. Some favorite are:
-- Hope to see you tonight
-- Motor City Rock
-- The FargoDome
-- The 7-Eleven and the Winter Olympics
-- He gave me a strange look
-- Now that we're older
Brand New Email
More great letters.
-- Seger, Sinatra, Cobain
-- My Dad, Bob and Charlie Martin
-- I work for General Motors
-- Seger and Mohammad Ali
-- The last thing I hear from Bob Seger
-- Road trip to Ann Arbor
-- I never spoke to Bob, but he always spoke to me
Brand New Email Pt. II
-- Bob at the Roseland Inn
-- Seger interview
-- Backstage with a bad pass
-- Put the car in park
-- Starry August nights
-- Cool me down
-- The bridge from Motown
-- The Seger-starved masses plead for tour news
-- The Kiss File?
Seger Stories and Misc. Email
--The best thing you could say
--Blue and Julia  
--Rockin' with Fidel  
--Early days of baseball and Bob
--Follow your heart  
--Waving with the lighter
Email '05
--About Drew Abbott
--On 2+2
--On "The Lonely One"
--About Tom Neme
--About Charlie Martin
--The Toledo Jam
--About Pep Perrine
--About Jim Bruzzese
--Early days
--Early songs
Seger Inks SimTour Deal, Gets Ready to Rock
Capitol Releases "Dee-Pah!
The Seger Cam is back online
The Michigan Jam 2
The Seger versus. SpringsteenComplexo-Meter
The Medicated Top 20
Reese: Money for Music
Get Back to Work
A guide to surfing The Seger File at work.
The Primo Photo
The Rolling Stone Letter
The Imaginary Interview
Why the Seger File Is Here -- Getting Over Bob Seger

Blue Ridge

"Blue Ridge" is an upbeat song with big, enthusiastic vocals. It's similar to "Sightseeing," in the sense that it's a travelogue. In that earlier cut, we heard Bob's take on castles and paintings; here it's the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The two songs share another similarity: they both use instruments you'd never expect in a Seger song. "Sightseeing" was the first Seger song to feature an accordion. The version of "Blue Ridge" that Ears Two and I heard began with an extended, almost jungle-like drum rhythm. The beat repeats four times and then something even stranger happens: steel drums. At this point, both E2 and I thought we had wandered into the Jimmy Buffett section of the Vault. Steel drums?? In a Seger song?? Yep.

By the time you're 30 seconds into this track, there's this wall of percussion and guitar, and you either like it or you don't. I liked it a lot. And the vocals sealed the deal.

Throughout the lyrics, Seger positions himself as an interloper, someone from another place, observing a landscape that is definitely not his. The opening line refers not to "the road" but "your road." Seger sings of leaving the cold north, driving south, pulling over and marveling at "your Blue Ridge."

I'll admit that these lyrics are a little incongruous with the steel drums. But the vocals make up for it. They're confident and exuberant -- full of the life-is-good energy that Seger does so well. The second verse takes us back in time, as Seger hears echos of the Civil War battles.

I loved the energy of the song, the infectious beat, the way Seger hit and held the words "Blue" and "Ridge" for a what seemed like full measure each.

This song won me over big time. Five years in the Vault is way too long.

October 25, 2004 - Revised 10/28/05

The Hard One

"The Hard One," from 1999, is a track with an urgent, forward-driving beat and vocals to match. Think of the energy in the opening of "Shakedown" and turn it up a notch. The track breaks out of the gate with screaming lead guitar, and the hard-driving lick becomes a motif that repeats throughout the song. Need an example? Listen to Petty's "Running Down the Road." That sort of thing.

The lyrics have a powerful simplicity too. On one level, the song seems to be about love. (The last verse contains the line "Show me your passion.") But more than that. Coming from the guy who wrote "Like A Rock," this songs seems to praise things that are solid, strong and reliable. Give me something I can count on, Seger seems to be saying, not this 50 percent chance of rain and maybe I love you and maybe I don't stuff.

Seger sings, howls and wails throughout. My feelings about "The Hard One" were rock solid. I loved it.

October 29. 2004 - Revised 10/28/05

The Reckoning

Seger has almost always steered clear of electoral politics, but he often writes very political songs. "The Reckoning," from 1997, seems to be one of them.

Or maybe sociopolitical is a better term -- the song is not about Democrats and Republicans as such, but it is directly focused on social issues that drive a lot our politics…the accumulation and arrogance of power, the goals of the wealthy, the needs of the poor. So even though the song is seven years old, it feels timely.

Musically, "The Reckoning" begins with what I think of as the "Night Moves" chop. The vocals are restrained throughout. Seger reserves his big, powerful voice for just a few lines -- usually the line just before the words "The Reckoning." To add more drama yet, the music stops completely as Seger sings the words "The Reckoning."

I love Seger's use of language in this song. The second line ends with the word "contentious." The phrase "imperious ardor" is used in the second verse. How many times have you heard those words in a rock and roll song? Zero, I would guess. There's confidence in Seger's use of such words. He's not going to simplify the language for us. He sings of "a government room" where the powers that be serve the aims of the rich. A time of reckoning is coming "to those who would set themselves up to be king."

Though it's almost a decade old, the song still resonates. I would love to hear it again today.

November 3, 2004 -- revised 10/28/05

Mr. Bottom

If you want relief from these jangled times, you might want to join Seger in calling for the quick arrival of Mr. Bottom. Or, if you want to hear a Led Zeppelin riff without playing any Zep, you might want to do the same.

Both Ears Two and I heard it. He listened to "Mr. Bottom" first, then said "You're gonna recognize this."

He was right. It's the bass line from "How Many More Times." Maybe slightly slower. Maybe tweaked a little, but the reference is unmistakable. Call it an homage.

"Mr. Bottom" was written in 1999. It's a jaunty blues number, which is the type of song Seger does well. No sophisticated lyrics here -- though there's some clever lines.

In a song like this, the lyrics are mainly punctuating the beat and giving Seger a chance to growl.That said, I liked the second verse especially well. Seger gives us a list of all the forces that are freaking up his life -- the IRS, the DEA -- ending with the most terrifying agency of all: the PTA. a

"Mr. Bottom" is no anthem, and it's not a classic. But Seger's having fun on this song, and that makes it fun to hear.

In fact, I wrote "definitely worth a second listen," in my notebook. But I never got around to it. By the way, and apropos of nothing in particular, did you ever have one of those really cheap cassette tapes that break as soon as you try to rewind? Tapes so cheap you get one listen out of 'em and then they can never be played again. I think Punch Enterprises buys them by the dozen.

November 5, 2004 - Revised 10/28/05

Forward Into the Past

"Forward Into the Past" is a song with a point. You can tell that it was meant to be anthem-like, in the way that "American Storm" or "Even Now" raised a banner for the albums they began.

FITP was written in 1999, but if I didn't know better, you could convince me that it was recorded at the same session as "Tomorrow," or even "Real At the Time." These songs don't sound alike, but they share a vocal quality. Put it this way: Sometimes Seger is singing personally to you, and sometimes he's projecting his voice to the whole arena. This is his arena voice.

Naturally, it's uptempo. The rhythm section marches out in a way that reminds me a bit of the beginning of "Fortunate Son."

One other reference: Remember that guitar lick from "Back in '72"? The one that goes "loodle loodle loodle looo." (Or just think, as E2 does, of a "Layla"-like riff.) Well, it's back, but its playfulness is gone. Now it's restrained and serious.

The message is about how progress changes the heartland; the more our cities grow, the more our small towns wither. The first verse personalizes this, hinting at a broken relationship. But a hint is all we get: "The banks are telling him he should sell / He's telling them to go straight to hell."

We're left to imagine a woman who moved to the city, while the lonely guy tried to make a go of it on the farm. But that's all of that story that we get. The rest of the song is pure sociology:

The bridge reminded me of the Born to Run bridge (i.e. "Beyond the palace hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard…") Seger's lyrics describe an even bleaker landscape.

The next verse gives us references to "billion-dollar mergers" and Wall Street and the idea that "independence is outmoded." Then we go back, presumably, to the man from the beginning: "His hometown's really empty now...the tall grass is returning /Forward into the past." The disappearing small town seems to be the central character of the song.

There was a time, several years ago, when Seger mentioned "Forward Into the Past" as the title track of the album he is still working on. Since then, it's changed. But "Forward Into the Past" remains a great cut. Along with "American Storm," "Revision Street," "It's A Mystery" and many others, it adds to Seger's ongoing critique of the country we live in.

November 6, 2004 - Revised 10/29/05


Some songs are instantly defined by keyboards. "Outland," written in 1997, is one of those songs. There's a piano intro that I'm dying for you to hear.

Simple and strong is the way I'd describe it. You'll have to take my word for it, because there's no way I can get it on the page. Or take E2's word for it: "Hypnotic keyboard riff" is what he writes.

"Very crisp beginning," E2 says, and it just gets better from there. "Seems to build on 'No Man's Land,' but with more energy." (High praise, considering that "No Man's Land" is E2's favorite Seger song.) "Should be Bob's next single."

While "Forward Into the Past" bemoans the state of the heartland, "Outland" celebrates it. No critique here -- just Seger's affection for the open spaces. He sings of a place, out past the factories, where your hands feel clean, and where people talk straight. He gives us the Burlington Northern "rumbling west" and a land under "a million stars."

If that's all there was, it wouldn't be enough. I'm past the point where a romanticized description of what people call "the heartland," will make a song stick for me. But Seger's voice and that hypnotic piano riff roll through my head, and I have to play it again. "Outland" could hold its own on any Seger album there is. Plus, E2 loves the track, and that's more than good enough for me. Like Rosalie, he knows music.

November 6, 2004 


My notes for this one say "pleasant" and "million-seller." And also, "Hank Williams is back." Think country music played straight up, without the drawl, without the syrup.

If you want a good sense of the tempo and style, give a listen to Leon Russell's version of "She Thinks I Still Care." I think of these kind of tunes as 'low-demand' songs. They don't make you think. You don't really have to do anything, just let 'em play in the background. Pretty soon you'll be humming the melody.

Shore Alert: As required for every third Seger song, one of the verses contains the phrase "distant shore." Let's see that's "shore," "wind," "waves"…wait a minute -- he forgot "moon." Well, maybe there's a missing verse.

Kidding aside, "Before" is the kind of simple song many artists couldn't get away with. Seger can do it because of his voice. It's not the kind of cut that gets E2 or me very excited. But my guess is that "Before" is highly contagious: If it had been on Against the Wind in place of, say, "Shining Brightly," you would have had yet another top ten single off that album.

November 6, 2004 - Revised 10/29/05

I Knew You When

You could call "I Knew You When" a Seger Medium, but there was nothing medium about its effect on me. I loved it. I'll be horribly disappointed if it's not on his next CD.

In fact, E2 broke out the exclamation marks for this one: "A winner!" he wrote.

So many things work for this song. The melody, of course. The lyrics. But most powerfully, what connects is Seger himself. This is not the arena voice. This is the Seger voice that talks just to you.

Musically, there's a very catchy keyboard hook built around dotted quarter notes -- dah-dah dum dum, dah dum dum, one day I knew you when. The "dums" are the dotted quarters. Got it? Sure you do.

The lyrics describe a time from the 1950s and '60s. "You always were my friend," Seger sings. "You gave me hope to carry on / because I knew you when."

This song was written in 1997. One question E2 and I had fun discussing is "Who is he singing about?" Glenn Frey? Doug Brown? Himself? Whoever it is had "dangerous charisma," the second verse says.

The bridge is brilliant. It plays off the verses beautifully. And at the end, the music drops down and Seger is practically just talking to us. It's intimate without being sentimental.

I can't tell you how tempted I was to slip this cassette in my pocket. But then the keepers of the Vault would be hunting me down, and I'm not that hard to find. Anyway, I'm convinced this song will be released. Put it this way: If "I Knew You When" is not on his next CD, it's gonna break my Seger-loving heart.

November 6, 2004 - Revised 10/29/05


"Crossfire" is a heavy rocker. Musically, it's in the same vein as "Tomorrow," but with a faster tempo and even more heft. Guitars assault you from the opening chord. And it's all about street gangs and street violence. It doesn't specifically mention Detroit, but the reference to Canada makes it clear that Seger is singing about the Motor City.

I've read that Punch doesn't like songs that are too negative, so I can imagine him telling Seger to shelve this one. It's also the kind song E2 dislikes: his comment, and I quote, was "argh." And also, "not very melodic, but it rocks."

True enough. And therein lies its appeal. It rocks. Maybe parts of it are too negative. Maybe (if you believe Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine theory) it's an example of the media painting scary pictures until we're too afraid to go outside unarmed.

But hey, it rocks. If it's not very melodic, well, neither is "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man." If I wanted to defend the lyrics, I'd say that there are many truths about Detroit, and this is one of them.

Bottom line is, I like this song. If I were a younger man (and, in the wee hours of night, I am) I'd call it a kick-ass rocker.

To go with that guitar assault, you get nonstop lyrics. Try this:

Two high school kids, see 'em on the corner,
They quickly turn and double back.
They look like gang, they might be shooters,
No need to mess with that.
Keep low, risk death -- one or the other,
Bullets fly, you're diving for cover.
It's a big town thing.
Streets are way past mean.
You've got one desire -- to make it through the crossfire.

It's a place where young studs "fire at will, at random thought, at people driving by" -- a place with "fear, despair, no hope for the future / drugs, denial and death are the suture," and you just hope to survive.

Exaggerated? Glorified? Not life-affirming? Sure, sure and sure.

But I still love the way this song rocks. "Crossfire" is already 14 years old, and I think it should have been released 14 years ago.

November 14, 2004 - Revised 10/29/05


"Tonight," another of the songs Seger wrote in 1999, has got me stumped. I was dead sure, when I listened to it, that there's a very similar Jackson Browne song somewhere. But I just went through my entire JB collection and couldn't find it.

So maybe "Tonight" is just a song that Jackson Browne should record. There's something about the chord changes, which occur on the first and third beat of every measure, that make it feel like a song that could close out one of his albums.

In the first verse, the song seems to be about America, and also about desire.

From the bridges of old New York
To the freeways of LA
From the coast of Olympia
To the shoals of Florida Bay...

For those of you counting "shoals" references, the total now stands at: 1

As the second verse begins, this tour of the countryside continues with another great train reference -- ("Tell me tales of your storied past / When the big iron ruled the road,") -- but by the end we're in a place "where the laws break down and emotions rage / And no one's heart is pure / Tonight."

The bridge has hardwired itself deep into my head. It's just two lines, but it really connects. In the last verse, we've got Orion hunting, while "the desperate and the restless" chase after phantoms.

So maybe "Tonight" is just a more literary version of "Fire Down Below" -- the macro view instead of the micro. Or maybe not.

For me, "Tonight" is ione of those slow-blooming songs that you have to hear several times before it works. And then it won't stop. For me, it's definitely taken root.

November 14, 2004


Start with "I Can't Save You, Angeline." Make the shuffle a little bigger. Make the vocals a little more present, and even more heartfelt. And you'll be somewhere near the sound of "Dreamin,'" a Seger song from 1997. Unlike "Angeline," this song is about a love that's really worth having.

There's some very tasty drum work in here, and there's something about Seger's vocal at the beginning that reminded me of John Lennon's vocal on "Double Fantasy."

The chorus has a great line: "The heart seeks and the soul finds a way." By the second time through, he's growling: "I can feel again / This night is so fine / I don't want it to end."

The recording quality left something to be desired -- "the piano sounds like it was being played in a gymnasium," E2 said. My notes describe it as an underwater effect. Either way, I'm assuming what we heard was a demo. Still, the growl and the lazy drum-shuffle did it for me.

November 14, 2004 - Revised 10/29/05

It's Over

"Not soon enough, it's not -- this one's a dirge." That was E2's take, and I'd like to say I disagreed with him…but, uh, well.

Truth be told, I probably didn't give "It's Over" a fair shake. I could tell right away that it was not the kind of song that thrives in the light of day. At three a.m., in the middle of a raw, emotional break-up, "It's Over" might be powerful as hell. Hard to say. (E2 got at the same thought a little differently: "Seems like a movie break-up song," he wrote.)

Regardless, under the fluorescent lights of the Vault, "It's Over" didn't go anywhere for me.

The vocals aren't to blame. There's a plain, appealing simpleness to Seger's voice. The vocal track would fit just fine on Brand New Morning, for instance.

The lyrics do their job, without taking us anyplace new:

When I look into your eyes
I don't know you anymore
You're a thousand miles away
Standing on some distant shore.
It's over.

There's the "distant shore" alert. And if you're wondering how long Seger can hold a note these days, the "o" in "over" lasted…well, I lost count and started copying down Mike Boila's phone number, which he helpfully wrote on the cassette case.

The track includes a good dose of lead guitar that E2 described as "soul-free." Some critic scrawled "guitar screams but doesn't give the dirge more energy," in my notebook. It looks like my handwriting, but I would never be that negative.

Bottom line: Of all the songs we heard, "It's Over" is one of four I would definitely leave in the Vault.

November 14, 2004 - Revised 10/29/05

At Sea

Knowing Seger's passion for sailing, I assumed this song would be heartfelt, and is it ever. It's also amazingly varied. "At Sea," from 1997, brings together three different musical styles and does it superbly.

I've listened closely to Seger for thirty years. I thought I knew the territory. But this song blew the boundaries off the map. It's Seger, and it's new. It's the kind of song he ought to be putting on albums, not putting in the Vault.

It starts in a kind of loose and jazzy mode. The first verse is half-sung, half spoken. By the second verse, Seger is obviously having fun with the language, spilling syllables over the beat in a way that seems to have as much to do with sounds than with meaning.

Oblivion came breezing in with a condescending air
Schmoozing like a CEO at some mid-level affair.

Now the song suddenly turns gentle. Keyboards take over and the song becomes a ballad. In contrast to the rush of words at the start, Seger sings just 11 words over the next 40 seconds.

The music goes through one more sea change and the end, with some electric guitar that walks on water. I was stunned. Bust down the doors of the Vault for this one.

November 14, 2004 - 10/29/05

You're My Girl

Even though it's been in the Vault since 1990, you've heard this one before. It's remarkably similar to "This Land Is Your Land," we can all sing along.

Ready? Let's warm up with the real thing.

This land is your land
This land is my land
From California
To the New York island
From the redwood forest
To the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

Seger's lines are all one syllable short to fit the pattern. If that bothers you, just do what Springsteen does and add the word "sir" to the end of each line. Here we go.

You may be tired
You may be strong
You may be cross
You may be wrong
You may be warm
You may be blue
I will always care for you.

In subsequent verses, we learn that you might also be wild, clear, sad, near, late, or long overdue.

This list is then abruptly interrupted by 18 seconds of total silence. Since the silence begins and ends mid-word with absolutely no regard to the beat or rhythm of the song, I'm forced to conclude that this 18-second gap was added not by Seger but by Rose Mary Woods. What was she trying to hide?

All joking aside, I liked this song. I've written before about simple songs. Simple is incredibly hard to pull off. When you get it wrong, you end up sounding foolish. When you get it right, you're Paul McCartney or James Taylor. Or someone equally inspired. And this song mainly gets it right.

Release or not release, you ask? In between.

November 14, 2004 - 10/29/05

Good Neighbor

Synthy. That's the word both Ears 2 and I came up with to describe "Good Neighbor." Though Ears 2 also added "bassy and relentless," while I went with "almost a dance beat."

Got it? "Good Neighbor" was co-written by Seger and Craig Frost in 1990. You can hear traces of "The Aftermath" in its synthy sound.

Anyway, I have to give a mixed review to "Good Neighbor." I don't really like this style of music. And this particular song didn't do much for me either.

Slight problem, though. I can't get it out of my head.

Imagine this: I went to the Vault in June. I listened to 21 songs. Now it's November. I haven't heard these songs in five months. Some of them are growing a bit vague in my memory. But "Good Neighbor" is in there clear as a bell.

What's it about? Well, it's about a woman who doesn't compete, doesn't seem to aim for the top..."Kinda like a good neighbor after all."

That last line is The Hook That Won't Die. As for the woman in question, well, she had the juice, she had connections, the boys on Big Street used to call, she cuts a dashing figure…and so on. E2 guessed that it's about a female ex-celeb who's come back to earth. There's a line that goes "She'll never write a book / she's not that small," which made me think of someone in a position to write a tell-all book, like an ex-wife or ex-girlfriend.

Adding to the mystery was this:

The limousines
They keep on rollin'
The mighty ships
They keep her shoalin'

If you're playing along with the at-home version of the Shoals game, the score is now: 2

I'm guessing that if you like this kind of music, you might like this track a lot. For me, "Good Neighbor" made it to the "In Between" pile in my private Release or Don't Release sweepstakes.

One thing for sure: The hook in "Good Neighbor" will definitely keep you shoalin'.

November 20, 2004 - Revised 10/30/05

Love Changes All The Time

A break-up song. Have you had enough break-up songs by Seger?

I haven't. "The Famous Final Scene," "Somewhere Tonight," "Comin' Home" -- Seger excels at this type of song. I think it's because of the honesty of his voice, and his willingness to tell sad stories simply, without trying to milk the emotion.

That said, "Love Changes All The Time," written in 1990, does not rise to the level of "The Famous Final Scene" -- but then, what does? On the other hand, it seems to me to be just as good, in its own way, as "Comin' Home."

One factor that may keep LCATT in the Vault is the musical track. There's a similarity, noted by both E2 and I, to "Night Moves." It's there at the start and continues through the end, when the music goes down to high-hat and quietly strummed chords -- "the quiet strum and talk bit" E2 called it. Then the music comes back and Seger howls (sorrowfully) "aww changes all the time."

The rest of vocals are sung softly, giving us just a hint of Seger's power. The pitch rises to something almost delicate for the last line in every verse. I don't like to use the word "lilting" but I would if you forced me.

It's the kind of song where you expect back-up singers, but the track we heard had none. No keyboards that I could hear either. I liked the simplicity of it.

But the similarities to "Night Moves" make me think that LCATT won't end up on a CD. It would certainly make a good boxed-set cut, though.

November 20, 2004 - Revised 10/30/05

Your Best Friend

I suppose it's pointless to compare an unreleased track to another unreleased track. But "Your Best Friend" had a feel that reminded me, in a very good way, of "Dark Eyes" -- a song Seger performed during one of his Timothy White radio interviews. The tempo of YBF is slightly faster, but not much.

The first line of the song is sung without music -- just Seger's voice:

Who'll be your best friend -- now?
Who'll be your harbor -- now?
Who'll see you through every night?
Who'll wait till you dim the light?
Who'll be the one you call?
Who'll listen to it all?

Seger goes way up high for the word "call," landing on the word so lightly that there's a whispery feel to it. The effect is similar, E2 says, to "Music of the Night" from Phantom of the Opera.

This is a different kind of break-up song. It's sung to someone who has a pattern of screwing up relationships. And it's sung from the point of view of the person who got hurt. So there's sorrow, but it's an angry kind of sorrow.

"Your Best Friend" was written in 1992 and probably was considered for It's A Mystery. My notes call it "dark and down -- a great unreleased track." Ears 2 wrote "solid vocals, very heartfelt…an ideal Bob-at-the-piano-alone show closer." I couldn't agree more.

November 20, 2004 - Revised 10/30/05

Hard To Make It Home

Get funky. This track reaches back to 1976, and it's Seger letting out his inner James Brown. It's interesting to look back at this cut now and see it as a kind of road not taken. This was written and recorded before the string of Top Ten "Seger-mediums." Listening to "Hard To Make It Home," you can easily hear why Motown offered Seger a recording contract before Capitol did.

That said, it's not really a polished track, and the lyrics are pretty uneven. With all the great Seger material that was about to come out in the late '70s, you can understand why this stayed in the Vault.

Musically, this has a sound that reminded both Ears 2 and me of the opening seconds of "Superstition." In the Stevie Wonder recording, I'm not even sure if that's a guitar or a keyboard effect. "Hard To Make It Home," has that same tonal quality.

But the music has more sharp angles and a big, funky up and down beat. If you've heard Seger's version of "Long As I Can Play," (or even the Stretch Thomas version), you have an idea of what I'm talking about.

Vocally, Seger struts his stuff, using a lot of the higher register that marks his early work. The song seems to be about the frustrations of the road and the dues that must be paid.

When you're far away
And you got no place to go
Don't it give you some peace
Just to know that you can flow

The key line that repeats is:

When the bills mount up
And the people keep calling on the phone
Ain't it hard to make it
Hard to make it

"Hard To Make It Home" is a funky little snapshot of a side of Seger we don't see too much in his later work. It was fun to listen to it in the Vault. And the Vault is right where it belongs.

December 10, 2004


I'm going to have to roll out some caveats for "Amazed," a weighty Seger ballad from 1997.

The caveats I'd like you to remember are:

1) The fluorescent lights and general bustle of the Vault are not friendly to weighty ballads;

2) One of Seger's most loved ballads, "We've Got Tonight," leaves me completely cold; and

3) I believe the National Defense of Marriage Act should be amended to ban the playing of "You'll Accomp'ny Me" at all unions, civil and otherwise.

In other words, I'm sometimes on the outside looking in when it comes to Seger's slow and serious work. (Sometimes, but not always. I love "Always In My Heart" and "Somewhere Tonight" and almost love "Chances Are.")

Having said all that, I was not impressed by "Amazed." Didn't hook me. Maybe it would hook you.

Ears 2 put it more succinctly. "Heavy-handed ballad!" he wrote. He further noted that the intro sounds a little like Badfinger's "Take It All" -- a song I no longer remember, so I'll take his word for it.

My only note about "Amazed" was that it is in 3/4 time.

On the other hand, E2 and I were thrilled and well, amazed, to discover yet another "shoals" reference.

Through the mountains of indifference
The shoals of deep regret
I'm holding on
I haven't weakened

That brings the total shoals score, as you surely must know, to three. Bear in mind that E2 and I heard all three of these in one day, compounding our excitement.

The lyrics make it clear that Seger is writing from the heart. It's emotionally honest, and clearly important. I wish I could say I liked the song more, but in the four or five times I heard it, it didn't take. Maybe it's me.

December 10, 2004 - Revised, 10/30/05

More Of You

If "Hard To Make It Home" was funk, then "More Of You" is the absence of funk. There's a Jeff Lynne feel to this track -- and by that I mean stiff and mechanical with a wooden beat that sucks the energy out.

In saying this, I realize that I am wildly out of touch with most of the music world, since no less a genius as George Harrison obviously loved the Jeff Lynne sound. So again, maybe it's just me.

Still, I kept wanting some Motown sideman to sit in on this track. As a song, I kept rooting for it to take off, but it seemed happy to stay in the predictable groove.

Another caveat, though, is that what I heard was labeled Mix 6. For all I know, Mix 5 or Mix 7 could be killer.

E2's notes remind me that this was written with Craig Frost in 1992. "Sounds like this was work to write," says E2. "Not fun, but forced." He also hears another reference I'm unfamiliar with -- Guns and Roses' "Sweet Child o' Mine" -- "but with less whine." Maybe that's a good thing. As I recall, Seger has said some positive things about Guns and Roses.

Thematically, it's a song about how wonderful it is to be with someone wonderful.

Ever since you came my way
All my demons seem at bay
I've got strength and will
The likes of which I never knew…
And the only thing I want
The only thing I want
Is more of you.

The lyrics take me right to "It's You." That's a song that has planted itself in the center of my life. "More Of You" didn't get me there. Half-way through I was waiting for it to end.

Some Of Me

I have to admit, after writing these three reviews, that my critique seems a bit unfair. Seger put these songs in the Vault, presumably, because they didn't meet his standard for releasing. They showed enough promise to merit recording them -- but after getting the track down, something didn't quite work. That's natural. What's unnatural is to have someone like me shining a critical light on them.

Think of it this way. As a writer, I've published articles and even a book. Okay, it was a book about electrical distribution systems and utility ownership. But it got a nice review in a national industry magazine.

So far, so good. But what if someone I didn't know got access to my hard drive and started reviewing articles I never finished. What if the same national magazine published a bad review of a piece I never intended to release? (What if they made fun of the fact that I used the word "shoals" or "shoalin'" a lot? Not that I would ever do that.)

The answer is, I'd be ticked off.

So what gives me the right to do the very same thing to Seger?

Answer: Nothing. I don't have the right, but because of the way the Vault works, I have the ability.

Further, what really are my qualifications, other than thirty years of admiring his work and the fact that I have a web site? Again, not much.

And yet…I can't help going to the Vault and I can't help wanting to tell other fans about what I've heard there. Maybe if Seger weren't such a hoarder, I wouldn't be so set on hearing and sharing this stuff. Or maybe that's a rationalization.

The upshot, I guess, is that I love it when I hear amazing tracks that ought to be released. Since I'm a fan and on the side of Seger fans everywhere, I want to agitate in my tiny corner of the web for releasing these songs.

As I look ahead at my notes, I see three or four more tracks that I'd probably leave in the Vault. I think I'll touch on them lightly in the next update and move on.

Partly, that's for the reasons outlined here. But mainly, I'm just too eager to get to "All Brand New" -- a song I totally fell in love with. That's coming up.

December 10, 2004

The Rest and the Best

It's time to close up the Vault for now. I've put off writing up some of these tracks because I'm a little uncomfortable critiquing songs that haven't been released. All of the following tracks were interesting, but some didn't rise to Seger's usual quality. That's purely my point of view, though presumably Seger might agree -- after all, he chose not to release them.

But one of them, the last one, totally blew me away. It's "All Brand New." I wanted to end with the best, so I saved it for last. Here we go.

"It Passes For Love"

"It Passes For Love," written in 1992, has an early Eagles ballad sound to it. Ears 2 called it reminiscent of "Whatever Happened to Saturday Night" off Desperado.

Thematically, it's similar to The Fire Inside, in that it focuses on shallow, superficial relationships:

I've seen their eyes
Off in the distance
Full of indifference
Full of themselves
And they tell little stories
To fill up the silence
It's not the real thing
But it passes for love.

"The Fire Inside" contrasted these shallow relationships with real feelings -- the kind that "cannot be denied." As a result, "Fire" was full of passion and loss. In contrast, "It Passes For Love" keeps the focus on superficial relationship, so the picture it draws doesn't seem to mean as much. And that softer, early-Eagles sound was never my favorite.

"Full Circle"

"Full Circle" goes all the way back to 1974. The track I heard is the same one included on the "Retro Rock" radio broadcast -- a live track recorded in a small club. Since I'd heard it before, I was a little less excited to hear it in the Vault.

I was hoping I might hear a studio version; I thought the song might have more power in the studio. The live version is just Bob and a guitar, sounding very unplugged. It's clearly being played to a crowd that wants to rock. You can hear a lot of restless chatter as drinks and food are served during the song.

This song has always struck me as a precursor to some of the great ballads Seger would write later. It's a relationship song and it deals with life on the road: "I tell you 'bout the concerts, I tell you 'bout the crowds, I tell you 'bout the band played a little bit too loud. Everthing's too loud."

If there's a studio version, I'd love to hear it. No need to release the live track because it's already circulating.

"Hard Enough"

"Hard Enough" was written twenty-one years later, in 1995. The title of "Hard Enough" is deceptive. It's not a rocker -- it's a softly sung, mid-tempo song. My notes say it's "like 'The Real Love' but without the hook."

Ears 2 notes some really nice piano work, and a slight resemblance, in the very beginning to The Lovin' Spoonful's "You Didn't Have To Be So Nice."

E2 also points out that the vocal is double-tracked -- "one track high and the other low." The technique worked on the refrain, he thought, but not on the verses.

The lyrics are minimalist; this song seems to be about what's not being said. Sometimes that works. There are certainly some intriguing lines -- "You do your best, no one cares, you disappear, like rain." But I had trouble getting engaged with the song.

In fact, to come clean, this is a song I heard in my previous visit to the Vault, in May 2003. I overlooked it at the time; in contrast to songs like "The Melting Pot" and "Tomorrow," it just didn't seem to have much traction.

"Maybe In A Minute"

My notes say: "Or maybe not."

The song didn't fare any better with E2, who called it "Maybe In A Month and A Half," and nominated it for the "worst of the day."

FYI, the day in question was way back in May '03. A couple of Vault-visits ago. Again, I didn't feel inspired to write it up at the time because, well, some songs just belong in the Vault. (According to me, who has never written a song, so what do I know?)

Anyway, an excerpt:

Maybe in a minute
Somewhere deep within
We can find a way
To love again
Maybe there's a reason
Why it has to be
Maybe in a minute
We'll see.

The cut, written in 1988, begins with what E2 calls "a big synth sound" ala Peter Gabriel. For me, it has a "last-song-on-an-album" feel to it, (or maybe, the song-after-the-last-song-on-the-album.) Or a flipside. In fact, it reminded me of "East L.A.," only slower.

"Fly Away"

"Fly Away" is a song I thought I did write up from the 2003 trip to the Vault -- but somehow I skipped it. I shouldn't have, though, because "Fly Away" has some real energy. It's an interesting and catchy track that could have made it onto an album or a flipside.

It's easy to see why it wasn't, though. Written in 1990, "Fly Away" has a musical track that is probably too reminiscent of "Hollywood Nights." The melody is completely different. But the drums and rhythm are very similar. E2 and I heard it immediately. The drum track, in particular, seems to come straight from "Hollywood Nights."

The lyrics hit a Seger theme -- a life that once seemed good has turned bad. The song is written in the second person -- "you," not "she" or "he" -- so it's hard to tell if Seger is writing about a man or a woman. Maybe because of songs like "Jody Girl" and "The Ring," I assumed he was writing about a woman.

Once there were friends and dreams
Once there were summer scenes
You had someone you loved.
You were so young and fair
Now you just sit and stare
Since you lost it all
You keep yourself so safe
You hide your heart away.
Fly away, aching inside, hating your life, into the clouds
Fly away, make every scene, give up your dreams, hide in the crowds.

Seger delivers the lines with passion. E2 called it an arena rocker, but it's also got some emotional complexity to it.

In the end, it didn't jell for me as one of Seger's best, and with the "Hollywood Nights" issue I can see why it's unreleased. But after almost two years, I can still hear it clearly in my head. And that's the sign of a strong song.

"All Brand New"

This song shows the amazing power of a simple, heartfelt song. As I listen to it in my head, I marvel about Seger's range. He's the guy who gave us full-throated high-energy rockers that could take the roof off...who preferred the forceful vocal style of someone like James Brown.

Yet there's none of that here. "All Brand New," from 1999, is quiet, almost delicate. There is nothing pretentious, nothing revved up. It's just keyboard and guitar, and it's over in less than three minutes. But it will live inside your head (and maybe your heart) a lot longer than that.

The song is a wish that Seger offers the listener, in the vein of Dylan's "Forever Young," or Seger's own "In Your Time" -- although, in my opinion, it's a hundred times more successful than "In Your Time." The plain and simple nature of "All Brand New" gives it a sincerity that, for me, is hard to turn away from.

I can imagine that Seger might have written this song for his kids. But as I listened to it last summer, and as I remember it now, I like to think that he's speaking to us -- his fans.

If his next CD is his last (anything is possible) then this song could be the perfect goodbye. For me, anyway, it's the way I would want to remember him -- wishing us the best, and pointing us not to the past, but to a future that is all brand new.

Seger at his best.

Revised, 10/30/05

That's it for the 2004 Vault visit. But let's not talk about fare-thee-wells now -- the new CD is yet to come. And after that, who knows?

March 17, 2005

A guide to the previous two trips to the Vault.

Vault 1
Face the Promise
Days When the Rain Would Come
Little Jane
Hit the Road
The Future's Now
Media Whipped
Like A Rock -- (unreleased version, extra verse)
Kentucky Moonlight
Hustled in Nashville
Comin' Home -- (unreleased version, extra lyrics)
Carfax Abbey
You'll Accomp'ny Me -- (unreleased version)
Shinin' Brightly -- (unreleased version)
Long Twin Silver Line -- (unreleased version)
Horizontal Bop -- (unreleased version)
Fire Lake -- (unreleased version)
Wounded Angel
Red Eye to Memphis
Hard Night for Sarah
Elevator Button
White Monkey
Can't Hit the Corners
Snow Today
Star Tonight
Nine Tonight -- (unreleased version)
The Ring -- (unreleased version)
Answer's in the Question
Vault 2
Northern Lights
Love Will Find A Way
Melting Pot
Runaway Train
Cold Dark Night
Let Me Try
Got No Shadow
Hollow Man
Something More
Finding Out
Numbers Game
Lioness Girl

A note on copyrights: The reports in this series quote lyrics under the provisions of the Fair Use statutes. To my knowledge, all the songs are copyrighted by Gear Publishing.


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