A review of his best album

By Tom MacIntosh

Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight, as the saying goes, and one gent who knows that to be true is American rock God Bob Seger, the Detroit native kicked around in various bands like The Decibels, The Town Criers, and Doug Brown & the Omens, then fronted his own groups called Bob Seger and the Last Heard, then The Bob Seger System dating back to 1961. He achieved mediocre success at a regional level with The System on singles 2+2=?, and Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, which actually charted at #17 nationally. For more than a decade he toiled as a rock & roll journeyman, who some called ‘a poor man’s Bruce Springsteen, but that is over-simplistic, dismissive, and wrong.

His fortunes changed at age 30, with the formation of his new crew The Silver Bullet Band in 1974. The group comprised Drew Abbot/guitars, Rick Manasa/keyboards/vocals, Chris Campbell/bass, Alto Reed/saxophone, and Chris Allen Martin/drums/percussion. Their debut album Seven (1974) which housed the local hard rock hit Get Out of Denver, charting at #80 nationally, then Manasa was replaced on keyboards by Robyn Robbins for their second studio album Beautiful Loser, catching the public’s attention with a cover of Tina Turner’s Nutbush City Limits, and Katmandu, which was used on the soundtrack for Mask, starring Cher in 1985. In 1975, they recorded a two-night performance at the Cobo Arena in Detroit called Live Bullet, it was their first live album and gained national acclaim with famed critic Dave Marsh (Rolling Stone, The Village Voice) writing, “Live Bullet is one of the best live albums ever made (...) Seger sounds like a man with one last shot at the top”. The scene was set for the album that blew it all open, Night Moves (Capitol Records, October 1976), going platinum 6 times, selling as many copies as Born to Run by Springsteen a year earlier, and set Seger on the road to being a bona fide rock God.

Night Moves is a collection of classic rock & roll arrangements, not only masterfully done by the Silver Bullets, but also with ample help from the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section of the famous studio in Alabama. The package kicks open with the rocker Rock n Roll Never Forgets, introducing perhaps the album’s theme of staying young (surviving) while being dragged into the boredom and mediocrity of middle age, “Sweet 16’s turned 31/ Feel a little tired feeling under the gun/ Well all Chuck’s children are out there playing his licks/ Get into your kicks/ Come back baby/ Rock ‘n’ roll never forgets. The title track is the coming-of-age Night Moves, it was an instant hit climbing Billboard Pop Singles to #4, and still gets air-time on radios worldwide. The song is cleverly built on an ever-changing tempo and volume with his Gibson J-200, creating climax after climax to perfection. The record’s second single was Mainstreet, a lovely ballad about a young stripper he falls in love with, similar to other female centered themes on tracks like The Fire Down Below, a cynical take on prostitution, and Sunspot Baby tells of a free-wheeling girl who wants to break free, while Come to Poppa is just the opposite, where the girl keeps returning to her ‘sugar daddy’.

Seger’s signature raspy vocal range is on full display throughout the record, as in the smoky  beginning of Sunburst, which also picks up the tempo and becomes a hard-driving roadhouse rocker, then falls back into a lovely piano/flute melody. The one sleepy country number Ship of Fools sets up the rock ‘n roller closer Mary Lou, with Seger screaming about how ‘she’ took everything and left, “Mary Lou she took my diamond ring (Mary Lou) Mary Lou she took my watch and chain (Mary Lou) She took the keys to my Cadillac car, jumped in my kitty and drove off far”.

Night Moves was the blueprint for all the subsequent successes compiling 18 studio albums, 2 live records and 5 compilation releases, in a stellar career of one of rock history’s solid performers.  In a career stretching over 6 decades he has sold over 80 million copies making him one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer (2004) is still at work, releasing his latest album in 2017 called I Knew You When.