If you talk to me long enough about music, and the conversation turns towards rock 'n' roll from the Great Lakes State, you'll learn that one of my absolute biggest pet peeves is the fact that Bob Seger's pre-Beautiful Loser catalog is out-of-print. The only exception to this is Seger's brilliant 1972 covers album, Smokin' O.P.'s, which was re-released in 2005.
I don't know why this is the case, although I've heard rumors that Seger doesn't like this period of his career. If it's true that Bob is embarrassed by his youthful musical output, the man seriously needs his ears checked because he rocked like a motherfucker back then. Stuff like "2+2=?" (a pissed off, anti-war blast of noise that rocks as hard as anything the MC5 ever did) from Ramblin' Gamblin' Man and "Lucifer" from Mongrel (sounding like CCR on performance-enhancing drugs) are among the best music Seger has ever produced. It's a crying shame that the only way to get a hold of this stuff is by either downloading it illegally or spending tons of money for out-of-print albums/CDs on Amazon.
Seger has taken tentative steps towards rectifying this unfortunate situation through the release of Early Seger Vol. 1. I happened to stumble upon it while shopping at my local Meijer store. I echo the sentiments of most people who have reviewed it in saying that the title is a bit misleading. First of all, none of these songs are from the '60s, and some are actually from the '80s--hardly the "early years." Plus at a measly 10 tracks, the album only scrapes the surface of what it could have been. Oh well, with Seger, you take what you can get.
I implore Capitol Records and/or Bob Seger: please, please begin a re-issue campaign of the following albums: Ramblin' Gamblin Man, Mongrel, Back in '72, Noah (yes, even the much maligned Noah), Brand New Morning, and Seven. The listening public, who know Seger primarily as the MOR balladeer of "Like a Rock," deserve to hear these vital and rockin' old albums.
Here's an interesting overview of Early Seger Vol. 1 by Detroit music writer Gary Graff. I found it on Seger's official web site:
"Early Seger Vol. 1" which goes on sale exclusively at Meijer stores on Nov. 24 and then at BobSeger.com on Nov. 30 features songs from a couple different periods of Seger's career. Four of the tracks are previously unreleased, and several have been significantly re-recorded. It's a bit different than its original incarnation, which was a compilation culled from three of Seger's out-of-print albums "Smokin' O.P.'s" in 1972 and 1973's "Back in '72" and "Seven."
But when the project started coming together in September, Seger's manager Ed "Punch" Andrews says the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer "got ahold of it and said, 'No way! I'm putting some new stuff on it.' " Andrews says Seger worked on about a dozen unreleased songs, "some great stuff, but we couldn't use it all. I think he was shocked when he found all these great songs. He picked out his favorites, and that's what's on (the album)."
The presence of those tracks, as well as the "Vol. 1" portion of the title, gives some hope to fans who have been wishing Seger would dig into his prodigious vault of unreleased songs. Seger is continuing to work on material, but Andrews says there are no firm plans yet for additional "Early Seger" releases.
The "Early Seger" project was hatched in September and put together quickly, according to Andrews. The highlights of the collection are the four unreleased tracks, three of which -- "Star Tonight," "Wildfire" and "Days When the Rain Would Come" -- were written during the early '80s and recorded during 1984 and 1985 in consideration for the "Like a Rock" album; "Star Tonight" was recorded by Don Johnson for his "Heartbeat" album in 1986. The hard rocking "Gets Ya Pumpin'," meanwhile, began life as a song called "Pumpin' " originally for Seger's "Seven" album in 1973 and was recorded again in 1977 before being revisited for "Early Seger."
Though "Days When the Rain Would Come" was recorded in 1984, Seger enhanced the original tapes of the other three tracks with fresh vocals, horns and/or other new instrumentation recorded during September at Kid Rock's home studio in Clarkston and Yessian Studios in Farmington Hills. Local musicians such as the Motor City Horns, which accompanied Seger on his 2006-07 tour, and guitarist Marlon Young from Rock's Twisted Brown Trucker Band took part in the sessions.
Seger also did some extensive re-recording on "Long Song Comin' " from the "Seven" album."Early Seger's" other five tracks - a cover of Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter" and Seger's own "Someday" from 1972's "Smokin' O.P.'s," a gospel-flavored rendition of the Allman Brothers Band's "Midnight Rider" from 1973's "Back in '72" and the "Seven" Tracks "Get Out of Denver" and "U.M.C. (Upper Middle Class)" -- were remastered from the original tapes.
Snippets of each song are currently streaming at the BobSeger.com web site. Andrews says he's "discussing" whether to sell "Early Seger" via Internet downloads, and if they decided to it will only be sold at Seger's web site and as an entire album rather than individual tracks. Seger is currently not selling any of his music via download.
A retail price for the album is currently being determined as well. Andrews says the Meijer tie-in, with 190 stores in five Midwest states, felt appropriate to the early '70s time period when most of the songs were written and/or recorded. "They're in the (region) where we toured all those years and where these records sold the most," he explains. "Meijer made it worthwhile to do this. They're pretty excited about it. It's a perfect combo."
Andrews says "Early Seger" may go into wider release in the future, but probably not until after the winter holidays. Seger, meanwhile, is not expected to tour or perform live to promote the album.