Vintage Stash

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

Live Bullet/Nine Tonight

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Dirty Impound is giving away one copy of each of these reissues. To enter drawing, send an email to dennis@dirtyimpound.com telling us in 25 words or less why Bob Seger rocks. Best responses score the goods and will have their response published on DI.

Possessed of one of the manliest voices ever and backed up by one of the toughest, tightest road crews of all-time, Bob Seger has been serious rock ‘n’ roll business for over 40 years. However, it hasn’t always been big stages and fat paychecks for the Michigan native. After experiencing sudden stardom with his 1969 debut, Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, Seger then spent the next six years honing his amazing (and often under-appreciated) songwriting prowess, barely a blip on the charts but a devastating sure-bet in concert, killing it regionally around Detroit and doing the nationwide legwork in clubs that forges true champions. Seger would soon be ubiquitous on FM radio and huge halls everywhere after 1976’s Night Moves but before that came Live Bullet (reissued September 13 on Capitol) , one of the great double vinyl live sets now offered up with much greater sonic clarity and punch in a new CD edition.

Over the course of 14 perfectly sequenced tracks (and now a bonus cut, a cover of Alan Jackson’s “I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home”), Bob and his boys pick up continual steam, an audience tossing locomotive that takes the old Bill Haley Rock Caravan idea into the 1970s. This is a catalog of good time music peppered with Seger’s sly social commentary (“U.M.C.”, “Turn The Page”). The band owns every cover from the bracing opening take on Ike & Tina’s “Nutbush City Limits” to the carnal romp through Van Morrison’s “I’ve Been Working” to a deliciously punishing attack on “Bo Diddley” to the final encore of Eric Anderson’s “Let It Rock.” Seger and the Silver Bullet had no idea that chart topping success lurked just around the corner, and they play like men with something to prove on Live Bullet, where they lay it down with utmost authority and grit. And since Seger’s pre-76 catalog is largely out-of-print (save for 1972’s Smokin’ O.P.’s and 1975’s Beautiful Loser), this set offers a handy smattering of his pre-mega-success songbook.

What a difference a few years makes. By 1980, Seger and his Bullet had racked up a seven Top 40 hits and their first Number One album with 1980’s Against The Wind, whose subsequent tour produced Nine Tonight (reissued September 13 on Capitol and now including “Brave Strangers” as a bonus cut). They returned to Detroit’s infamous Cobo Hall, the site of Live Bullet, and tapped an October run at Boston Garden for their second double live album (and currently the last official live document for Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band). By this time, Seger’s voice had taken on the aged whiskey perfection one hears on the studio versions of “Against The Wind,” “Hollywood Nights” and “Rock And Roll Never Forgets” (all rendered with dramatic fervor here). He’s a pleasure to simply listen to, especially put to service on the huge expanse of killer new material penned between 1976-1980. Their whole sound is fuller here, the one-man horn section Alto Reed given new depth by the swankier recording on this tour. and the female backup singers offer a welcome splash of estrogen to this man music. Keyboardist Craig Frost also shines, his piano, organ and Clavinet work hitting a sweet spot somewhere between Chuck Berry foil Johnnie Johnson and Skynyrd’s Billy Powell.

Yes, things are a touch slicker than the earlier live album but that befits a coliseum filling mainstream act cresting into their biggest success to date. Unlike a lot of groups that have followed in their footsteps, the Bullet and their leader don’t confuse being professional with being overly careful or scripted – this music still feels of the moment, free of any canned hackery. Nine Tonight is where they took the message of Live Bullet global, cementing Seger and his band’s place in the pantheon. Taken together, these are crucial chapters in the story of a great American rock band that have lost nothing in the years since their initial release. Hell, they continue to make other bands look lazy and sloppy, offering a yardstick more rockers should use in measuring their own live mojo.

It’s to be dearly hoped that tape is running on Seger’s current slate of touring for a third live official live chapter, but this pair of reissues serve as a hopping reminders of what total freakin’ powerhouses this bunch is onstage. Both albums sound far better now, and can be snapped up for under $10 bucks on Amazon. And since Capitol is in a reissuing mood, maybe they can get around to dusting off currently lost gems like Back in ’72 and Mongrel. No harm in wishing aloud.