Bob Seger

Early Seger, Vol. 1

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Longtime Bob Seger fans are united by one desire: to have his earliest recordings reissued. Usually, this means his earliest singles for Cameo and Hideout, but the sentiment also pertains to his first seven records that have remained out of print for years, with some -- like the superb Back in '72 -- never seeing a CD reissue. All this means that the 2009 appearance of Early Seger, Vol. 1 caused great excitement, especially since Seger chose Hideout as the imprint for this self-released compilation of highlights and outtakes. Unfortunately, “early" doesn’t mean the ‘60s, and it doesn’t necessarily mean the ‘70s, either: three of the four previously unreleased tunes here date from the mid-‘80s, and Seger has only released three albums since these were cut (including 1986’s Like a Rock). This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker because the songs are largely quite strong, particularly those cherry-picked from the out of print albums: it’s hard to complain with anything that gets his brilliant Chuck Berry homage “Get Out of Denver,” clever interpretation of “Midnight Rider,” and wickedly funny “U.M.C. (Upper Middle Class)” back in circulation. Nevertheless, it’s hard not to balk at the heavy overdubs layered upon “Long Song Comin’” -- a terrific rocker now burdened by gussied-up horns and backing vocals, as well as new vocals from Bob -- and wish that the unreleased cuts also weren’t subjected to some new studio tinkering, letting them be the archival items that they are. Even so, beneath this newfound gloss the songs are strong, particularly the ballad “Days When the Rain Would Come” and the “Roll Me Away” cousin “Wildfire,” and it’s terrific to have them become part of Seger’s official canon, even if the ultimate effect of this too-short, somewhat muddled sampler is to wish that Seger would just jump headfirst into his vaults, reissuing all the old records and putting out the unheard tunes.

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