Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band / Bob Seger

The Fire Inside

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Michigan's Bob Seger is an American treasure, but he doesn't get the full respect or attention of, say, Bruce Springsteen or John Mellencamp because he wasn't as visible. His late-'70s prime was pre-MTV, New Jersey-born Springsteen had the fawning support of the New York-based media, and Mellencamp embraced high-profile political causes like Farm Aid and married model Elaine Irwin. 1991's The Fire Inside is credited to Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, but that's misleading. Keyboardist Craig Frost plays on most of the songs, but saxophonist Alto Reed and bassist Chris Campbell are virtually MIA. Instead, Seger uses countless special guests. So many, in fact, that listing them all would eat up this review space, but they include Joe Walsh, Bruce Hornsby, Roy Bittan, Steve Lukather, Don Was, Waddy Wachtel, Rick Vito, Mike Campbell, Patty Smyth, Lisa Germano, and Kenny Aronoff. Overall, the 12-track album is a disappointing piecemeal effort with five different production credits, and Seger uses two Tom Waits covers and one other outside song to pad it. "The Real Love" was a Top 40 hit and this acoustic guitar-based song is indicative of Seger's gift for writing mid-tempo ballads. "Real at the Time" is propelled by the kind of passion generally lacking elsewhere here. The tremendously rewarding "The Fire Inside" lives up to its name. On this career highlight, Seger's great lyrics poetically describe the frailty of human emotion but the passion in our never-ending yearnings; Bittan's bright piano melody and Russ Kunkel's crisp, forceful drumming help Seger sing with inspired resonance. Walsh and Seger actually engage in a guitar duel on "The Mountain." The spunky rocker "She Can't Do Anything Wrong" ends The Fire Inside on a high note, but it's not enough to make the album cohesive.

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