Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band / Bob Seger

Greatest Hits, Vol. 2

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In 2003, when "deluxe editions" and "definitive collections" were the name of the game in reissues, it was refreshing to see Bob Seger's defiantly retro Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 hit the shelves. The title and the approach hark back to the days when a hits compilation was followed a few years later by a supplement, covering roughly the same territory and adding a few new singles. Seger's first Greatest Hits had all the big hits, from "Night Moves" to "Old Time Rock & Roll," and while it was very effective at that level, many of his big hits were ballads, so by extension the hits collection downplayed his rock & roll, which is was kind of odd for a singer/songwriter known as a passionate rocker. And while there was no arguing with what was on Greatest Hits, it left off many songs that illustrated his depth as a songwriter -- and that's not even counting that it left his handful of non-LP singles and songs unaccounted for or the fact that it ignored his early Cameo/Parkway singles, the Bob Seger System, or his first seven albums. Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 solves a lot of these problems and is a stronger album than the first Greatest Hits because of it. While it's still frustrating that Seger ignores his early material (the Cameo/Parkway songs are owned by somebody else, but he certainly could dip into the first seven albums, at least for "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man"), it's also true that they're of a different aesthetic than the anthemic blue-collar rock that he first etched out on 1975's Beautiful Loser. That is the music that made him a star, and that's the music that fuels this collection, all the way through to the lesser-known latter-day sides "Manhattan" and "New Coat of Paint," as well as the brand-new cuts "Satisfied" and "Tomorrow," two hard-rocking songs that are some of his best music in years. These are good, but they are naturally overshadowed by the songs that form the heart of this collection: the terrific plea for compassion "Understanding," previously only available on the soundtrack to Teachers; grinding hard rockers "The Fire Down Below," "Her Strut," and "Sunspot Baby"; the delrious Chuck Berry homage "Katmandu," one of his funniest and toughest songs; the country-tinged ballads "Shame on the Moon" and "Fire Lake"; the aching elegy "Beautiful Loser"; the life-afirming "Rock and Roll Never Forgets," one of the best songs about aging within rock & roll. In this context, even the too-produced heavily synthesized "Shakedown" -- his contribution to 1987's Beverly Hills Cop II and his only number one hit, never available on a Seger album until now -- turns into a good time. Sure, there are a few songs that probably should have made the cut -- most notably "Feel Like a Number" and "Even Now" -- but as it stands, Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 is an excellent supplement to the first collection and a hell of a lot more fun to listen to as well.

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