Since Bob Seger's mid-tempo, Middle American rock sound remains constant -- the drums in the pocket, the guitars chugging along, the vocals husky and choked -- it's the variables of performance and composition that separate his good albums from his great ones. On both counts, It's a Mystery is not great. Both as writer and performer, Seger seems tired and bitter. Always a reflective, backward-looking lyricist, Seger is full of regret on "Lock and Load" (one of four songs that contain references to firearms, including a cover of Tom Waits' "16 Shells from a 30-06"), and in "Rite of Passage," among other songs, he offers a critical view of the state of the nation. The most personal of these complaints is "Revisionism Street," which criticizes the scandal mongers who prey upon stars like himself. Though Seger assembles a revolving group of ace session players, including E Street Band keyboardist Roy Bittan and members of Little Feat (the Silver Bullet Band has been a myth for a long time), the playing is formulaic. Though Seger had the usual four years to put this album together, he doesn't seem to have been ready to record, either in terms of coming up with enough quality material or getting his performing chops up. And he is at a point in his career where he can no longer coast: after racking up ten straight million-selling albums; It's a Mystery only reached gold record status, becoming his first album since 1976 to miss the Top Ten. Meanwhile, his 1994 Greatest Hits album continued to rack up healthy sales, indicating that, as of 1995, Bob Seger was well on his way to becoming an oldies act.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann