Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Bob Seger System - Ramblin' Gamblin' Man

I know that I've ranted'n'raved about Bob Seger before on this blog and for those who only know his late, TV commercial music, be aware that at one time, he was a fierce Detroit rock'n'roller, right up there with the best of them! This was the first album by the Bob Seger System (he has had a number of different bands over the years and used different names) and was originally titled Tales of Lucy Blue (one of the songs and the reason for the cover) but was changed when the new title track became a smash hit.

And goddam, what a song! A chooglin' rock'n'roll rhythm, drivin' guitars and cool keys back Seger's boastful anthem - making it one of the best r'n'r songs on the radio in 1969. The original title track follows and is a slower, more psychedelic groover with some stingin' guitar (Bob is a fine player and gets to show off throughout this record - he is certainly better than some of the lead players he had in later bands) and wavy melody lines. Handclaps get ya in the mood for "Ivory" where blues-rock riffs collide with waves of organ (also played by Bob) and guitars, while his growly voice does a call'n'answer with female backing singers. The one non-Seger song of the album, "Gone" (by bassist Dan Honaker) is a quiet ballad and not particularly memorable but "Down Home" comes bangin' in with a slammin' beat by drummer Pep Perrine, cool riffs and some nice blues harp by guest Michael Earlwine. "Train Man" doesn't ever seem to really sync for me, with its varied times, separate sections and unremarkable melody (though I like the "heys" and some of the guitar licks) and while "White Wall" has some groovy wah-wah and riffs, it also doesn't really stick with you - again, there and multiple breakdowns with divide the tune, but the punches back in are powerful and I dig the backwards lead guitar. Unfortunately, "Black Eyed Girl" follows in this direction - come cool bits but broken up with slow, open parts - a little more successful with the heavy guitars but still not very cohesive. All is forgiven and forgotten with one of Seger's best songs ever, the anti-war moster "2+2 = ?" - starting with Honaker's dynamic bassline, then a counterpoint guitar lick, propulsive drums and vicious lyrics - this is freakin' Detroit high-energy bash'n'roll! Sonofabitch, if this doesn't take your breath away then you don't dig rock'n'roll! The only problem is that it's over before you know it - he could have spent a little more time on this one and a little less on the previous couple. After that we get a respite with a short piec of soulful organ work in "Doctor Fine" before the appropriately titled closer "The Last Song".

So, yeah, there is a bit of filler here'n'there and some ramblin' (so to speak) bits, but overall, this is a solid rock'n'roll album and it is a shame that (so I've heard) Seger has halted the release of his early work, which many consider to be his best, because it is not up to his current standards. This can still be found in used record stores and should be picked up when it is!