Face The Promise

Bob Seger

Not conscious in time to hear a new Bob Seger album, my appreciation for one of the few living American legends has been limited to bars and radio, downloaded CDs, and scratched-up albums. Every song is such a part of my being that I never heard one for the first time. Tearing off the cellophane of Face The Promise was one of the happiest and most frightening things I've done. Could he deliver another life anthem? Was he going to prove there is life after the 80s? Or was he just washed up?

There is absolutely no doubt about who wrote this album — although Kid Rock helped with "Real Mean Bottle". The first song grabs you with a Silver Bullet guitar line and my personal favorite: the gospel-esque female backup. When every artist seems to want to reinvent themselves with every debut and every nose job, Seger is still Seger after over a decade of silence. At times, he almost verges into Tom Petty, but only in the best ways. It will be a while before you hear "Free Falling" stolen by this King of Country Roads.

A few fears still linger: hitting the mid-album doldrums, you start to feel like you've heard this song before. The first two-thirds of Face The Promise have two types of songs: Bob-Seger-slow-jam, real tear-jerker ballads, and Bob-Seger-fast-songs, the kind that make you want to drive fast, slam a drink at a bar, and light a cigarette off something big burning. All very well and good, but a scary realization considering this is his first album in eleven years. You want to be knocked on your ass with every track.

Also, some songs seems a trite incoherent when you scan the lyrics pages. Sometimes it sounds like Seger either really liked a few phrases or needed filler, but near-clichés are stuck into otherwise solid songs. And it's not any easier that he "can't believe… the foolish goals we set ourselves upon" in "Are You", but urges you to "keep your focus on your goal" one track later in "Simplicity". Here, Seger took an unfortunate departure from former glory. Once amaster storyteller who could paint a picture so clear it could have come from your own memory, now he seems to be grasping at clichéd-straws. Who doesn't remember when they were working on their own Night Moves? It's a lot harder to experience a song when it waves good-bye to Mississippi and Alabama… and Arizona… and Massachusetts...and North Dakota. If he was worrying about leaving any audience member out, he could have just said "this town."

Maybe it was the new singer, but "Real Mean Bottle" breaks the album's rut. The last four songs remind you why women still want Bob Seger. This first part was toe-tappable, but the final third hits and stays and makes you want to hear it again. The songs fit you like a tough leather jacket: invulnerable to whatever bothers other people, prepared for anything, and willing to do more. And, almost impossibly, he shows a softer side. I won't ruin it, because part of its power is in the surprise. Just like that, Seger reaffirms your faith and rewards you for the long, long wait.

~ Anna Jacobson

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