Monday, October 18, 2010

Bob Seger's 'Live Bullet' one of the most notable live albums of all time

As I have written before, I am not a big fan of live albums. Most of them re-hash an artist's big hits and rarely break new ground. Additionally, with all the techno-wizardry that goes on in post production these days, many live albums are not totally live.
However, when looking back at the last 40 or 50 years of popular music, there are a few that stand out. One such album is Live Bullet by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. In one mesmerizing performance, Seger went from regional journeyman to national star.
By the mid-70s, it appeared that Seger was running out of chances to make the big time. Though a fan favorite in the Midwest, he had not been able to break out nationally. He had a Top 20 hit with 'Ramblin' Gamblin' Man' in 1969, but he was unable to sustain it. Most of his following albums barely dented the Top 200.
Live Bullet changed this. Recorded at Cobo Hall in Detroit, Seger was playing at home to his people. The crowd and Seger fed off each other. His passion fueled the audience, and their response drove Seger to greater heights.
The album begins with a funky version of Tina Turner's 'Nutbush City Limits,' which allowed the artist and crowd to generate a nice lather. Then, the Silver Bullet Band launched into a medley of 'Travelin' Man' and 'Beautiful Loser.' Seger's growling vocals, and the instrumental break that links the songs defines 'urgency.' It was as if all involved understood that they were in the middle of something special. And they delivered.
Perhaps the most well-known song from the set is 'Turn the Page.' Still a radio staple, it is a ballad about the challenges of life on the road. It is clearly autographical as Seger sings with weariness about his journey. It is a great performance, but likely, it could not have happened without the 10-year struggle he had gone through to reach this point.
Other highlights include a rocking re-make of Van Morrison's 'I've Been Working' and a thunderous 'Katmandu.' Additionally, the set includes 'Ramblin' Gamblin' Man' and 'Get Out of Denver.' 'Get Out of Denver' is likely one of the better Seger songs most people have not heard. Built on a Chuck Berry riff, it is delivered at a frantic pace and deals with the need to get out of town quickly.
There are some missteps. 'Heavy Music' is too long, and 'Jody Girl' seems to have been included just to give the band a chance to catch its breath.
However, those are minor issues. Thirty-five years after being released, it sounds as vital as ever. In the United States, it has sold more than five million copies and many more internationally. Seger followed this album with the remarkable Night Moves, and it planted him as a musical force that was here to stay.
He records at a much more leisurely pace these days. That is a shame, but at least we have a ton of good tunes to listen to.

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