Tuesday, April 5, 2011

'The Distance' is vintage Bob Seger

Bob Seger has a fascinating catalogue of albums. Ranging from the 1960s until the present, he has produced memorable ballads as well as some great rock and roll.
Even though he began recording in the '60s, he did not break through commercially until the mid-70s with the live record 'Live' Bullet. The live album concept is not a favorite of mine, but that was one that really worked. Because of the long time between the start of his career and his breakthrough, the public missed a lot of really good music that is never heard on the radio. Of those early albums, seek out Smokin' O.P.'s and Mongrel. They are fascinating examples of a gifted artist finding his voice.
The Distance was released in 1982 and came on the heels of a lot of commercial success. After breaking through with 'Live' Bullet, Seger followed it up with Night Moves and Stranger in Town. Both are filled with big hits and are among the best albums of the '70s. However, after those two he released Against the Wind. Though another commercial success, the quality dipped. The songs sounded forced (like 'The Horizontal Bop'), and there was a malaise to the record that was undeniable.
Seger's career was at an interesting crossroad at this point. After tasting success after all those years of struggle, was he beginning to lose his edge and motivation? The Distance provided a convincing answer to that question and stands as one of the best albums of his career.
The album explodes from the start with 'Even Now' much in the same way as 'Hollywood Nights' did on Stranger in Town. Seger pays homage to his home in Detroit with 'Makin’ Thunderbirds' and questions the pitfalls of fame in 'Boomtown Blues.'
The big hit from the album was his version of Rodney Crowell's 'Shame on the Moon.' However, the strongest track on this set is 'Roll Me Away.' The song begins with Seger questioning who he was and what he was doing. It ended with him vowing to do his best until he gets things right. Propelled by the piano of the E Street Band's Roy Bittan, it is one of Seger's greatest.
This album is rock and roll at its best.


josh said...

I had no clue Roy Bittan played on this album.

Kathy A said...

As soon as I heard that piano, I knew exactly who was playing it. Bittan has a distinctive sound that comes through no matter who he's playing with. Listen to Meat Loaf's first album -- there's that same bright piano.