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Music Review: Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Nine Tonight

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Those of us who can’t get enough of that old time rock and roll, the kind of music that soothes the soul and gets you reminiscing about days of old, are in for a treat. No one plays that old time rock better than Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, and no one has ever played it any better than they did on the 1981 album Nine Tonight, which features live recordings taken from concerts in Detroit’s Cobo Hall in June of 1980 and Boston Garden in October. And now in tandem with the release of a remastered edition of Seger’s other signature live album, Live Bullet, and his continuing North American tour, Capital Records is releasing a remastered Nine Tonight as well. Between the two albums you can get yourself some electric performances of the best of Seger’s music, and the best of Seger is just about as good as you can get.

Whether they are rocking out on classic pieces like “Old Time Rock and Roll” and “Let it Rock” or one of Seger’s own tunes—soon to be classic in its own right—like “Her Strut” or “The Fire Down Below,” this is a band that knows what rock and roll has been and they know how to take that tradition and build on it. They play up tempo with a joy and abandon that echoes through the audience like a tidal wave. The ballads will have you arms up and swaying to your iPod. Even the darker songs are played with a throbbing passion that can hardly be contained. Just listen to the sax highlights (it may not be the Big Man, but the aptly stage named Alto Reed will do in a pinch) and the guitar solos on “Mainstreet,” as dramatic a plaint as you’ll find on some of the best of the best of Springsteen.

These are songs that have become so much a part of the rock heritage that all you need to do is hear the opening chords and you’re already singing along. There’s the guitar passage that opens “Night Moves,” the piano that begins “Against the Wind” and “We’ve Got Tonight.” Really, you could almost list every one of the seventeen songs on the album; there doesn’t seem to be one that doesn’t belong in the rock pantheon. An album that includes all of the above plus “Hollywood Nights,” Rock and Roll Never Forgets,” “Feel Like a Number,” and “Fire Lake” might just as well be called Seger’s Greatest Hits Live. Even a song like “Betty Lou’s Getting’s Out Tonight,” which may not have the reputation of some of these others, is a frantic romp that has the band rocking with abandon. It is no wonder that this is a multi-platinum album; the wonder would be if it weren’t.

There has been some complaint from Seger perfectionists who argued that the original CD’s edited version of “Let It Rock” should have been replaced with the unedited track that was used on the original vinyl album; as long as you were remastering you might as well do it right. Although somewhat mollified by the addition of a bonus track—a live version of “Brave Strangers” from one of the Cobo Hall concerts—their preference would have been for the unedited “Let it Rock.” You can see for yourself, the full ten minute plus version from the vinyl is available on YouTube. My own feeling is if the edited version is the price you have to pay for the new album, it’s well worth it. This is the kind of album that makes you wish that you didn’t know now what you didn’t know then.

 

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About Jack Goodstein