By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


October 10, 2006

Bob Seger
'Face the Promise'
Capitol Records
Grade: B

It would be easy to quote one of Bob Seger's song titles back at him -- "Still the Same" -- but, in this case, it's a good thing. After an 11-year absence, one of rock's best voices has returned.

If it's the same voice that Chevy drove into the ground with its "Like a Rock" commercials, well, it was a great song the first 4,568 times. And we still have "Night Moves," "Katmandu," "Makin' Thunderbirds" and dozens of other meat-and-potatoes anthems that made this native of Flint., Mich., a megastar.

"Face the Promise" does not feature his Silver Bullet Band, but it does boast a cast of ace Nashville-based sidemen who help Seger try styles more twangy and funky but somehow still the same over 11 originals and a cover of "Real Mean Bottle," Vince Gill's tribute to Merle Haggard.

And the sound of that great "Night Moves" chorale is back, too, anchored by Laura Creamer and Shaun Murphy (Little Feat).

The CD roars to life with the road song "Wreck This Heart." Road imagery permeates this record, from the cover art of Seger, with long, gray hair, astride a Harley, to the title song, in which the singer shouts goodbye to, among other places, Arizona and Framingham, Mass. (Hey, I've done that, too.)

Those tracks share space with more topical songs that plead for personal and political accountability.

The ballad "No Matter Who You Are," about how much we give up "between the soaring dream and the bottom line," borrows sonically from "Night Moves." The anti-greed rocker "Are You," which warns "this world's gonna make you crazy/If you never have enough," is answered by the horn-flavored "Simplicity," which echoes a bit of the classic "Strut."

And "No More," an acoustic-based, midtempo rocker, recalls the Vietnam War before alluding to the Iraq war: "Someday you'll be ordered to explain/No one gets to walk between the rain. ... I don't want this, I have had enough, no more."

Seger, 61, has said that this CD was a long time coming partly because he chose to be a family man to children he had later in life and then because he wanted to make it worthy of an artist who was inducted two years ago into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Not to worry on that count. "Promise" debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 chart last month, Seger's highest chart position since "Like a Rock" in '86. It's also gotten a boost from Country Music Television, which is kind of stuck in the '80s itself.