Bob Seger “Ride Out” (Capitol)
There is a lot to admire about Bob Seger. He has been a rock music icon for over 40 years but he’s always shunned the stereotypical rock & roll lifestyle of wanton excess. Despite his wealth and fame, Seger never left his native Detroit even through all of its seismic problems. Well before anyone ever heard of paternity leave, Seger took a lengthy hiatus from recording and touring to help raise his family.
Seger will turn 70 years young this May but at a time when most have either stopped working or have contemplated doing so, he is relaunching his career. This past fall he released his first studio album in eight years, “Ride Out, ” and supported it with a lengthy tour across the USA including a recent sold-our concert at Madison Square Garden. While no one should expect “Ride Out” to be the equal of his 1975 breakthrough album, “Night Moves, ” or even 1980’s “Against The Wind, ” it is a well-crafted effort.
The opening track, “Detroit Made, ” which despite its title was not written by Bob but rather by legendary tunesmith John Hiatt. Baby boomers may remember how Seger allowed Chevrolet to use his hit, “Like A Rock, ” in TV ads for very little cost at a time when the American automobile industry was getting massacred by imports. “Detroit Made” is a classic uptempo rocker that sounds as if it could have been recorded 40 years ago and it’s a terrific tribute to the American auto.
The title track, “Ride Out, ” uses the car as a metaphor for leaving your comfort zone and discovering new people and places. “Let’s Talk About” is a bluesy list of what is ticking Bob off these days yet he never comes off as preachy.
Seger has always showcased the many influences of his music. “Adam & Eve, ” a duet with his longtime backup singer, Laura Creamer, is pure country while “All Of The Roads, ” has the ingredients of a ‘70s rock power ballad including the use of a sizable chorus.
To play off the title of one of his many song titles, Seger shows that he hasn’t forgotten what makes for great rock & roll
Ray Charles “Genius Loves Company” (Concord)
These days duet albums between permutations of musical superstars is rather common but that wasn’t the case a decade ago when Concord Records had the late Ray Charles pair up with a variety of artists. This was a clear case of art meeting commerce because Concord wanted to test out the idea of using Starbucks as a venue for selling compact discs. It’s funny that even in this digital age when music retailers as Tower Records, HMV, and the Virgin Megastore have gone belly-up, the nation’s best-known retail coffee chain is still selling CDs.
Concord has re-released “Genius Loves Company” and improved its sound through a remastering process. Ray happily plays a supporting role to James Taylor and Van Morrison on their respective compositions, “Sweet Potato Pie” and “Crazy Love.” He manages to coax Elton John into making “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” less lugubrious.
Ray seemed to be having the most fun singing tunes where he and the guest artist are meeting on neutral ground; meaning that neither artist had recorded a version of the song before this duet. Although Ray’s voice had significantly frayed by 2004, it’s fun hearing him and Michael McDonald take a stab at the 1963 Freddie Scott hit, “Hey Girl.” The same can be said about him teaming up with Gladys Knight on Steve Wonder’s “Heaven Help Us All.” The most poignant moment on the album, and particularly timely as we move into 2015, is when he joins forces with old buddy Willie Nelson on the 1966 Frank Sinatra chestnut, “It Was A Very Good Year, ” a song that is tailor-made for Willie’s twangy voice.
If you missed it the first time around, this is a great time to get caught up with “Genius Loves Company.”
The Mets may not have given their fans much of a reason to cheer at Citi Field the last few years but they have certainly give fans of classic rock reason to come out to the park as they have hosted post-game concerts by REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, and last year, Huey Lewis & The News. This year, the Steve Miller Band, will be performing after the Saturday, June 27th game with the Reds while Heart, led by Ann & Nancy Wilson, will perform after the Saturday, July 25th game with the Dodgers.