Bob Seger – Ultimate Hits (review)

Bob Seger- Ultimate Hits: Rock and Roll Never Forgets (Capitol) review

First-ever 2-CD set collects 24 Seger classics and two new tracks

I saw Bob Seger over the summer (see review here), and have NEVER heard a louder, more appreciative audience.  The fact is, his success has only grown over the years.  Part of his appeal is that he seems like an average guy – he isn’t seen hob-nobbing with Hollywood stars or selling his wares on cable TV.  Perhaps that’s why his original Greatest Hits CD, released back in 1994, has sold a staggering nine million copies, making it the #1 Catalog Album of the Decade.  But that set, with only 12 classic tracks and two new ones, always seemed to short-change the singer.  Face it – you just can’t squeeze all of Seger’s great songs on a single CD.  To remedy this comes Ultimate Hits: Rock n’ Roll Never Forgets, a two-disc set featuring 24 classic tracks and two recent ones.

Smartly, the collection centers around the four albums from 1976-1980 that cemented the Detroit native’s status as a rock legend, grabbing the road-worn “Turn the Page,” as well as the live medley “Travelin’ Man” / “Beautiful Loser” from Live Bullet.  Night Moves, his first Top Ten album, is represented by the autobiographical title track, the coming-of age slow burner “Mainstreet,” as well as the bluesy album cut “The Fire Down Below,” and the prophetic “Rock n’ Roll Never Forgets.”

Four track are culled from his biggest-selling studio album Stranger in Town: “Still the Same” (perhaps one of the best songs ever written about getting old), the driving “Hollywood Nights,” the ballad “We’ve Got Tonight,” and the ubiquitous classic “Old Time Rock and Roll” (which Seger largely wrote, but chose not be credited).   Four tracks are grabbed from the followup Against the Wind: “Fire Lake” (a countrified departure featuring three members of the Eagles on backing vocals), “Her Strut” (one of  Seger’s hardest rockers), “You’ll Accomp’ny Me” (featuring Little Feat’s Billy Payne on piano), as well as the epic title track.

The collection also features a few rarities – Seger’s very first hit from way back in 1968 (when he was billed as the Bob Seger System) “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man,” appearing here in its original punchier mono single version, as well as “Little Drummer Boy,” making its debut on a Seger album (previously only available on the holiday compilation A Very Special Christmas).  The only issue with this set is, with each disc running a little over 50 minutes, there was plenty of room to add a few extra tracks – the Top 20 hits “Even Now,” “American Storm,” and “Understanding” were all omitted, as well as the live radio staple “Feel Like a Number.”  Also absent are any tracks off his 1991 album The Fire Inside.  The two new songs “Hey Hey Hey Hey (Going Back to Birmingham)” (an old Little Richard nugget), and “Downtown Train” (another Tom Waits’ cover – already ably handled by Rod Stewart in 1990) are both pleasant but don’t really stand up to the classic tracks.

The accompanying booklet features some great photos as well as lyrics to every song, and credits of who played what.  This reveals some interesting facts – bet you didn’t know that Seger played the lead guitar on “Her Strut,” or the slide guitar on “Katmandu”?

Although Ultimate Hits could’ve been better – a few extra tracks to each disc and this would’ve been a stone-cold classic – it still stands as an excellent overview of one of the best-loved rockers of the Classic Rock Era.  –Tony Peters