Bob Seger, ‘Ride Out’ – Album Review
The last time Bob Seger released an album, 2006's 'Face the Promise,' he was coming off an 11-year break from recording and a 15-year absence from the Top 10.
Claiming a new-millennium stake in the heartland rock he helped define in the '70s, Seger found redemption in a set of songs that pretty much reflected his state of mind eight years ago. It's not a great record, but it's no embarrassment either; it reached the Top 10, went platinum and reminded music listeners why he was such a big deal back in the day.
On 'Ride Out,' the 69-year-old rocker once again attempts to find purpose in the road songs, the work songs and the love songs that helped shape his career. And once again, deliberately or not, it pretty much shapes up where Bob Seger stands right now, in 2014.
And if his recent successful tours aren't indication enough, 'Ride Out''s middle-of-the-road songs of past-middle-age weariness make it clear: Seger is content in letting his past speak for him. This isn't a record so much of reflection as it is a document of falling back on old ways, with concessions to the voice (warmer, worn-in and not as husky) and general balls-out-rocking (less 'Rock and Roll Never Forgets,' more 'Against the Wind') limitations imposed by time.
From the opening cover of John Hiatt's 'Detroit Made,' the album's best song and the one Seger delivers with the most conviction and emotion, 'Ride Out' balances the heart and muscle of Seger's greatest work. If he doesn't nail the sinister tone of Steve Earle's 'The Devil's Right Hand,' he eases into Wilco and Billy Bragg's 'California Stars' with the laid-back glance of a guy who's been there and back many times before.
It's easy to mistake this casualness for laziness at times, especially when the album drifts into a handful of songs that neglect the pace and intensity of Seger's long list of classics. But the weathered voice behind the title track and the life-lesson observations related by 'All of the Roads'' narrator come from a place not too far removed from the one where Seger resided years ago.
There's history in that distance. But there's also a sense that Seger, unlike many of his peers, isn't fighting for relevance here. 'Ride Out' isn't a summation of a career, and it isn't a comeback. It's just the latest in a line of albums that, like the protagonist of 'Detroit Made,' punches the clock somewhere between nostalgia and necessity.