Picks and Pans Review: The Fire Inside

updated 10/07/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/07/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

At first, it sounds like maybe Seger stayed away too long. The initial track on his first record in more than five years is "Take a Chance," a shiftless, monotonous anthem.

He recovers quickly with the pretty, understated ballad "The Real Love," followed in short order by the Acadian two-step of "Sightseeing," the sturdy rocker "Real at the Time" and the twilight rumble of "The Mountain." So much for bad first impressions.

There are some mild disappointments, such as the perfunctory title track and two mawkish tearjerkers. There are also happy surprises, including covers of two Tom Waits songs, the barfly's reveille "New Coat of Paint" and the country lament "Blind Love." The latter is a reminder that if, by an accident of birth, Seger hadn't been raised near Detroit, cutting his chops on Mitch Ryder, he could be a hell of a country singer with that nervy, lived-in voice.

Seger's old Silver Bullet Band is here in name only. Most of the playing is done by what might be called the Gold Record Gang, an assemblage of talent that includes Bruce Hornsby, Dann Huff, Russ Kunkel, Joe Walsh, Waddy Wachtel, as well as members of Little Feat and Bruce Springsteen's, Tom Petty's and John Mellencamp's bands.

With the help of obviously busy producer Don Was, Seger has fashioned a collection that sounds simple and effortless, belying the obvious care and labor that went into it. That, more than anything, signals that Seger is back and still making spirited, smart rock music sound easy. (Capitol)

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