Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My favorite Bob Seger LP - "Mongrel"

Seriously - today (I'm writing this in June, 2012), Bob Seger stands as one of rock's forgotten heroes.  That sad situation reflects a combination of Seger's own choices and the public's ever changing tastes.  Truly a disturbing state of affairs ... 

Having previously broken up the Bob Seger System and briefly enrolled in college, 1971 saw Seger reactivate his band (with new keyboardist Don Watson) and go back into the studio.  Co-produced by Seger and Punch Andrews, "Mongrel" may be Seger's creative highpoint.  Backed by a killer trio in the form of bassist Dan Honaker, drummer Pep Perrine, and keyboardist Dan Watson , the overall sound was a tad raw and under-produced, but song-for-song this was a stunning collection.  With Seger sounding a bit upset throughout a big part of the set (check out 'Leanin On My Dream'), the album was also noteworthy in that tracks like 'Song To  Rufus' and 'Mongrel' saw Seger showcasing his largely overlooked chops as a lead guitarist.   Folks either don't know, or forget how good the man was on guitar.   

- Kicked along by Watson's stabbing keyboards and Seger's squalling lead guitar,  'Song To  Rufus' roared out of the starting gate with a slice of blues-rock that would have made The Allman Brothers envious.  Yeah, it lacked the commercial sheen that made Seger a superstar in the mid-1970s, but boy did it rock ...  rating: **** stars
- Yeah, his vocal sounded a bit strained, but 'Evil Edna' found Seger adding a Southern soul element into his repertoire.  Always the treated guitar solo on this one.  Anyone know what the effect was ?   rating: **** stars
- Another blues-tinged rocker, to my ears 'Highway Child' was a precursor of the sound that made him a superstar.  The song was raw, but compared to most of the album, had a full and polished sound.  With lyrics that were surprisingly introspective, this was one of the album highlights.   rating: **** stars
- I'm obviously not the first person to highlight the fact, but the mid-tempo 'Big River' could have easily been mistaken as a dry run for 'Night Moves'.   Admittedly, toning the backing singers down a notch wouldn't have hurt the song, but anyone who loves 'Night Moves' will appreciate this one as well.  Kudos to Dan Honaker for the killer bass line.    rating: **** stars
- Kicked along by some of the meanest sounding lead guitar you've ever heard, the title track rocked with more energy that a coal power plant.  Seriously, Seger and company literally tore the stuffing out of this song.   rating: **** stars
- 'Lucifier' maintained the same level of furiosity, but added a pounding melody with a distinctive commercial sheen to the results.  This was the kind of rock song every pop band dreamed of recording and the kind of pop song ever rock band wished they could write.  Easy to see why Capitol tapped it as a single.    rating: **** stars
- Perhaps inspired by his brief return to college, side two's 'Teachin Blues' was the album's first disappointment.  A molten blues-rocker, Seger and company sounded like they were simply going through the motions on this one.     rating: *** stars
- Amazing that in the early-70s people wrote songs with social and political relevance ...  Perhaps not the most subtle lyrics you've ever heard, but coupled with a killer rock tune, it was still enjoyable.   rating: *** stars
- In contrast to the original song, 'Mongrel Too' was redone as an acoustic blues number.  Nothing particularly wrong with this one, but with the exception of Watson's harpsichord and the unexpected Gospel chorus, there wasn't anything that made it stand out.   rating: ** stars
- Sounding as if it had been recorded live, Seger's cover of 'River Deep - Mountain High' took awhile to grow on me.  Part of the problem probably has to do with the fact I've never been a big fan of the original song, so this muscular cover was starting at a disadvantage.  Once again Seger sounded kind of shrieky and out of breath on this one, but the song got better as it went along; particularly the extended instrumental segment that closed it out.  rating: ** stars 

Released as a single, 'Lucifer' b/w 'Big River' (Capitol catalog number 2748) hit # 84 on the charts. 

Probably not the place for a new, or casual fan to start, but for folks who grew up with the hits, this one should come as a major revelation.  While Seger's 1970s catalog sold far better, "Mongrel" proved a modest seller, hitting # 171 on the US charts.     

  "Mongrel" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Song To  Rufus   (Bob Seger) -  
2.) Evil Edna   (Bob Seger) - 
3.) Highway Child   (Bob Seger) - 
4.) Big River   (Bob Seger) - 
5.) Mongrel   (Bob Seger) - 
6.) Lucifer   (Bob Seger) -    

(side 2)
1.) Teachin Blues   (Bob Seger) - 

2.) Leanin On My Dream   (Bob Seger) - 
3.) Mongrel Too   (Bob Seger) - 
4.) River Deep - Mountain High

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