A very long time in the making, "Face the Promise" came about after Bob Seger scrapped innumerable songs he had been working on for years (Seger and Punch Andrews must have an underground bunker somewhere holding all that "unreleased material."). But once Seger changed direction, he was invigorated to the point where he stopped sailing and put aside his golf clubs until the whole thing was done. Here's a rundown of each album track, with Seger's comments in quotes below:
1. Wreck This Heart. An all-out rocker about a guy burned out on work, needing to reconnect with family and have fun.
2. Wait For Me. A song about letting kids go off and make their own mistakes, but also telling them he'll be there if they need him.
3. Face The Promise. "That song was the original theme of the album. It's real loose, it's subtle now but originally in '98 when I wrote that song, I'd had this album for years, 'The Future' by Leonard Cohen. I bought it when I saw it in a Nashville record store. I thought what a cool title for an album, 'The Future.' Then I loved the album. I have five copies of it. I'm a Cohenhead. Oh sure I saw the documentary, oh yeah. A Cohenhead all the way.
"So I wrote the song 'Face the Promise' which came from a riff (he sings it). Then when I started singing the lyric'Face the promise of what, of the Promised Land. Think of Chuck Berry. That's cool what do I mean by that? It went from there. That particular song is about kids maybe in rural areas dreaming about going to the big city and what's that like I'm going to be famous and successful the American dream."
It also deals with one of your great themes, escape.
"Yeah, I'm not gonna be bored here, I'm going to go there and I won't be bored. There's that dichotomy, though. Anything you do too much, it gets boring. If you sail too much it gets boring."
4. No Matter Who You Are. On protecting one's unique gifts.
5. Are You. A rant about rampant consumerism, featuring a great Shaun Murphy counterpoint vocal.
6. Simplicity. Inspired by Seger's beloved Detroit Pistons, a paean to the importance of performing the fundamentals.
7. No More. An anti-Iraq War song.
"Well here we are again. It's a little deja vu there, we're in a place we can't get out of, same as Vietnam. It's my own personal statement that's why I don't say 'we don't want this' I say 'I don't want this.' I think the troops have done a fantastic job, I'm proud as hell of them, but I'm questioning whether we should still be there and if we went today, would it make that much of a difference anymore. I don't know. I don't think so. I think if they're going to have a civil war they're going to have one whether we're there or not. I think it gets more dangerous the longer we stay."
Does war prey on your mind more, having a teenage son?
"Sure, sure! He's 13 (14 now). I just felt it was something that I wanted to say personally, I just think enough's enough."
8. Real Mean Bottle (with Kid Rock)
"I know how Rock likes all the legends of country, Merle (Haggard) and George Jones and Hank Williamshe reveres that stuff, and I was in the studio with (backup singer) Laura (Creamer) who sings with him when she's not singing with me, and I said 'Do you think Bob would like this?' I played it for her. She said 'Man you ought to tell him to go buy the thing and you ought to have him here tomorrow.'
"So I called him and I said 'Hey Bob go and buy this record and see if we should do it together.' He said 'OK!' He called me back three hours later and said 'Oh yeah yeah I'll be there tomorrow.' Well, he took over the session! He said 'Well we can't do it that way.' I was going to do it the way Vince did it. I figured Bob really likes country, it'll be a country song with real funny lyrics about a real mean bottlethat's why I gave Bob a production credit. He said no 'No no no we've gotta do it this way!' He went out and whipped the beat, turned the thing up 70 beats a minute, had the drummer playing this way and he basically produced the song right in front of my eyes, he did the handclaps, the breakdowns, he changed the melody on the bridge and the choruses to a 7/4/1/ chord structure, he did all of that right in front of my eyes. I think we started at 11 in the morning and we were done by 3 o'clock in the afternoon, the whole thing was done and sung. We called up Vince and he came over and listened and absolutely loved it, we got his blessing.
"I know Bob's range because I went to one of his concerts and he did 'Rock and Roll' by Led Zeppelin which I would not even ATTEMPT that's so high, and I said if Bob can sing that high, this is going to be great. He can do the high harmony, and I can sing where I normally sing. So it'll work out great."
9. Won't Stop. Just to balance things out, a song about addictions.
10. Between. Seger has said it might be his favorite cut; it's an acquired taste for a lot of fans but its multilayered strangeness is a key to the kind of edgy music he seeks out.
11. The Answer's in the Question (with Patty Loveless)
"What a joy this was. This is the gal who I've listened to more than any guy or gal in country. She's my favorite country artist of all time. I'm a huge fan of hers, I have every one of her albums from day oneI called her up and I had 'Answer's in the Question' we played it for her on the phone, and I said, this would be your part. We went down the following week and she sang it in Atlanta, we stayed at her place with (husband) Emory (Gordy). It was great finally making a record with her. I warned her that this was not a hit record, it's just a little song I like."
12. The Long Goodbye. On the ravages of Alzheimer's disease.
SEGER ON SEGER
On that youtube video of the Bob Seger System doing "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" on a 1968 TV show:
"Oh I saw it! Yeah we had it here. I'm holding the mike and playing the keyboards (raucous laughter). Can't you afford a mikestand??? (he sings) 'Rambling man' Production values! Oh my God!
Pep Perrine really laid down the beat on "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man."
Pep lives in Florida. He was a good drummer. Picture this, at one point we actually had a band for about two weeks, Pep, Glenn Frey and me. Glenn and I took turns playing bass and playing guitar, and playing keyboards, and we were a three piece. That was our band. Power trio. And Punch kind of put the nix on it because he wanted us to be separate. He said 'I think you guys are too good to be in the same band.' You're good enough, you should both be fronting your own bands."
Why he likes country music:
"It's kind of the last bastion of melody and really artistic songwriting. It seems like every third person I meet (in Nashville) is a songwriter and they love to write. We're bringing this guy up, he's trying out for the utility position in the band, he has to be a good enough player to play acoustic and lead guitar, and he's got to play great keyboards. And this guy wrote 'Five O'Clock Somewhere.' (Jim "Moose" Brown, who is on the tour). This is how good these people are.
Getting the pipes in shape for touring:
"There's that one spot that everybody likes the way I'm singing in All the hits seem to be high. Oh God, 'Night Moves' and 'Rock and Roll Never Forgets', and even 'Turn the Page,' at the end of 'Turn the Page' it's real high. 'Main Street' I always go high. And it seems like all the ones that come off the record that are emphasis tracks are gonna be high, 'Wreck this Town,' 'Mean Bottle'-- that's not high thank God because the other guy (Kid Rock) does the high part hahaha! So I just have to build up my stamina and my voice to consistently hit those notes for two hours and fifteen minutes.
Holland-Dozier-Holland used to make Levi Stubbs, a baritone, sing way above his natural range all the time, Levi would complain that they had him shouting.
"He told me that too! That's where the excitement is"