NIGHT MOVES - Capitol,
STRANGER IN TOWN - Capitol, SW-11698
DOUBLE TROUBLE - Chrysalis, CHR-1174
When Bruce Springsteen testified in his suit against Mike Appel, he told the court that he wanted his opportunity to "possibly influence a whole generation of music." Out of context, that sounds like a pretty heady statement, but the fact is that Springsteen has influenced a large sector of the rock'n' roll performing set. The similarity is not so much in what these artists say, but in how they sound. Sometimes it's even more obvious in how their sounds feel. And you don't have to be from New Jersey to have Springsteen in your heart.
Britisher Graham Parker was tagged (a bit unfairly) as a Springsteen soundalike, and the Elvis Costello got the same treatment. Both Parker and Costello are more lyrically spare, but their semi-hostile deliveries and pure rock sensibilites give them a street-wise swagger that promotes the same aura. Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes are another band that can't crawl out from under Bruce's shadow - not only because they played Asbury Park's now-legendary Stone Pony club, but because their full sound and the direction of Miami Steve Van Zandt makes them Springsteen's logical designated hitter.
As new acts come on the scene, they get dotted into various commercial categories: the Fleetwood Mac clones (Bob Welch, Walter Egan), the Eagles' clones (Firefall, American Flyer), the Led Zepplin/Bad Company clones (Foreigner, Detective, Fotomaker) and the Springsteen clones (Parker, Costello, Eddie Money.)
All of which brings us to Bob Seger. Bob Seger is nobody's clone. Years before Springsteen ever left the boardwalk, Seger was churning out power rock in the Midwest and had a number of hits, including "Ramblin' Glamblin' Man" (the band was then known as the Bob Seger System), one of the hottest 45s ever unleashed on the masses. Springsteen, though, does fit into the lastest Bob Seger. His last album, "Night Moves," marked a definite shift away from the heavy metal and toward a more subtile street sound - a knowing, gutty, storytelling style. Two cuts in particular, the title track and "Main Street," captured the same quiet intensity that Springsteen (and Van Morrison before him) made viable. Both songs were big successes, and now Seger has perfected that approach in his new album, "Stranger in Town."
"Stranger in Town" is more consistent than "Night Moves" and boasts nuances that the old Seger never used (or knew). The record starts right off with "Hollywood Nights," and while Seger deftly slices up the image of California cool ("It was looking so right/It was giving him chills/In those big-city nights/In those high rolling hills/Above all the lights/With a passion that kills"), Sliver Bullet Band drummer David Teegarden is pounding out a beat that never quits. "The Famous Final Scene" and "Brave Strangers" showcase Seger's maturity as a songwriter ("We weren't lovers/Just brave strangers/As we fought and we tumbled through the night/We were players, not arrangers/As we jammed till the dawn's early light"), though "Brave Strangers" has a segment that is musically identical to "Night Moves." "Till It Shines" is reminiscent of "Main Street," but not enough to yell copy-cat.
There's still some old Seger boot-stomping including "Old Time Rock and Roll" and "Ain't Got No Money," a Frankie Miller tune whose refrain ("I ain't got no money, but I sure got a whole lotta love") is close enough in spirit to "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" 's "I ain't good looking, but you know I ain't shy, not afraid to love you girl so stick around" to give a longtime Seger listener a comforting sense of dejavu .
And about Frankie Miller. Miller (no relation to Steve) has managed to go relatively undiscovered, despite a wealth of talent, except when people say he sounds a little like Bruce Springsteen. Well, he does. Or did, until "Double Trouble," his fifth and latest attempt to be formally found. Unlike Seger, who's moved closer to a milder blend, Miller seems to have abandoned his street savvy for a heavier mix. The result is a different album (for him), filled with pulsing bass lines and power rock vocal mixes. One reason might be the production of Jack Douglas (Aerosmith), and another the feeling that Miller will sell more records sounding like Bad Company then he will sounding like Springsteen.
He sounds remarkably like Bad Company on "Double Heart Trouble" and "Love is All Around," both vocally and instrumentally. Former Procol Harum drummer B.J. Wilson pushes the band and Ray Russell's guitar work is up-front and penetrating. "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" is more like the old Miller, and benefits from Chris Mercer's reeds and the hornwork of Martin Drover. "You'll Be in My Mind" and "(I Can't) Breakaway" also feature the horns and have more of the familiar bar-band sound.
"Double Trouble" is a fine rock'n'roll album and the Springsteen connection is still in evidence.You just have to dig a little deeper to hear it. And, when you dig into "Good Time Love," who does Frankie Miller sound most like? Bob Seger.