ALBUM REVIEW : Bob Seger’s Fire Needs Stoking : **1/2 BOB SEGER AND THE SILVER BULLET BAND, “The Fire Inside” <i> Capitol</i>
The Detroit-rock icon’s fire used to be down below; now it’s internal. So it figures that the most affecting moments on Seger’s first album in five years are the quietest. The soul-tinged “The Real Love” and the country-ish ballad “Always in My Heart” aren’t exactly brimming with emotional epiphanies, but they’re satisfyingly heartfelt.
Next to the rockers that make up about half the album, they’re downright complex. Such two- and three-chord riffs as “Take a Chance” (it doesn’t) and “Real at the Time” are rudimentary even by the standards of this Godfather of Rudimentary Heartland Rock.
The most interesting moments, though, are the ones that stray furthest from Seger’s usual formula: “Sightseeing” (a Cajun stomp with a wicked lyrical angle and accordion from guest Bruce Hornsby) and two Tom Waits compositions (the cabaret-jazz “New Coat of Paint” and the country-fiddle laced “Blind Love”).
Choosing such material and having hipster Don Was produce half the album (Barry Beckett, Seger and his longtime manager Punch produced the rest) indicate a will to break the mold, but the effort comes up short. If all you want is the same old Seger, you got him again, but you might as well just take those old records off the shelf.