Bob Seger was a decade into his career before he achieved the kind of stardom that would ultimately lead him to The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.
He earned recognition in the Detroit area during the mid sixties through a successful regional single, “East Side Story.” Yet it was his first album, Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man — released in April 1969 — that garnered him moderate national success and a Top Twenty single. It would be another six years and six albums before he’d reach similar acclaim.
Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man is the best of his early albums. I have a vinyl copy, which I think is an early reissue, but along with his other early ’70’s albums, it remains extremely difficult to find. While the sound of this debut album is diverse and finds him searching for a comfortable groove, it is nonetheless a very decent effort.
There are two songs which are as good as just about anything he would release in the years to follow. The first one is the title track — which leads off the album and was the lone hit single — in which Seger’s voice is instantly recognizable amid the music’s basic, straightforward rock ‘n’ roll. It also has a catchy melody which foreshadows his future work. Historically, “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” is also interesting for the fact that Glenn Frey provides the backing vocals. The second of these songs — and my personal favorite overall — is “2+2=?,” which is also one of his great forgotten creations. The Vietnam War was then reaching its apex and Seger recorded one of the most biting anti-war songs of the era.
1969 found the psychedelic music scene nearing the end of its golden age and hard rock establishing itself as a popular musical form. “Tales Of Lucy Blue” and “The Last Song (Love Needs To Be Loved)” come as close to psychedelic as he would ever get. This is particularly true in the use of the guitar sounds. On the other hand, “White Wall” and “Black Eyed Girl” are hard rock. When taken together they clock in at close to twelve minutes and feature extended jams which were popular at the time.
Another song that would hint at his future was the ballad “Train Man.” The caliber of this track does not measure up to what he would create in the years to come, but his voice and the song type are quite familiar.
Bob Seger would produce a number of classic albums during his career and while this may not be one of them, it still ranks as very good. It’s worth seeking out as there are some lost gems hidden here.