By Ellen Eldridge
An amusing thought always occurs at the mention of the words “Greatest Hits” or, in the case of the collected works of Bob Seger, “Ultimate Hits.” I wonder what makes a song a “hit,” especially in light of the fact that not every track on a “greatest” compilation could possibly have been a single. How do those who market the product know which songs we listeners played on repeat? With the release of Ultimate Hits: Rock and Roll Never Forgets, there is no denying the double CD set contains the range of musical seasons spanning Seger’s career. Songs anyone with a radio must have heard like “Turn the Page,” which Metallica saw fit to cover and include in their Guitar Hero game. “Old Time Rock and Roll” instantly drags me back to watching Alvin and the Chipmunks dance around on television.
The best part of a compilation that takes the best pieces of an artist’s career is the opportunity to remember why a particular artist stayed around and popular for so long. For more than 40 years, the songs of Bob Seger have resonated with a songwriter’s style similar to that of Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, but with a sound Seger keeps individualistic. His attention to the details make his songs stand up above simple chord progressions. Poetic use of alliteration in lines like “secrets we shared” and “mountains we moved” lead the listener’s ear to key in on lines like “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.” Those simple truths create the time and place in a song that turns the pages of the story on their own.
For those listeners who may have only heard the super popular hits, Ultimate Hits: Rock and Roll Never Forgets introduces songs like “Fire Lake” and “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man.” More stories that stay timeless while transporting the listener to different places in time through effective use of imagery. “Like A Rock” may pull listeners into a Chevy commercial, while tracks like “Her Strut” may show the inspiration Seger took from artists like ZZ Top. Even “Still the Same” recalls a Led Zeppelin feel in its theme and presentation.
Fans who heard Bob Seger because of Metallica or The Chipmunks should dive into Ultimate Hits: Rock and Roll Never Forgets to uncover the nuggets of truth that may have been missed, and those who simply don’t appreciate a folksy song sung by a master storyteller should consider buying this career showcase for a friend for the holidays because the 26 remastered tracks includes a rendition of “Little Drummer Boy” and a booklet with the lyrics to all these great songs; it will make someone’s holiday brighter.