The Distance, released in 1982 with the Silver Bullet band, may well be Bob Seger’s best album. Sure, people will argue for 1976’s Night Moves, but The Distance has a musical power which exceeds the lyrical heft evident in Night Moves.
“Boomtown Blues” is a case in point. The song, which reached No. 11 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock charts, displays the urgency and anxiety of its protagonist. Seger’s simple, yet effective narrative finds a narrator telling the story of a family leaving the Rust Belt – perhaps the same guy who was “Makin’ Thunderbirds” in the previous song – for the warm sunny climate of the South and a new career. All is not, however, as it seems.
“Lots of work
Lots of money honey
Gettin’ your share
The folks back home say
They’d love to be in your shoes so
How come you’ve got those
You can’t miss that freezin’ rain
You’d have to be insane
To head back north
And go through all that again …”
Long one of the best voices in rock, Bob Seger delivers the lyrics with his familiar growl, but backs it up on guitar with a main theme which is jangly and powerful. Former Eagles guitarist Don Felder accompanies Seger on lead in a rollicking rhythm which shows a spontaneity unexpected by such a precise and learned instrumentalist.
The power of The Distance comes from the rhythm section. Bob Seger had recently said farewell to longtime guitarist Drew Abbott and drummer David Teegarden. Additionally, Stevie Nicks producer (and Beats Audio pioneer) Jimmy Iovine steps in with his long-time engineer Shelly Yakus. Iovine teams the remaining Silver Bullet Band members with ace drummer Russ Kunkel. The results are striking, as the band moves with the power of a freight train.
Silver Bullet Band bass player Chris Campbell, organist Craig Frost and especially sax player Alto Reed all rise to the occasion, helping Bob Seger reach a musical height never again obtained.
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