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Bob Seger System “Noah” (Capitol, 1969)

The follow-up to Bob Seger System’s classic 1968 debut LP, Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, Noah is yet another early Seger album that its creator would rather you forget. You won’t find Noah on streaming services nor on CD, and vinyl copies are scarce in the wild. Like Kraftwerk, Bob is not the best judge of his music’s worth. So it is up to his fans and critics to save their scorned, great work from oblivion.

One likely reason Seger has banished Noah to the memory hole is that six of the album’s 10 songs don’t even bear his writing. Guitarist/vocalist Tom Neme basically became the co-leader of the System, and that understandably didn’t sit well with Robert.

Neme’s quality control veered wildly on Noah, but when he was good, he was really good. Take “Lonely Man,” for example. A soulful ballad with deceptive funk in its trunk, the song sounds like the blueprint for Ethan Miller’s Howlin Rain band. This tune really wrings you dry. Funny how one of the greatest Seger songs wasn’t even written by Bob, although he sings his damn ass off for Mr. Neme. Another Neme highlight is “Jumpin’ Humpin’ Hip Hypocrite,” on which he sings in an action-packed, tom-tom-heavy rocker that jams out into bruising psychedelic realms.

But Neme’s “Follow The Children” enters jaunty sunshine-pop song territory, which is not at all Seger’s forte. The vague, feel-good refrain “the reason for living is just to be free” is a beautiful thought, although “freedom” is variable and subjective, right? Similarly, the title track is an uncharacteristically cheerful pop song augmented by Bob Schultz’s sax that departs from that rugged BSS garage-rock template true heads love. Heck, they even let bassist Dan Honaker sing one song (the undistinguished “Lennie Johnson”).

Seger returns to his strengths with “Innervenus Eyes,” one of the toughest garage-rockers in the BSS canon, with intensely whorling and stabbing organ parts, Can-like bass pulsations, and our Bob singing like a man trying to shake off demons. “Death Row”—a classic garage-rock brooder left over from the Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man sessions and originally released as the B-side to “2 + 2 = ?”—closes Noah on a dark, bright note.

But the real shocker here is “Cat,” the most OUT song in Seger’s catalog: he channels Can’s Malcolm Mooney on this crazed duel with Pep Perrine’s drums, cowbell, and maracas. Sure, this strange anomaly has always alienated the folks who swarm to Bob’s post-Beautiful Loser amphitheater shows (assuming they even heard it), but fug those normies. “Cat” is the feral stuff that Seger quickly abandoned, but I’d rather hear this six-minute primal workout on repeat than listen to 10 seconds of “Old Time Rock & Roll.”

Maybe after Seger passes, Jack White or another superfan will get Noah reissued. Until then, prepare to shell out big bucks for this erratic nugget. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

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