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Bob Seger makes his next moves

Fans of the Rolling Stones, Eagles and Pink Floyd got their wish this summer as those bands hit the road after long shelf time.

But there's another musician who's been away too long _ a full six years _ and whose fans are itchy to see him. He's Bob Seger, the Detroit rocker who was a workaholic performer until the mid-'80s. Like Bruce Springsteen, he's taken time off the road to have a family after years of slugging it out in the arenas.

"I appreciate that fans miss me. It's just bad timing right now to tour," says Seger, who has a 23-month-old son, Cole, and another child due in April, with his wife, Anita.

"I'm the late guy with the family," says Seger, 49. "Everybody else in the band has older kids, and I think they loved the fact that we didn't tour, so they could raise their kids and be around. . . . But if things look good next fall, then we'll do it. I just want to make sure that the baby is sleeping through the night."

This is strange but happily settled talk from a singer whose career was based on restless, roving song themes that have just been collected on his first Greatest Hits album. Released last week, the album includes two new tracks: the midtempo In Your Time (a tribute to his son's generation) and a taut version of Chuck Berry's C'est la Vie, with driving piano from Craig Frost, the anchor of Seger's Silver Bullet Band.

The rest of the album contains Seger hits such as Night Moves (with a new video), Old Time Rock 'n' Roll (famed as the song in which Tom Cruise played air guitar in the film Risky Business), Like a Rock (later sold for a General Motors commercial, as Seger showed his Motor City roots), Against the Wind, Mainstreet, Hollywood Nights, Turn the Page, You'll Accomp'ny Me and We've Got Tonight.

While many people feel that compiling a Greatest Hits album is a cinch, Seger found it to be tougher than expected. A populist rocker, he's always kept the prices of his records and his concert tickets down. So he didn't want to put out a double CD with a high price tag. Hence, he had to omit some key tracks.

"The hard part was what to leave off," he says. "We had to eliminate Rambling Gambling Man, Shame on the Moon, Shakedown and Fire Lake. Except for Rambling Gambling Man, those were all Top 3 hits."

Seger is working on a new album of original tunes, which he hopes to release by March. What's the music like? "I'd say it's more extreme in all directions. The rock rocks hard and the ballads are slower. That's the best way I can describe it," he says.

If Seger does go on tour next year, he knows he'll face the dilemma of how much to charge for concert tickets. His long absence has left him out of the loop on that issue _ and he's the first to admit it.

"What really cracked me up in the last year was the tour that Pearl Jam wanted to do for $18 a ticket, but the promoters wouldn't even take them for that! Things have really changed. You want to know something? We never, ever charged more than $18 a ticket. It's pretty astounding the way things have gone."