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Music Review: Steve Forbert – Alive On Arrival/Jackrabbit Slim [Special Anniversary Edition]

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The 1970s were coming to an end and such disparate artists as The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, and even Steve Martin were selling millions of records. Into this maelstrom of sounds and styles, Steve Forbert released his first two albums. Alive On Arrival and Jackrabbit Slim are now being re-released as a two-for-one package complete with a dozen bonus tracks.

During the early part of his career, he was touted as a new Bob Dylan. Now 14 studio and nine live albums later, he may not have completely lived up to that accolade but he has crafted a fine body of work.

Alive On Arrival was released during 1978 and was an auspicious debut. He had traveled from his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi to New York City, playing in small clubs and in front of any open mic that was available. His first release reflects those learning experiences as the music and lyrics have a raw and gritty feel despite the gentle nature of his approach.

His early songs explored pain, humor, regret, his philosophy of life, and the world around him. “It Isn’t Gonna Be That Way” is a catchy folk tune that remains in your mind long after the song ends. “Big City Cat” is an emotional ride through his life at the time. “Goin’ Down to Laurel” remains a fine introduction to his music.

As good as his first album was, his second was a little better. He was more secure as a songwriter and singer and that comes across. Songs such as “Say Goodbye to Little Jo,” “Make it All So Real,” and “Baby” are all excellent. “Romeo’s Tune” remains his best known song but the classic is “Wait,” which is a spiritual journey of longing.

The 12 bonus tracks fill in some gaps in his music but do not really expand his vision. The most interesting are a live version of “Romeo’s Tune” from a 1979 performance at New York City’s Palladium and an alternate version of “Make It All So Real.”

The music from Alive On Arrival and Jackrabbit Slim has held up well. It’s nice to have these albums back in circulation, as they represent not only some of the best music of his career but of their era as well. A must release for any fan of Steve Forbert or anyone who appreciates good music.

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