Steve Forbert’s 1978 debut on Nat Weiss’ Nemperor label proclaimed the singer-songwriter Alive on Arrival and indeed, the artist made a strong impression with a set of personal, sometimes gentle, musical reflections on life and love. Forbert departed Mississippi for New York City in the mid-seventies when the city was hardly the family-friendly playground it is today, and managed to carve out a niche in the vibrant club scene of the day, playing famous venues like Gerde’s Folk City and even CBGB’s. That heady period when Forbert was anointed yet another “new Dylan” (rather than, accurately, the original Steve Forbert!) was captured on Alive on Arrival and on Forbert’s 1979 follow-up, Jackrabbit Slim. On March 26, Blue Corn Music, the Texas-based Americana specialist label, will reissue both of those seminal albums as a 2-CD set, adding a dozen rare bonus tracks.
Rolling Stone contributing editor (and Second Disc favorite) David Wild, in his liner notes, writes that Forbert made “one of music’s greatest entrances ever, arriving fully formed as an extraordinary singer-songwriter — a subtle troubadour for his times, and for all time too. Now or then, you would be hard-pressed to find a debut effort that was simultaneously as fresh and accomplished as Alive on Arrival . . . it was like a great first novel by a young author who somehow managed to split the difference between Mark Twain and J.D. Salinger.” Steve Burgh, a session guitarist who played with Billy Joel, Phoebe Snow, David Bromberg and numerous others, was selected to produce Alive on Arrival. A stellar cast of supporting players was assembled, including David Sanborn on alto saxophone. Though the album showed great maturity and received critical acclaim, the decision was made to entrust its follow-up to a different set of hands. Initially the choice was Joe Wissert (Gordon Lightfoot, Boz Scaggs, The Turtles), but Wissert soon decamped to work with Barbra Streisand. His replacement, though, was more than sympathetic. John Simon, renowned for his collaborations with The Band and Leonard Cohen, just to name two, stepped up, and shepherded Jackrabbit Slim to success. Forbert credits Simon with helping him nail “Romeo’s Tune” for the Nashville-recorded album, and the song became the artist’s only Top 20 U.S. hit. (It peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.) The album sleeve dedicated the track to the late Supreme Florence Ballard.
What will you find on the upcoming reissues? Hit the jump!
Though further chart success has eluded Steve Forbert, he’s continued to make sweet music and grow an impressive legacy. Following his stint at Nemperor, Forbert recorded for labels including Geffen, Giant, Koch and 429. His most recent studio album, 2012’s Over with You, was released via Blue Corn, and featured guest musicians including Ben Harper. He’s received a Grammy nomination, seen his songs performed by Keith Urban, Rosanne Cash and Marty Stuart, and even appeared opposite Cyndi Lauper in her music video for “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Forbert continues to tour, and has a string of upcoming dates scheduled both in the United States and abroad. In 2011, Forbert reissued Alive on Arrival in an edition exclusive to his website with an entire bonus disc; the same treatment followed in 2012 for Jackrabbit Slim. The Blue Corn edition cherry-picks tracks first aired on those exclusive CDs as bonus material here, primarily studio outtakes and live recordings. Five songs are appended to Arrival, and seven to Jackrabbit.
Steve Forbert’s memorable blend of folk, rock, pop, and soul shines through on Alive on Arrival and Jackrabbit Slim. The Special Anniversary Edition of these two albums will be released on March 26 by Blue Corn Music, and you can order the 2-CD set below!
Steve Forbert, Alive on Arrival /Jackrabbit Slim: Special Anniversary Edition (Blue Corn Music, 2013)
CD 1: Alive on Arrival, Plus (Tracks 1-10 first issued as Nemperor JZ 35538, 1978)
- Goin’ Down to Laurel
- Steve Forbert’s Midsummer Night’s Toast
- What Kinda Guy
- It Isn’t Gonna Be That Way
- Big City Cat
- Grand Central Station, March 18, 1977
- Tonight I Feel So Far Away From Home
- Settle Down
- You Cannot Win (If You Do Not Play)
- It’s Been a Long Time (Live at The Other End 12/28/78)
- House of Cards (Outtake)
- Song for the South (Outtake)
- Steve Forbert’s Moon River (Outtake)
- Lonesome Cowboy Bill’s Song (Outtake)
CD 2: Jackrabbit Slim, Plus (Tracks 1-10 first issued as Nemperor JZ 36191, 1979)
- Romeo's Tune
- The Sweet Love That You Give (Sure Goes A Long, Long Way)
- I'm In Love With You
- Say Goodbye To Little Jo
- Make It All So Real
- Sadly Sorta Like A Soap Opera
- January 23-30, 1978
- The Oil Song (Outtake)
- Make It All So Real (Alternate Take)
- Witch Blues (Outtake)
- Oh, Camille (Outtake)
- Smoky Windows (Outtake)
- Poor Boy (Outtake)
- Romeo’s Tune (Live at the Palladium 11/24/79)