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Steve Forbert

Alive on Arrival/Jackrabbit Slim – 2013 (Blue Corn)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Steve Forbert

35 years after his phenomenal debut "Alive on Arrival," Steve Forbert's latest label, Blue Corn Music, has reissued his 1978 revelation bundled as a twofer with its 1979 follow-up, the equally compelling and more commercially successful "Jackrabbit Slim." Both albums have enjoyed multiple CD releases over the years, and most of the bonus tracks included on Blue Corn's clearly superior version have already seen the light of day through Forbert's archival "Young, Guitar Days" volumes. So why is this double disc affair necessary?

For starters, the bonus tracks are commensurate to their album's timeframe and perfectly support their parent albums, which were remastered from the original tapes and sound magnificent. Throw in a brief but beautifully heartfelt essay on their importance from Rolling Stone contributing editor/Forbert fan David Wild, and you have a persuasive argument for picking up this package. The double disc format also reinforces the one-two punch of the releases, as the folky rush of Forbert's astonishing debut and the more commercially calculated, but just as engagingly honest impact of his sophomore release are gatefolded together in a single experience.

Forbert was a breath of fresh folk air in 1978, his tremulous rasp exuding both vulnerability and strength, his brilliantly reflective songwriting a perfect intersection of intense personal observation and universal relatability. The Mississippi truck driver coexisted in New York with The Ramones, Talking Heads and dozens of similar bands during punk's heady early days in the late '70s, distinguishing himself with his Greenwich Village folk approach, but writing and playing with the same kind of passion and honesty as his louder, snottier contemporaries. Blue Corn's "Alive on Arrival/Jackrabbit Slim" collection is quite simply impressive foundational evidence of the timeless wonder of Steve Forbert's introduction three and a half decades ago and a reminder of why he remains an important artist in the 21st century.