Steve Forbert – Jackrabbit Slim (1979): Review

forbert

Produced by John Simon
Label – Nemperor

Those desperately searching for the “next Dylan” at the end of the 70’s would pluck at anyone who carried an old acoustic and a Harmonica and proclaim him to be the new Poet of the next decade. Steve Forbert was unfortunately bestowed with this yoke, and the comparisons may have been what ultimately handicapped his advancement. Quite simply, Forbert is nothing like Dylan. He sings better for a start, and his music is a mix of Country, Folk, Pop, and Rock and draws more comparison to John Cougar Mellencamp or The Boss. “Jackrabbit Slim”, the follow up to his 1978 debut “Alive On Arrival” would mark his chart breakthrough with a top 40 U.S single (“Romeo’s Tune”) and would elevate the album into the mainstream Top 20.

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Forbert relies on his story telling, his observations of his own life and love and delivers each song with a voice that’s wholly unique. Hoarse but still sweet, sharp but never shrill, a little like a slab of dark chocolate, bitter at first and then the sweetness melts through and works best on the opening three tracks and the closer. The album opens brilliantly with the sweet ode to his boyhood heroine “Romeo’s Tune”, dedicated to deceased Supremes singer Florence Ballard. It’s boyish and sincere with a great hook and deserved a higher chart position. In addition, quality comes from “The Sweet Love That You Give”, “I’m In Love You” and the interesting pull from his diary closer “January 23-30 1978”. It’s a reminiscence of returning home to friends, good times and a sense of belonging in a world a million miles away from his New York base. There is some filler, particularly the cumbersome Reggae of “Complications”, and some of the melodies are less than original, but overall it’s a worthwhile effort from an artist who was close to a commercial success, but remained at the boundaries edge looking in, and watching many lesser singer songwriters enjoy far greater recognition.

Steve Forbert does it better than most, and at least half the music here deserves a place in your home.

7/10

Tracklist

A1 Romeo’s Tune 3:28
A2 The Sweet Love That You Give (Sure Goes A Long, Long Way) 3:35
A3 I’m In Love With You 4:47
A4 Say Goodbye To Little Jo 3:52
A5 Wait 5:31
B1 Make It All So Real 5:54
B2 Baby 4:12
B3 Complications 3:41
B4 Sadly Sorta Like A Soap Opera 3:40
B5 January 23-30, 1978

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6 responses to “Steve Forbert – Jackrabbit Slim (1979): Review

  1. I loved Forbert’s debut album “Alive On Arrival” and this one felt like a let down at the time it came out . I still have the album I need to dig it out and give it a few spins maybe time will treat it better. I bet I haven’t listened to it in 20 years. Agree with you the “New Dylan” label was thrown on everyone. I can’t recall where I saw it but some critic years ago had a list of “New Dylan'”–what terrible expectations to put on someone.

  2. Quite incredible how often that ‘new Dylan’ label still gets banded about, huh?

    I have to admit that I don’t know anything about Forbert. I’ll need to check him out.

  3. John Prine still gets the little Dylan treatnent from the press. Dylan covered him. Who else has been proclaimed the next Dylan, and been covered by Dylan? That is a small circle of unique voices? Nice post.

    • Thanks Benjay. Early in his career Bruce Springsteen was actually marketed by his record company as the new Dylan, but that’s a great call on Prine.

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