Having been around now for 38 years, while he’s never attained the superstar level of early predictions (only his first two albums ever registered in the UK Top 75, peaking at #54 and only three of his 15 studio releases have made the Billboard Top 100), Steve Forbert has maintained a substantial and loyal audience to the point where he can now pretty much record what he likes knowing he’ll have a certain level of sales.
And this sounds very much like he’s doing just that. Reuniting with John Simon, who produced his most successful album, 1979’s Jackrabbit Slim (which made #20), it’s unmistakably Forbert (that voice couldn’t be anyone else) while the music ranges from jangly folk-pop (Compromised) to blues (Rollin’ Home To Someone You Love) to jazz (the piano driven A Big Comeuppance) while the organ that drives along the midtempo When I Get To California has definite echoes of 70s English rock outfit Argent (there’s also a banjo bubbling alternative among the Americana version bonus tracks).
There’s a lot of reflection going on amid songs that deal with future promise and broken hopes: the uptempo Welcome the Rolling Stones is sung in the voice of a young kid buoyed up at the thought of taking his date to their 1969 Altamont gig (and we know what happened there), the chugalong bonus track You’d See The Things That I See (The Day John Met Paul) has Lennon recalling his first meeting with McCartney (“he could be as good as me, so think about how far we could go”) while one harmonica-blowing track about busted dreams is telling titled Time Seemed So Free. But, ultimately, you have to go with the flow and take the good with the band, as wryly summed up with the jogging Drink Red Wine and in the title of the track that concludes both the album proper and the bonus tracks, Whatever, Man.
Also appearing in two versions (the first with fiddle and the second without) is Devil (Here She Comes Now), a playful mandolin-backed fantasising spin on Devil With The Blue Dress . Completed with a guitar jangling, harmonica-streaked, organ-backed rootsy almost jaunty version of Send In The Clowns, the reunion with Simon isn’t going to repeat the success of Jackrabbit Slim, but it sure goes a long way to repeating the magic.
Review by: Mike Davies
Out Now via Rock Ridge
Order via Amazon