Our top 10 Steve Forbert songs list digs deep into the music of an American singer revered for his distinctive folk-rock sound influences. Born in 1954, Steve Forbert has been active in the music scene since the late ‘70s. Forbert is also reputable for his sporadic blend of pop rock and Americana influences in his signature folk-rock sound.
Among the greatest pillars of Steve Forbert’s endured musicianship in the folk-rock scene is his idiosyncratic vocal delivery. Steve’s raw yet soulful vocals give him a perfect platform to channel to the world his virtuoso lyricism. Most of Forbert’s songs tell of his consummate storytelling skills—his introspective lyrics (often tinged with a sense of nostalgia) makes his songs quite relatable and timeless.
Steve Forbert is also known for his minimalist yet effective fingerpicking and strumming skills on the guitar. Despite the lack of ostentatious solos and riffs in his guitar playing style, Steve’s guitar arrangement forms a solid foundation for his folk-rock-oriented songs. Over the years, Steve Forbert has issued over twenty studio albums showcasing consistency in his musical pursuits.
While Steve Forbert has quite a huge catalog of albums, only a handful of them have managed to achieve critical acclaim. In this article, we will narrow down our albums review to the records that have had a huge impact on his career. Coming in first on our best Steve Forbert albums review is the singer’s debut studio album Alive on Arrival. Alive on Arrival was issued in 1978 through Nemperor Records, a label (once) home to Stanley Clarke, The Romantics, and Tommy Bolin (former member of Zephyr, The James Gang, and Deep Purple).
This Steve Burgh-produced album was a mainstream success rising to number eighty-two spot on the Billboard 200 Chart—the album spent fifteen weeks on this chart. Alive on Arrival also made it to the UK Albums Chart where it rose to a peak position of number fifty-six—the album only spent a week on the chart. Some of the best Steve Forbert songs from the LP include “Tonight I Feel So Far Away from Home,” “Grand Central Station, March 18, 1977,” “Goin’ Down to Laurel,” and “What Kinda Guy?”
Steve Forbert returned in 1978 with his sophomore effort Jackrabbit Slim. The album was also issued through Nemperor Records under John Simon’s production. As a producer, John Simon is best known for his work with Gordon Lightfoot, The Electric Flag, Mama Cass, Michael Franks, and Blood, Sweat & Tears. Jackrabbit Slim was a commercial success, earning gold certification from RIAA.
The album was critically acclaimed in the UK where it climbed to the fifty-fourth spot on the Albums Chart. Jackrabbit Slim also made it to the Billboard 200 Chart peaking at the twentieth spot—the album spent a total of twenty-six weeks on the chart. The album was also a mainstream success in Australia, having climbed to the twenty-second spot on the ARIA Albums Chart. Steve Forbert’s signature hit “Romeo’s Tune,” “Say Goodbye to Little Jo,” “January 23-30,” and “I’m in Love with You” are the top musical gems from the album Jackrabbit Slim.
Little Stevie Orbit, issued in 1980, marked the band’s third LP. The album was produced by Peter Solley, a recording producer distinguished for his work with Al Stewart, Eric Clapton, Ted Nugent, Peter Frampton, Whitesnake, and The Romantics. Unlike Steve Forbert’s previous two studio albums, Little Stevie Orbit never made it to the UK Albums Chart—in fact, no other album ever graced the UK Albums Chart.
Little Stevie Orbit performed fairly on the mainstream charts climbing to the fifty-fifth spot on the ARIA Albums Chart. The album also made it to the seventieth spot on the Billboard 200, spending nine weeks on the chart. “Cellophane City,” “Song for Katrina,” and “Schoolgirl” are the best Steve Forbert songs from the LP.
In 1982, Steve Forbert returned with his eponymous fourth studio album. Steve Forbert marked the singer’s final album issued through Nemperor Records. The album also marked Steve Forbert’s final release to climb to the Billboard 200 Chart peaking at number one hundred and fifty-nine. Steve Forbert is home to musical gems such as “Ya Ya (Next to Me),” “Beautiful Diana,” and “Oh So Close (And Yet So Far Away).”
After cutting ties with Nemperor Records, Steve Forbert signed a recording deal with Geffen Records where he issued his 1988 fifth studio album Streets of This Town. The album was produced by Gary Tallent, who played in Bruce Springsteen’s backing band The E-Street Band. Unfortunately, Streets of This Town was a commercial and mainstream flop only featuring classics such as “I Blinked Once,” “Mexico,” “Running on Love,” and “On the Streets of This Town.”
The American in Me would eventually mark Steve Forbert’s final album issued through Geffen Records. Working on the production of The American in Me was Grammy Award-winning guitarist/producer Pete Anderson. Pete is best known for his production works for the artists Dwight Yoakam, Mark Chesnutt, Roy Orbison, and The Meat Puppets. Like its predecessor, The American in Me failed to make it to the mainstream charts. However, the album churned out a few classics including “When the Sun Shines,” “Born Too Late,” “Responsibility,” and “The American in Me.”
Steve Forbert went ahead to issue multiple studio albums all of which were warmly received by his ardent fans despite not making it big in the mainstream. His search for new inspiration through Any Old Time earned him his only Grammy Award nomination. Any Old Time was Steve Forbert’s tribute album to “the Father of Country Music” Jimmie Rodgers. Steve covered some of Jimmie Rodgers’ classics including “My Blue Eyed Jane,” “Gambling Barroom Blues,” and “Waiting on a Train.”
Steve Forbert’s Awards and Legacy
While he may not have amassed numerous awards compared to some of his contemporaries, Steve is among the most sought-after folk-rock artists alive. In 2004, Steve Forbert’s album Any Old Time earned a Grammy Award nomination in the Best Traditional Folk Album category losing to Wildwood Flower by June Carter Cash. The Meridian native would later be inducted into the Mississippi Musician’s Hall of Fame in 2006. His impressive music career has drawn the attention of other artists including Keith Urban, Webb Wilder, Rosanne Cash, and Marty Stuart.
#10 – Tryna Let Go
Welcoming us to the top 10 Steve Forbert songs list is the poignant hit “Tryna Let Go.” The song is featured on Forbert’s album The Magic Tree. “Tryna Let Go” finds the singer exploring the process of letting go and moving on. Steve Forbert’s smooth and tempestuous vocal allows him to convey the depth of emotions withheld in the lyrics of this song. The pensive lyrical content of “Tryna Let Go” is archetypal of Steve Forbert’s signature songwriting style which earned him critical acclaim in the ‘80s.
#9 – Out in the World
Steve Forbert’s introspective songwriting ability continues with our ninth pick “Out in the World.” The song is among the top musical gems by Forbert featured on the album Flying at Night. “Out in the World” finds the singer giving us a taste of his poetic lyrical sensibility. In this song, Steve Forbert continues his exploration of the challenges and accomplishments of navigating through the uncertainties of life. “Out in the World” features fascinating instrumentation which makes it a lively pick—the song opens with some awe-inspiring guitar strums which add to its catchy melody.
#8 – That’d Be Alright
Coming in at the eighth spot on our top 10 Steve Forbert songs is the impressive hit “That’d Be Alright.” The song was initially issued on the singer’s 2012 folk rock album Over with You. “That’d Be Alright” is distinct for its catchy acoustic guitar-driven arrangement. This song’s introspective lyrical content and Steve Forbert’s heartfelt vocal performance coat this pick with nostalgic feelings.
“That’d Be Alright” is among the song by Steve Forbert that feature the contribution of the Grammy Award-winning multi-instrumentalist Ben Harper. Ben Harper makes some contributions to the guitars in this song. Other artists who have worked with Ben Harper include Charlie Musselwhite, Jack Jackson, and Toots and the Maytals.
#7 – I Blinked Once
Heartfelt is the one word that describes the seventh pick on our top 10 Steve Forbert songs list “I Blinked Once.” The song is among the fan-favorite picks off Forbert’s sixth studio album Street of This Town. “I Blinked Once” is an ode to the fleeting nature of moments in life. The song “I Blinked Once” gives us a taste of Forbert’s introspective songwriting skills.
His vocal delivery is perfectly tuned to exhibit the emotional depth of the lyrics of this song. “I Blinked Once” is among the top musical gems featured in 2017 Steve Forbert’s tribute album An American Troubadour: The Songs of Steve Forbert. Performing the song on the tribute album were John Oates and former Fleetwood Mac member Bekka Bramlett.
#6 – I’m in Love with You
At the sixth spot on our top 10 Steve Forbert songs list is the romantic folk-rock ballad “I’m in Love with You.” The song is among the top musical gems featured on the singer’s sophomore and most successful studio album Jackrabbit Slim. “I’m in Love with You” is a love declaration ballad that oozes deep emotions of love and affection to another person. Additionally, this timeless love ballad captures the intensity of Steve Forbert’s emotive vocal delivery.
#5- Ya Ya (Next to Me)
Without a doubt, the poppy hit “Ya Ya (Next to Me)” is the brightest pick off the singer’s third LP Little Stevie Orbit. The song finds Steve Forbert exploring themes of love and companionship—the singer expresses his desire to have a certain lady next to him. Steve revealed that this song was inspired by a girl he met in New Orleans.
“Ya Ya (Next to Me)” is a combination of catchy melodies and expressive (yet delightful) vocals from Steve Forbert. The impressive blend of harmonica tunes and guitars gives this song’s rhythm section a catchy and energetic feel. “Ya Ya (Next to Me)” made it to position fifty-four on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Airplay Chart.
#4- It Isn’t Gonna Be That Way
“It Isn’t Gonna Be That Way” is among most infectious hits ever released by Steve Forbert. The song is among the musical gems featured on Steve Forbert’s debut studio album Alive on Arrival. “It Isn’t Gonna Be That Way” finds Steve Forbert exploring an amalgam of folk rock and pop elements while still maintaining his emotive vocal delivery.
The song’s lyrics find Steve Forbert crooning about unfulfilled expectations in life. “It Isn’t Gonna Be That Way” was covered by Paul Shuttleworth and the Grammy Award-nominated singer Garrison Starr. Robert Earl Keen went ahead to perform this song on the 2017 tribute album An American Troubadour: The Songs of Steve Forbert.
#3 – Say Goodbye to Little Jo
The third pick on our top 10 Steve Forbert songs list is “Say Goodbye to Little Jo.” “Say Goodbye to Little Jo” is one of the most successful tracks from the singer’s sophomore studio album Jackrabbit Slim. Forbert’s poignant vocal delivery in this song blends in perfectly with The Shoals Sisters’ backing vocals crowning this hit a masterpiece. “Say Goodbye to Little Jo” is Steve Forbert’s second and final song to make it to the Billboard Hot 100 where it peaked at number eighty-five.
#2 – Goin’ Down to Laurel
“Goin’ Down to Laurel” is among the timeless fan-favorite songs ever released by Steve Forbert. The song serves as the emblem of Forbert’s musicianship on the album Alive on Arrival. This album opener is delivered in an upbeat tempo which helps it ooze infectious energy—the acoustic guitar elements in this song adds to its catchy feel.
“Goin’ Down to Laurel” finds Steve Forbert telling a story of a young lad trying to break free from the confines of his home area. Unfortunately, the song never made it to the mainstream charts. “Goin’ Down to Laurel” was performed by singer Elliott Peck in the 2017 tribute album An American Troubadour: The Songs of Steve Forbert.
#1- Romeo’s Tune
Number one on our top 10 Steve Forbert songs list is the alluring hit “Romeo’s Tune.” The song is Forbert’s signature hit from his sophomore and most successful studio album Jackrabbit Slim. “Romeo’s Tune” is among the poetic releases by Steve Forbert whose lyrics incline towards the theme of love—specifically vanishing from the world in the company of your lover. This track’s sing-along quality (especially on the chorus) makes it one of Steve Forbert’s most memorable songs.
“Romeo’s Tune” features an eccentric piano contribution from former Elvis Presley pianist Bobby Ogdin. The song was a mainstream success rising to the thirteenth spot on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart. “Romeo’s Tune” performed better on the Billboard Hot 100 where it peaked at the eleventh spot. The song was covered by county musician Keith Urban in 2007.
Top 10 Steve Forbert Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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