Robert Forster

Danger in the Past

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Forster's solo debut saw him reinvented a touch as the classic traditionalist -- certainly the cover photo, black and white with him dressed in a neat suit, looks like it could have been taken somewhere in rural America circa 1920. For all that, Forster himself wasn't sounding like an unearthed wax cylinder recording from the back of beyond -- Danger in the Past, if anything, continues from where the Go-Betweens had temporarily stopped, with literate, understated rock & roll still the driving focus. Away from McLennan, a full album of Forster's gently cracked, high vocals succeeds better than might be thought, setting and maintaining a variety of moods from sudden energy to soft rumination, especially evident on the death-haunted title track. Perhaps the secret to the album's success partly lies in his collaborators -- fellow Australian music legend Mick Harvey took some time off from working with Nick Cave to produce and play, bringing fellow Bad Seeds vets Thomas Wydler and Hugo Race with him. Wisely, nobody tries to sound like Saint Nick, least of all Forster himself -- this is his own reflective, quietly energetic vision and style through and through, and his fellow performers play to his strengths. There's a strong element of country & western in Danger in the Past, generally avoiding brawling honky tonk in favor of an elegant, almost studied high and lonesome approach not far off from Bob Dylan's own experiments in the field. Certainly the roiling Hammond organ background behind the acoustic guitar on the lovely, haunted "The River People," later covered with equal talent by the Walkabouts, hints at something the Band could have done, and why not? Forster's wry sense of humor is clearly evident as well, as on this line from the stop-start shuffle "Dear Black Dream": "Wondering who sings better in the dark/Is it Townes Van Zandt or Guy Clark?"

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