Steve Goodman

REVIEW: Steve Goodman ” It Sure Looked Good On Paper: The Steve Goodman Demos”


Steve Goodman – It Sure Looked Good On Paper: The Steve Goodman Demos

As much as I enjoyed the late Chicago-native Steve Goodman’s work I had concerns that all the recent re-releases, compilations, unissued recordings, hopefully, didn’t cause a market glut. I noticed that with Bob Dylan’s Bootleg series he released every 2-years or so. No matter, I’m happy to hear anything from the ever-reliable Goodman. Especially since his friend John Prine has also departed. Hopefully, Mr. Prine will get the same treatment Goodman afforded.

With a 2-decade career prior to his untimely death these 20-cuts will appeal to anyone who enjoys Steve Goodman’s music. The quality is that rich, well-recorded. Previously unissued early career demos, solo, 4 with a band, & covers. All restored/mastered by dual Grammy-winners: engineer Michael Graves & producer Cheryl Pawelski.

Steve Goodman

The handsome CD gate-fold has a 12-pp stitched insert of new liner notes by Lee Zimmerman that befits a great artist. It Sure Looked Good On Paper: The Steve Goodman Demos (Omnivore Recordings/Drops May 14). Some titles are familiar. All versions here are previously unissued.

It amazes me how many good artists passed away through the years. Some with unfulfilled potential. It’s sad how many aspiring musicians who write originals & record today, simply don’t study the methodology of inspiring lyrics married to infectious melodies. Instead, mediocrity blossoms & occasionally something sprouts from the weeds.

Steve may be only famous for one classic “The City of New Orleans,” & listeners may not know he’s talking about an Illinois Central train. Several other Goodman songs have been covered by major artists. “City,” was not a hit until Arlo Guthrie, whose dad Woody was the legendary balladeer, decided to cover it. Steve opened for Kris Kristofferson in Chicago. Kris brought Steve to the attention of entertainer Paul Anka. That’s right, the 50s teen idol who wrote Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” Anka brought Steve to NYC to record demos that led to Buddha Records. Steve then spied Arlo Guthrie in his audience & as long as Steve bought Arlo beer, Arlo listened. Then Arlo heard “The City of New Orleans.” History.

Kicking off this CD is a demo of that song, along with others that are essentially well-recorded skeletons of new songs that were fleshed out enough for dedicated fans to appreciate. Steve wasn’t as dark as Townes van Zandt, but Steve was prolific & diversified. Goodman was good friends with John Prine (who co-wrote “You Never Even Call Me By My Name,” covered in 1974 by David Allen Coe). Steve’s style was closer to Harry Chapin, (listen to Steve’s “The Auctioneer”), Mickey Newbury & Jim Croce, especially on “Eight Ball Blues,” & “Face On the Cutting Room Floor.” “Turnpike Tom,” provides excellent guitar picking. it’s an Ideal song for Bob Dylan to cover if he wished to revisit his old talking-blues style.

The 1 hour-16-minute CD is available at



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