Alan Jackson's first CD, "Here in the Real World," was released in late 1989. His record company must have has low expectations after the first single, "Blue Blooded Woman," flopped - it only managed a #45 peak on the country chart. The song is a curious choice for a lead single. It's not one of the strongest tracks by a long shot, although it has a catchy chorus and one great line: "I live my life in Wal-Mart fashion." Arista managed to get things together and released the brilliant title track as the next single.
I have all of Alan's CDs and love many, many of his songs. However, "Here in the Real World" is hands down my favorite. The song is seeped in country sound - whenever I hear it, I immediately picture Alan singing in some tiny honky-tonk bar. The main act has finished, and Alan is sent in to close out the night, singing to a few inebriated patrons. Perhaps my imagination is a bit fertile, but "Here in the Real World" is so incredibly atmospheric. Audiences agreed, and the single shot to #3 in early 1990. The CD became a hit, and Alan was heralded as one of the leaders of the new movement of traditional country singers. "Here in the Real World" is arguably Alan's most country sounding CD, but all the elements that he'd continue to hone in his subsequent releases are here: great writing and singing.
"Wanted" was the next single (peaking at #3) and is another of my favorites. The song starts off as an unassuming ballad before building to the unforgettable chorus. "Chasin' That Neon Rainbow" went to #2 for 2 weeks in late 1990. The song is the kind of barn-burning crowd pleaser that Alan has pulled out of his hat time and time again - think of later hits like "Mercury Blues" or "Tall, Tall Trees." The fourth single became Alan's first #1 country hit - "I'd Love You All Over Again." It's a nice ballad but not as memorable as many of his later ballads. Some of the non-singles are also quite good. I particularly like "Dog River Blues," which is a sort of precursor to his huge 1993 smash, "Chattahoochee." Another terrific song is "Home." When Alan released his first greatest hits collection in 1995, "Home" was included and subsequently released to support the greatest hits CD. The song went to #3, bringing the tally of top 3 hits from "Here in the Real World" to an incredible five.
Some country artists hit their creative and commercial peak with their first albums and spend the rest of their careers vainly trying to copy that sound and success. Alan Jackson could have fit into this mold - his debut was tremendously successful, selling more than 2 million copies; fortunately, he's continued to grow as an artist. As good as "Here in the Real World" is, it's not one of his strongest CDs. However, it's better than the best CDs of many big country artists and a must-have for country fans. Most highly recommended.