Oklahoma-born Garth Brooks, who relocated to Nashville in 1987, is one of the
artists who give country music a bad reputation. His songs are as original as
the Beatles', and his technical skills compete with Britney Spears', but he
managed to sell millions of records and become one of the all-time best sellers.
The idea behind Garth Brooks (Liberty, 1989) was very simple: more pop
and less country (Much Too Young, his classic If Tomorrow Never Comes,
Not Counting You, Tony Arata's The Dance).
Traces of Cat Stevens, John Denver, Elton John, Billy Joel, Bob Seger and the
Eagles, helped to sell ten million copies of
No Fences (Liberty, 1990). On the other hand, the melancholy,
evocative, but also sugary and derivative, melodies of
Friends in Low Places (another classic, written by
Earl Bud Lee and DeWayne Blackwell), Unanswered Prayers,
Two of a Kind Workin' on a Full House
and the anthemic The Thunder Rolls
gave new life to country music.
Garth Brooks became the first country artist to put on arena-size concerts,
and his shows became more and more similar to the grandiose circus-like
events of rock music.
Ropin' the Wind (Liberty, 1991) broke more records and yielded more hits
(Shameless, What She's Doing Now, The River) and a faithful
recreation of the Band's gospel-soul style (Rodeo).
The Chase (Liberty, 1992) was his most eclectic collection yet,
highlighted by the gospel-ish We Shall Be Free
in the style of the Band.
Brooks returned to his roots on In Pieces (Liberty, 1993) and
Fresh Horses (Capitol, 1995), but these albums lack good songs.
The pensive ballads of Sevens (Capitol, 1997) harked back to
No Fences, but, again, without the same melodies.
His Double Live album broke the record of most copies sold in one week
In a well-coreographed publicity stint,
Brooks then assumed the persona of a fictional pop crooner, Chris Gaines, for
Life of Chris Gaines (1999).
Scarecrow (Capitol, 2001) is another mediocre collection that continues
Brooks' decline as a songwriter.
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