Capitol Records, 1997
REVIEW BY: Alfredo Narvaez
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/12/2000
I'm aware that there was some sort of fight going on between Garth Brooks and his record company over this album's release, but darn if I can remember what the big deal was all about. I do know that many of country's stalwarts get their panties in a knot whenever you go, "Country? Yeah, I like country. I listen to Garth Brooks!" Why? Because to many of them, Brooks is not country, he's a pop artist with country influences. Thing is, this album - Brooks's's seventh, explaining the title Sevens - can be shown as a perfect example of what they're talking about.
What do I mean? Well, start by taking a look at how long each song is. All but one orbit the three-minute and under minute mark. That last song, "Fit For A King," almost reaches the four-minute mark - an amazing feat. Now, you could make the argument that songs are as long as they should be. And some of the material works just fine as is. However, it gets a bit problematic when EVERY song is this long. It gives the impression that Brooks may have gotten lazy or that the problems that surrounded the recording sessions were bigger than believed.
The album kicks off with "Longneck Bottle," which mixes country with some early rock'n'roll guitar. The alcohol motif continues with "Two Piña Coladas," which begs the question, "When the hell did Garth Brooks think he was Jimmy Buffett??" Both songs are a bit average, meaning there's nothing thrilling about them. In that pile you can chuck "Cowboy Cadillac" - I thought cowboys were seen as sissies with anything but a pickup! - "When There's No One Around" and the duet with Trisha Yearwood, "In Another's Eyes." Both of the last songs are very pop-influenced, but gain nothing from that influence. Only the up-tempo and unispired "Do What You Gotta Do" ranks lower than them.
Now, what does work here includes "Fit For A King," which uses gospel-like vocals in its chorus; the very-fun and up-tempo "Take The Keys To My Heart" and the incredibly tender "Belleau Wood." "You Move Me" and "I Don't Have To Wonder" show how Brooks can mix both country and pop to create good music. At the same time, "She's Gonna Make It" does prove Brooks can do country, while "How You Ever Gonna Know" shows he can mix different tempos into a good song.
Get the idea that this album is a mixed affair for me? Good, because that's about what I got out of it. On one hand, Brooks is easily able to create soft and tender moments that prove he's above and beyond being a simple country star. Then, he goes and wrecks it by doing some of the weakest tracks I've heard. Some of it might have been the problems surrounding the recording of Sevens. Some of it might be that he's just been pushing himself during the past decade. I mean, within two years, he had released his Chris Gaines project and tried out for the San Diego Padres.... and don't forget he'll be with the New York Mets for spring training this year! The man just can't stop! Perhaps a bit of a break would allow him to either strengthen the weak songs or ditch them out altogether. Oh well, hindsight is always 20/10.
While he kept his chart-topping ways alive with this album, Sevens is not really the album to get you into Garth Brooks. Sure, it has some good and a few great moments, but this is more for the diehard fans. They're the ones who keep his career going and allow him to release both good and not-so good material. Brooks is capable of melding both pop and country when he's shooting for it - that's why he's so popular - but sometimes he ought to be just one or the other, lest he push himself to mediocrity.