Garth Brooks

Garth Brooks

Liberty Records, 1989

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


When Garth Brooks burst onto the country music scene in the late '80s, I wonder if people expected him to achieve the level of superstardom he's seen. While other stars in the field of country definitely helped pave the way, it was Brooks who brought country back from the commercial dead and made radio prognosticators declare country music the next big wave.

Looking back at his self-titled debut album, there are some signs that this boy was destined for greatness, though the arrows seemed to point more towards a hardcore country rather than cross-over success.

Brooks has the traditional country "twang" in his voice - the exact thing which would have had me guessing that Brooks would have become simply a country music superstar. The songs in this vein, such as "Not Counting You" and "I've Got A Good Thing Going," are decent efforts for their own genre.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But Brooks begins knocking down the barriers early on. "If Tomorrow Never Comes" almost sounds like it would be at home on adult contemporary stations as well as country outlets; Brooks's vocal delivery is flawless. Likewise, "Everytime That It Rains" has definite commercial appeal on both sides of the fence.

Brooks's strength, however, still was in the world of country - but more in a nouveau vein. "Cowboy Bill" is a great example of storytelling set to music - had it been recited, it would have reminded me a bit of Waddie Mitchell. Had Brooks made an album of songs like "Cowboy Bill," one could have legitimately argued that he belonged in the folk category as much as country.

If there's anything about country music that still annoys me, it's that they continue to do or sing about things that perpeutate stereotypes. One of the lines in the song "Alabama Clay" (which Brooks, to his credit, didn't write): "His neck was red as Alabama clay." Hmm.. neck red as clay... neck was red... redneck ? (Quick, someone call Jeff Foxworthy.) C'mon, guys, you want people to stop thinking about you as hicks, stop writing such damned stupid lyrics!

The only other weakness is a bit of stagnation in some songs. "The Dance" is pretty enough, but there's not enough lyrical development. On this and one or two other songs, the constant repetition of the chorus is just a bit annoying. If they wanted to stretch out the tracks, why not - at the least - come up with an alternate chorus?

Garth Brooks contains some early hits like "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)", but it will most likely appeal more to the country music fan moreso than the A/C lover, simply because the album is more country-oriented. Producer Allen Reynolds does a wonderful job of creating a rich sound on this, and Brooks has a decent selection of tunes - both from outside sources and ones he co-wrote.

So is there anything really wrong with Garth Brooks? No, not really - but those who pick this one up expecting to hear real crossover music might be disheartened at first. Still, this is an album that is worth taking a serious look at.

Rating: B+

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Liberty Records, and is used for informational purposes only.