Prime Cuts: Mom, Send 'em Down the Road, Cold Like That
Years ago, Garth Brooks singled out KISS and Chris LeDoux as his musical heroes. In hindsight, both influences are keenly evident throughout Brooks' career. You will find the rocker in him emerging with the jangly guitars and the stadium rock hits such as "Shameless," "Callin' Baton Rogue" and :American Honky Tonk Bar Association." Conterminously, you will also hear him singing about ropin' the wind in the western skies with country flavored paeans such as "That Ol' Wind," "Rodeo," and "Cowboy Cadillac." Though 13 years have passed since Brooks last graced us with a full original country release, "Man Against Machine" sounds as if time had not lapsed. Instead of jumping on the Bro-Country bandwagon or incorporating a diminutive form of EDM-laced country, Brooks has more or less stick to the same template that has helped him sell 130 million records. This is to say "Man Against Machine" is a classic Garth Brooks record, where he does rock with a freeing abandon and there are still songs where he gets contemplative about life's tender (and country) issues.
However, with the rolling of time, some changes are inevitable. No longer is his longtime producer Allen Reynolds on the helm. Having retired, Mark Miller who has had a hand in mixing most of Brooks' earlier albums, now steps up to the plate as producer. Also, for the first time in Brooks' lengthy career, the album titular is named after a song. Other than that, it's business the Brooks' way. For those who love the rocker in Brooks, the title cut "Man Against Machine" ought to be a pleaser. "Man Against Machine" is what Brooks calls his "muscle" song. Functioning like a five minute intense workout, Brooks gets to rock in high gear cheered on by a chorus of male voices on a song that calls for authenticity in our manufactured world. Those who love Brooks on "Shameless" will be floored by "Cold Like That." Working with the same palate, "Cold Like That" begins like a piano ballad before the roar of Brooks' passion totally consumes the song heightening Brooks' frustration at a relationship to a bombastic aplomb.
This is not to say that Brooks has lost his more tender and rustic side. "Cowboys Forever" is a self-affirming ode that despite the massive sales and the sold out tours, Brooks s still a cowboy at heart. Incidentally, "Cowboy Forever" is written by John Martin, Wyn Varble and George Strait's favorite scribe Dean Dillon. One wonders how Brooks beat Strait in recording this song as "Cowboys Forever" is the type of song George Strait would give up his kidney for. "Mom," the latest single, is Brooks' best song since "Unanswered Prayer." Originally recorded by Bonnie Tyler for her back-to-country album last year, "Mom" details a conversation between God and an unborn child where God gives assurance that the world outside is not as scary as the baby thinks. And there's a mom outside ready to love him to pieces. The way Brooks sings this piece is just so moving, one needs to have a box of Kleenex nearby.
"Send 'em Down the Road" is another gem. A well-crafted ballad coming from the pens of Marc Beeson and Allen Shamblin, "Send 'em Down the Road" rips right into the hearts of those who have kids. The most painful experience a parent can ever experience to let you kids go. Less heavy on the heart but by no means inferior is the Brooks' co-write "Rodeo and Juliet." This is simply Shakespeare meeting up with Chris LeDoux. And let's not forget Mrs. Brooks, aka Trisha Yearwood, she did show up very prominently in "She's Tired of Boys," a song that showcases Brooks' love for stories. In short, "Man Against Machine" is classic Brooks. If you love his previous records, you'll adore this new one.
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