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-- a music fan from Detroit, Amazon.com
Music fan from Detroit, I feel your glee/pain/horror/shame. Not since Michael Jackson invited every race and creed to "kike me, Jew me, Wop me, screw me," or whatever he shrieked as he gave himself a wedgie, has pop music had such a compelling sacrificial lamb to come together right now over than Chris Gaines/Garth Brooks, or CGGB as I like to call him.
Tonight, in an effort to meet Middle America halfway and absorb its mounting Garthian concerns, I've perused all 211 reviews left by consumers at Amazon.com. By the site's estimation, Chris Gaines Greatest Hits has averaged a respectable four out of five stars from customers, with nary a fence-straddling, three-star vote in the bunch. The true test will be if the Soundscan sales trail off the same time the used copies mount up. One fellow who won't be cashing in his Capitol Gaines anytime soon is Kevin from Glendale Heights, Illinois:
. . . if you call yourself a true 'Garth Fan,' then you should be *darn* proud of ANYTHING that he puts out into circulation. That's the true fan that I would like to believe I am.
Those are Kevin's *darn* asterisks, by the way. And I'm *darn* proud that there are still true fans out there who've found something to champion besides their own lit farts. In what will surely go down in the annals as the worst year for popular recordings since Edison warbled a pedestrian "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on a cylinder, a year where "Limp" is actually a buzz word, here's a record that demands an immediate "yea" or "nay," at least from a marketing standpoint.
By now most critics have already pummeled Gaines burgers out of Garth Brooks' rocker alter ego, but I can't look away from this cultural train wreck just yet. I'm not so convinced that it really is a train wreck so much as it's a well-timed distraction.
Anyone who's followed country music with even a casual annoyance knows that every decade the genre has its urban upsurge and then its economic slump. Garth, the Upsurgin' General last time around, saw the oncoming downward spiral and decided he wasn't going to be the fall guy for new country that the Bee Gees were for disco. Nah, better to reinvent himself, grow a soul patch under his lips and throw a wig on his head that Natalie Cole left lying around in the Capitol wardrobe closet.
Oh, to have been a fly on the wall at those marketing meetings after the Chris Gaines photos were developed: "Garth, that fruity toupee is gonna cost us every Teamster and monster truck enthusiast in your fan base! For God's sake, couldn't you just wear a bandanna like Mike Reno? That's very '80s."
And could no one talk Garth out of his ridiculous Freddie Mercury-in-black-and-white-tights shot buried in the CD booklet? It truly confirms Brooks' pledge in his recent TV special that "You're gonna see a lot of Garth in Chris Gaines." Too much Garth, actually. Rather like Alice Kramden's "two pounds of baloney in a one pound bag" assessment. Garth/girth issues aside, one music fan from Atlanta, Georgia, who wasn't taken in by Garth's cock rock bulges, writes:
. . . The stand up display says that the album represents 'rock over the last 15 years.' I don't remember rock being this boring and soft over the last 15 years. I thought this was supposed to show Garth could rock!?!?!?!
Indeed, where is the rock? Chris Gaines is supposed to be a late '80s, early '90s luminary, yet most of his derivative reference points -- the Beatles, the Carpenters (!!), 10cc, Fleetwood Mac, Dan Fogelberg (!!!), Bread (!!!!) -- are already two decades old. Given that, why was Gaines born Australian if you're not gonna capitalize on some kind of innovative down under country hybrid? If the makers of this movie-to-be were after sonic realism, Paul Kelly or Neil Finn would've been contracted to provide some top-shelf pop tunes. But nothing here sounds remotely like Crowded House, INXS, Hoodoo Gurus, Midnight Oil or even AC/DC. Instead, most of the harder cuts reek of Kenny Loggins -- not exactly "rock" incarnate unless you live in a town where dancing is outlawed.
For some insane reason, Garth strategists appear to be going after that soft-rock/classic-rock demographic that got tired of hearing "China Grove" for the millionth time, moved on to new country but have now grown tired of 10-gallon hats and still didn't want to hear "China Grove." Occasionally, this same demographic finds a shopworthy new album that reminds them of something old, like the Wallflowers.
Two of Gaines' pretend hits, "Unfinished Letter" and "Mainstreet," stomp the same happy Hammond organ ground Junior Jakob Dylan did. But given the phony-but-not-funny revisionist liner notes that named "Mainstreet" an instant classic, some of Garth's toothless fans might insist that Chris Gaines recorded these songs way before anyone even heard of the Wallflowers. "Back when the old stuff was new," indeed!