Lamb of Garth, Have Mercy on Us!

Everyone has his crossovers to bear, but doesn't rock have enough problems without Garth Brooks signing up for membership?

How can these same yahoos begrudge Garth his mascara when he's been shoving Aerosmith, Billy Joel and KISS covers at them for the past six years? Like they'd even know an Ernest Tubb song if you played it for them!

If you've got to hate Garth, there's plenty more serious breaches of trust to bemoan than his letting the fiddle player hook up with a Mellotron dealer. Start with "Right Now," which grafts the Youngbloods' "Get Together" onto Cheryl Wheeler's anti-gun anthem "If It Were Up to Me." Conveniently, he skips the line about getting rid of the guns so he can have a say-nothing political song that won't piss off any gun-rackers who might buy a Garth Brooks CD.

And yet he still managed to offend this guy from Gainesville, Georgia, who wonders, "Since when does an Oklahoman say 'Brotha' instead of 'Brother'?"

Garth Brookes as Chris Gaines: "Does a Natalie Cole wig and some old Dan Fogelberg songs make me a rock star?"
Garth Brookes as Chris Gaines: "Does a Natalie Cole wig and some old Dan Fogelberg songs make me a rock star?"
All that's missing is the overbite: Brooks as Queen's Freddie Mercury
All that's missing is the overbite: Brooks as Queen's Freddie Mercury

More than one music fan has identified the album a sure sign of the apocalypse. Garth, for lack of a better word, is greed. But in this case, greed is not good. Remember how he whined like a baby against the reselling of CDs? He probably blames the used CD stores for why he can't sell 10 million units each time out, and maybe he's right. If he sells three or four million now, everyone thinks it's a failure.

But Garth figured out new and more reprehensible ways of punishing his flock. Like deleting his first six albums, forcing fans who didn't buy them fast enough to shell out three times as much for limited-edition greatest hits, boxed sets and live sets at Christmas time -- all of which he would also eventually delete.

Good riddance, I say. Brooks is operating like Disney, who hold up a gun to whatever classic video they're about to take off the market and blackmail you into preserving your kid's favorite movie -- a twisted capitalist game of "Bambi gets it or else."

Who's to say CGGB's putting his country muse on ice isn't some marketing strategy right out of the Old Coke/New Coke handbook? Take away beloved Garth, replace him with Chris and bring Garth back when those 10 million units return to their senses.

Unless you share the same opinion as Joe Daniel from Pasadena, Texas, who claims that "this is Garth's Sgt. Pepper."

You'll recall that the Fabs all grew mustaches and kept the trusted brand name completely off the European editions of Pepper, except for that bed of flowers that spelled BEATLES. Like them, Garth's also grown goofy facial hair and left his name off the spine of his new CD, but it has a booklet with a choice of two covers, one with Garth's name, one without, so as not to confuse Kmart shoppers.

Which is where the similarity ends. When the Beatles donned Day-Glo Salvation Army Band outfits, they were deliberately cutting ties with the past and stood beside wax dummies of their former moptop selves so no one missed the point. When Madonna immersed herself in sex bondage gear for Erotica, she made no apologies to her fans, never said, "I'm only kidding, I'll go back to that Boy Toy bit next time if this makes you really uncomfortable." When Bowie did interviews as Ziggy, he didn't pull reporters aside and say, "Listen, I'm still the same old Anthony Newley mimic I always was, only with brighter lipstick." Those artists drew a line in the dirt and never crossed back.

But not double crossover Garth. He'll line-dance all over that dirt marker, to ensure more units than he can afford to lose won't boot-scoot away. As his backpedaling TV special proved, CGGB wants to be Old Coke and New Coke at the same time. Either way, he's just flat and less fizzy.

In the Life of Chris Gaines could've been a great cultural train wreck, on a par with KISS' The Elder and John Denver's Dreamland Express. Those moves to reel in an audience took a lot of balls, more balls than Brooks will ever clack together in this lifetime. Had he succeeded, it might've been the across-the-board fluke hit that Thriller was, pulling in all the disaffected country and rock fans who don't know what to listen to anymore.

Many of Garth's favorable reviews say he took a big risk here. A wig and a showcased falsetto? Is that all there is, my friends? Had the "brotha'" risked it all, then maybe Garth might've merited for real this phony review that devious eBay seller Fat Al penned in the hopes of unloading his used Chris Gaines CD for more than the usual $5:

"This is the best album of all time. The Beatles wish they could have been as innovative as this."

The CD sold for 10 bucks. Right on, Fat Al! Garth Brooks as Chris Gaines: "Does a Natalie Cole wig and some old Dan Fogelberg songs make me a rock star?"All that's missing is the overbite: Brooks as Queen's Freddie Mercury.

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