It’s been 13 years since Garth Brooks released his retirement album, “Scarecrow.” Since then, it’s been nothing but box sets and “Greatest Hits,” but the wait is finally over.
“Man Against Machine,” released in November 2014, marks Brooks’ return to recording with 14 new songs that span Brooks’ diverse sound.
The opening song, “Man Against Machine,” is a commentary on the music business, with Brooks declaring war on modern trends. The song’s hard driving edge sets the tone for the album.
“She’s Tired of Boys” features Brooks’ obvious Bob Seger influence. The song follows a similar storyline to one of his most popular songs, “That Summer.”
After Brooks’ acoustic show in Las Vegas, which took fans on a journey through his influences, the variety on this record makes perfect sense, with listeners being able to identify where song ideas came from.
Songs like “Cold Like That” and “All-American Kid” seem to be a bad fit for Brooks. Though the songs are well-written and performed, they feel out of place on this record. With Brooks openly giving credit to Jason Aldean for making this heavier sound popular on country radio, it can’t be ignored that these songs are perhaps Brooks’ attempt to have a hit on country radio, though that’s never been an issue for him.
Speaking of success, in the short time this album has been available, the sales have already made Brooks the highest-selling solo artist in America, once again. During a recent appearance on NBC’s Today, Brooks was presented with a platinum certification for “Man Against Machine.” Surprised, he said, “I never thought I’d see another one of those.”
Occasionally, you’ll find albums that have one song that justifies purchasing the entire album. If that’s the case, then this album qualifies with “Mom,” not only one of the most emotional songs of Brooks’ career but one of the strongest. Brooks has always worn the “Momma’s Boy” title with pride, and though he didn’t write this song, it’s hard to imagine anyone else doing this song justice. Try to get through this song without a tear — you’ll find it quite difficult.
From there, the record winds down with a good mix of everything. Songs like “Rodeo and Juliet” and “Fish” may not receive the same attention as others but are well worth the listen. And, as promised by Brooks, there’s a cowboy song, “Cowboys Forever,” which adds a well-needed and deserved nostalgic feel to the record.
The album’s first single, “People Loving People,” is this album’s equivalent to “We Shall Be Free,” from Brooks’ 1992 album, “The Chase.” Its message may sadly fall on deaf ears but deserves a chance to be heard.
For those expecting a song about raising children, after Brooks went into retirement to do just that, they will be pleased with “Send ‘Em on Down the Road.” The song tackles the tough issue of preparing kids to face the world alone, which Brooks recently went through himself.
The record closes with a bluesy song called “Tacoma.” Though the song doesn’t necessarily fit within the context of the record, Brooks’ vocal delivery is strong, especially in the last minute of the song, as he belts out every word.
Brooks has already announced that a follow-up to “Man Against Machine” will be released this fall. Thanks to a digital album bundle, available through GhostTunes, Brooks’ own digital music service, eager fans can purchase the upcoming album, along with every other album in Brooks’ catalouge. Meanwhile, his current tour continues to set records in several markets.
It’s clear that Brooks is going to stay relevant for many more years, but then again, it couldn’t go any other way. During his retirement, he kept fans hungry with random, occasional concerts and albums, ultimately creating a 13 yearlong drum roll for what we’re now seeing. Look at the numbers. It worked.
“Man Against Machine” is available in stores and online at www.garthbrooks.com.