Garth Brooks is back and is making a huge statement with Man Against Machine! It’s been 13 years since Garth fans have gotten an album of all new “Garth music,” as the singer calls it. In 2005, The Lost Sessions gave us a sneak peek of more than 40 songs that are in the vault and The Ultimate Hits gave us four new tunes mixed with his biggest hits in 2007. Last year’s Blame It All On My Roots boxed set gave us four CDs of cover tunes and a video companion of his One Man Show in Las Vegas that explores Brooks’ influences. Now, Machine picks right up where Brooks left off with 2001’s Scarecrow and is sure to please fans young and old.
As a life long Garth fan, I pretty much knew what to expect with the new music. As the industry has changed drastically since Brooks went into his self-imposed retirement in 2001, I wasn’t sure how the music would fit with today’s sound of hick hop, bro country and EDM. Brooks wasn’t considered the country guy in the 90’s but he sure will be today. With fiddle and steel guitar plastered all over the story-telling lyrics Brooks is known for, Machine brings the country back into country, and rightfully so without those nasty EDM loops that have defined today’s country.
The album (and live shows) opens with the title track — a first for Brooks — and makes the boldest statement of the 14 tracks. Brooks, Jenny Yates and Larry Bastian (classic Garth songwriters) co-penned the tune that clearly states how Brooks feels about himself in today’s technology-based world. The chorus reads, “Careful calculations, details drawn down to design / Is it really for the better or better bottom line / It don’t know me from Adam and it’s rotten to the core / It’s gonna get reminded man has kicked its ass before / John Henry’s ’bout to on the scene / In this war of man against the machines.”
The first taste of new music from Machine came via the album’s first single in September with “People Loving People.” While the track is very Garth-esque, sending a strong message that all of the world’s problems could be solved by people loving each other, it wasn’t the instant hit fans were hoping for as the comeback single of a guy of Brooks’ stature gone too long. The track peaked at #19 on the US Billboard Country Airplay chart but could have (and should have) fared better. As an album song, it works great, but as a comeback single, it’s lacking oomph!
The fourth song on the album, “All-American Kid,” would have been my choice as the first single. Telling the story about a high school all-star football player turned military hero who is known to his hometown as the “All-American Comeback Kid” is the perfect homage to Brooks’ return to music full time. A statement song to say the least, Brooks could have a big hit with this one. The first chorus reads, “And the hometown cheered and his mama cried / And they rushed that field and they raised him high / Got his picture in the paper and the headline read / All-American Comeback Kid.”
The second single from Machine is “Mom,” a conversation between God and an unborn baby that is told with a beautiful musical presentation. A tribute to every mother, radio needs to eat this track up as it instantly brings tears to the audience’s (and Brooks’) eyes and will be an instant Garth classic. “MOM will take its place beside IF TOMORROW NEVER COMES, UNANSWERED PRAYERS, and THE DANCE. It’s that strong,” Brooks writes on his newly created Facebook page.
There’s not many tracks Brooks has recorded that I don’t like and Man Against Machine doesn’t fail either. Nearly every track could stand on its own, but together they work as a “machine” and place this album as one of his best yet! Other gems include “She’s Tired Of Boys,” “Wrong About You,” “Send ‘Em On Down The Road,” and “Tacoma.” Originally intended as a double album, Brooks recorded nearly 30 songs for the project but chose to release them as two separate packages with the second to follow in Fall 2015 or early 2016.
Man Against Machine is predicted to sell around 125,000 copies in its first week to place #4 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. While those numbers are relatively low for Brooks, it’s highly likely that digital sales through his GhostTunes platform will not be included when the official numbers are released early next week. GhostTunes has not released any sales numbers as of this writing, but the album has been offered independently and as part of the $29.99 Garth Brooks Digital Bundle that also features eight catalog titles remixed and remastered, a 25th Anniversary Edition of Double Live, 30 concert videos and the 2015 album since the site’s launch in September, so surely those numbers would be much higher than the first week predictions.
No matter how many albums Man Against Machine sells, Brooks has proven he is still the King of Country. More than one million tickets to the Garth Brooks World Tour with Trisha Yearwood have been sold since its September 4th launch with 11 shows in Chicago. He has set new personal records for ticket sales in each of the ten cities announced so far and will surely continue to do so as he meets fan demand with each additional city.
Author: Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.