My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Garth Brooks – ‘The Chase’

220px-GarthchaseGarth Brooks released his fourth album, The Chase, in September 1992. Produced as usual by Allen Reynolds, Brooks felt it was his most personal album to date. To date The Chase has been certified for sales of nine million units by the RIAA.

“We Shall Be Free” was the album’s lead single. Brooks was inspired to compose the track in the wake of the L.A. Riots, which were fueled by the beating of   African-American construction worker Rodney King. Brooks and co-writer Stephanie Davis covered many topics including freedom of speech, racism, and homophobia. Country radio resisted playing the highly controversial track, which peaked at #12. I’ve always loved the song, which is set to an engaging bluesy piano-heavy beat, and felt it topical without being preachy.

For the second single, Brooks and his label went with “Somewhere Other Than The Night,” a piano and lush string country-rock ballad that was the antithesis of “We Shall Be Free” and Brooks’ tenth number one. The lyric, co-written with Kent Blazy, details a woman desperate (‘She’s standing in the kitchen with nothing but her apron on’) for love and affection from her husband in the hours they’re not in bed together. The ballad is another excellent song; with Brooks turning in a master class vocal that expertly brings the woman’s despair to life with palpable emotion.

The third single follows the same pattern as the second, although the topics are completely different. “Learning To Live Again” is Brooks’ only single from The Chase he didn’t have a hand in writing. It details a man’s journey after a breakup, where feelings of isolation and alienation are slowly killing him. The #2 hit, co-written by Davis and Don Schlitz, is the closet single to traditional country, with ample steel guitar in the production. The track is a masterpiece of feeling, with Brooks once again allowing the listener to feel every ounce of the guy’s pain. It’s also one of my all-time favorite singles he’s ever released.

The final single returns Brooks to uptempo material, with a song inspired by the sweeping heartland rock of Bob Seeger. “That Summer” tells the story of a teenage boy, far from home, who’s working on the wheat-field of a ‘lonely widowed woman.’ She takes a liking to the boy, has sex with him, and he looses his virginity in the process. The track is another masterpiece, this time of delicate subtly, where the content is expertly handled in a way that gets the point across without explicitly saying anything raunchy or crude. Brooks co-wrote the song with his then-wife Sandy Mahl and frequent co-writer Pat Alger.

Each single from The Chase offered the listener something different yet showed Brooks skillfully tackling despair from both a man and a woman’s point of view. The album tracks proved more eclectic, with Brooks offering his own take on two classic songs. He turns the Patsy Cline standard “Walking After Midnight” into twang-filled bluesy traditional country while Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken” morphs into honky-tonk rock. Neither are essential inclusions on The Chase and somewhat puzzling. “Mr. Right” is classic western swing and a rare instance where Brooks solely penned a track.

Lush ballad “Every Now and Then,” a Brooks co-write with Buddy Mondlock, is more in keeping with the overall musical direction of The Chase and features one of Brooks’ more tender vocal performances. The track would’ve worked well as a single, but it’s a bit too quiet. Michael Burton wrote “Night Rider’s Lament,” a steel guitar soaked classic cowboy song previously recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker and Chris LeDoux. Trisha Yearwood adds stunning harmonies to the track.

“Face to Face” finds Brooks singing another Tony Arata tune and while the sinister vibe compliments his commanding vocal, the track really isn’t that memorable. A final tune, “Something With A Ring To It,” comes courtesy of Brooks’ The Limited Series box set from 1998. The mid-tempo western swing ballad was co-written by Aaron Tippin  and Mark Collie first appeared on Collie’s Hardin’ County Line in 1990.

The Chase came at a time when industry insiders feared Brooks’ career had peaked although the listener couldn’t sense that from the music. The singles that emerged from this set have remained some of his finest singles and while the album cuts range from uneven to questionable, he manages to give us at least one worthwhile moment (“Every Now and Then”).

Grade: B

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9 responses to “Album Review: Garth Brooks – ‘The Chase’

  1. Andrew November 10, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Learning to Live Again is one of those songs that went to the top 5 then just disappeared from radio. Which is a shame, it’s one of my favorite Garth songs. I recall reading somewhere that Jimmy Mattingly (Garth’s fiddle player) called it his favorite as well.

  2. Occasional Hope November 10, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    I love Learning To Live Again, but find some of the other tracks here a bit overly dramatic.

  3. andythedrifter November 10, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    This album is decent but one of my least favorite Garth albums. I love “Learning to Live Again” and “That Summer”, but the rest is just okay for the most part.

  4. Leeann Ward November 10, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    This has always been my favorite Garth album with “Learning to Live Again” being my favorite. He puts a lot of great emotion in it. I remember being frightened by “Face to Face” as a teen.

  5. Ken November 10, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    “Country radio resisted playing the highly controversial track, which peaked at #12.”

    As someone who was programming a country radio station at that time I can tell you that radio’s resistance to that song at first was marginal. “We Shall Be Free” was added to most playlists as quickly as his previous dozen or so singles had been. Despite somewhat controversial subject matter and a very non-country musical arrangement it was still Garth Brooks. Most country stations were not about to ignore a new song from the format’s biggest artist. The difference with “We Shall Be Free” was that the audience reaction was lukewarm. When my station began playing the song we received a fraction of the requests that we usually received for a new Garth single during that era. For the most part we fielded far more requests for his older songs than that brand new single! If not for Capitol’s intense promotional efforts that song would not have climbed as high as it did. When the label realized that releasing that single was a terrible mistake they rush-released a new single “Somewhere Other Than The Night” less than ONE MONTH later. That’s the main reason why “We Shall Be Free” peaked at #12. Country radio stations dropped it from their current rotation after just a few weeks to replace it with a far more audience pleasing Garth song during their important Fall ratings period. At many stations “We Shall Be Free” mercifully disappeared from rotation as the leaves began to fall.

    “We Shall Be Free” is an anthem that works well as a video or in a live concert but as a radio song it’s just 3:46 of boredom. It does serve as a prime example of how Garth’s ego was leading him to believe that ANYTHING he chose to do would be completely accepted by everyone. How wrong he was.

    • luckyoldsun November 10, 2014 at 8:49 pm

      I have to agree that the problem with “We Shall Be Free” was not its “controversial” content. It’s that it was simply not in the musical style of what country radio was playing at the time. It sounded like an R&B song. Country radio has had plenty of “liberal” songs go to the top or near the top of the charts-most famously, Henson Cargill’s “Skip a Rope,” Johnny Cash’s “Man In Black” and “What Is Truth,” and a whole bunch of feminist songs.

  6. Leeann Ward November 10, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    “We Shall Be Free” is still one of my favorite Garth Brooks songs. I like “Somewhere Other than the Night”, but I’d say that song is quite boring in comparison.

  7. Razor X November 12, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    I really disliked All of the singles from this album.

  8. Paul W Dennis November 16, 2014 at 2:05 am

    I didn’t much care for ANY of the singles from this album, but I did like most of the non-singles

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