My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Garth Brooks – ‘Fresh Horses’

220px-FreshhorsesGarth Brooks’ sixth album Fresh Horses came in November of 1995, just as he was on the cusp of a three-year tour that would earn him multiple CMA Entertainer of the Year honors. The main criticism of Brooks at the time where rumors he was going pop after the massive success he’d had in the previous few years. That turned out false, as Brooks instead issued an album featuring more of his songwriting than anything up to this point and thus more of him and the topics he most enjoyed singing about. Seven Million copies have been sold to date.

The first single was an effortless love song entitled “She’s Every Woman.” His 14th number one, he co-wrote the tune with Victoria Shaw, who he teamed up with for “The River” three years earlier. “She’s Every Woman” is one of Brooks’ most delicate love songs, with a lush production, and tender vocal. It’s one of my favorite things he’s ever done.

The album’s second single is a prime example of how Brooks’ ego can get the best of him, leading to lapses in judgment. “The Fever” is a cover of the Aerosmith song and horrible country-rock. It worked in concert, with Brooks shaking open water bottles into the crowd, but didn’t translate to a studio recording. Country Radio gave it a deserved lukewarm reception resulting in a #23 chart peak.

Brooks rebounded with the third single, his 15th number one “The Beaches Of Cheyenne” a tune about a woman going crazy after too many years putting up with her rodeo cowboy husband. She would tear apart their home and eventually drown off the California coast, all while he ‘rode a bull no man should ride.’ It’s an excellent tune about tolerance, and with ample steel guitar, one of his more country leaning efforts.

The fourth single was another ‘statement’ song from Brooks, a ballad given a hard-to-watch video with heartbreaking footage of the Oklahoma City Bombings. C-written by Tony Arata and Wayne Tester and peaking at #19, “The Change” is another of his powerful singles, although I can see where some may find it heavy handed. On 9/11, when I got home from eighth grade, this was the first song I ran to my room to play. Brooks’ powerful vocal sells me on the track every time.

Easily one of Brooks’ most idiotic singles was released next. “It’s Midnight Cinderella,” co-written by Brooks with Kim Williams and Kent Blazy, is direct pandering to the line-dance craze that had reached its peak by 1996. I do love the honky-tonk production, but the lyrics are trepid at best. Country Radio, though, loved it as the song peaked at #5.

I love vivid story songs so the final single is right up my alley. The track is a co-write between Brooks and Leigh Reynolds, and reached a peak of #4. “That ‘Ol Wind” details the story of a young mother who reunites with an old musician fling when he’s ‘back in town for one last show.’ Not much is said between the pair, least of which the money he hid or the fact her song is actually his. The track is excellently crafted and a testament to Brooks’ power at country radio that it would even peak inside the top 10, when most songs of its ilk have a very difficult time of gaining serious traction.

The singles from Fresh Horses are wildly uneven at best, with attempts at trying different sonic textures at the hope of diversifying Brooks’ appeal. When bad they were horrible, but a few gems managed to sneak in there. As for the album tracks, they proved somewhat more enjoyable, although a couple of generic songs sneaked in. “Rollin’” is a generic slice of unmemorable bluesy country rock, while “Cowboys and Angels” is just another cowboy song to add to Brooks’ repertoire. He co-wrote “The Good Stuff,” which he used to open each date on his massive 1996-1999 World Tour.

“Ireland” is probably my favorite of the album cuts, an anthem to the emerald isle that may seem puzzling coming from Brooks’ pen, but just works really well as a song. The other excellent inclusion is his version of Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love.” The track, which he recorded for the Hope Floats soundtrack in 1998, was added to Fresh Horses during The Limited Series re-release. The sparse piano ballad is an excellent showcase for Brooks’ tender voice and was a complete 180 from everything he was doing at the time. The track works really well, even if it’s more a slice of pop than anything resembling traditional-leaning country music.

As a whole, Fresh Horses is a solid Brooks album that features some fantastic songs mixed with a lot of filler. Even though “The Change” gained notoriety, “The Beaches of Cheyenne” is the album’s only essential track and the one Brooks includes in his concerts to this day. I’ve always enjoyed the tender side of Brooks’ persona, one that’s often overlooked, which tracks like “She’s Every Woman” and “That ‘Ol Wind” show off (as does Sevens’ “She’s Gonna Make It” and “You Move Me”) perfectly. As compared to some of Brooks’ earlier recordings, a lot of Fresh Horses has held up well overtime, too, which is saying something. This isn’t Brooks’ finest work by any means, but the aforementioned numbers are among his most underrated.

Grade: B

15 responses to “Album Review: Garth Brooks – ‘Fresh Horses’

  1. Occasional Hope November 17, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    I like The Beaches Of Cheyenne.

    • Razor X November 17, 2014 at 8:57 pm

      There ARE no beaches in Cheyenne. That has always bothered me. I didn’t much care for any of the singles from this album and as a result didn’t buy it or hear any of the album cuts.

  2. luckyoldsun November 17, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    If we feel a need to move the ocean, I’ll take Strait’s nimble “Ocean Front Property (In Arizona)” over the overwrought “Beaches of Cheyenne.”

  3. Leeann Ward November 17, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    I’ve never considered “Beaches” a statement song at all…

    You’re rigt tat The Fever was pretty awful.

    I could live without ever hearing “The Change” again. It’s too dramatic of a vocal for me.

    The songs that I do like from the album are “Cowboys and Angels, “That Old Wind”, “Beaches

    • Leeann Ward November 17, 2014 at 3:18 pm

      I guess the rest of my comment didn’t go through…

      • Leeann Ward November 17, 2014 at 3:21 pm

        I’m sorry, I’m having the worst time commenting today. I’ll try this again. The songs that I like from the album are “Cowboys and Angels, “That Old Wind, “Ireland, “Rollin'”, “Beaches” and “She’s Every Woman”, even though it’s a simple list song.

  4. luckyoldsun November 17, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    I stopped buying Garth albums after “In Pieces.”
    So I have not heard “The Change.”
    Still, I’m sure it’s a fine song and Garth deserves much credit and accolades for having the courage to cover the serious subject of menopause in a country song. No doubt he did it tastefully and with much compassion and understanding.

  5. Andrew November 17, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Love “Beaches of Cheyenne”, even though the title makes no sense as anyone who’s ever been to Cheyenne knows there’s nothing there that could ever be mistaken for a beach.

  6. luckyoldsun November 17, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    You’re catching on.

  7. wiley16350 November 18, 2014 at 8:48 am

    Well the song “Beaches of Cheyenne” doesn’t actually claim that there are beaches in Cheyenne. The line that makes the statement is a symbol, metaphor or has a hidden meaning. The song clearly states that the beach she died at was in California and that would be the same beach that she walks on every night as a ghost. The question then becomes what does the writer intend to convey with the Beaches of Cheyenne line. Some people think the line means that even though she is in California walking the beach where she died her mind is always on Cheyenne and therefore she is walking the beaches of Cheyenne. It’s crazy how some of you need everything to be so literal. I think it’s great when an artist can make you contemplate what the meaning of the words are.

    • Razor X November 18, 2014 at 9:42 pm

      I think it’s great when when the writer’s meaning is clear.

      • wiley16350 November 19, 2014 at 9:06 am

        I do too. But I am not limited to that. I can enjoy an array of writing styles. I can commend you for liking the straight forward writing style. There are people however that are the opposite of you that don’t like country because of it’s straight forward writing style. They prefer songs written were you can contemplate what the writer is saying. They feel it’s more poetic and creative. They would trash the writing style that you like. Do you think it would be right for them to trash a song because it’s too straight forward just because they don’t like that style? This is what annoys me about critics. They allow what they prefer to be the sole judge of whether something is good or not. They can’t just admit that it’s a preference thing and not necessarily the song that is the problem when they don’t like it. To hate a song just because of a line that isn’t literally correct seems over the top especially when the song isn’t using the line in a literal way. It seems over the top and comes off as hatred rather than constructive criticism. It’s just like when people were complaining about “The River” and its lyrics in a previous post. It’s passed off as a poorly written song just because they don’t like the writing style. It came off as someone hating something and desperately trying to justify it. I’m sorry, it doesn’t make sense. Go read the lyrics to “Beaches of Cheyenne” and “The River” and then go read the lyrics to many of Florida Georgia Line’s songs and tell me again how poorly written are the 2 Garth Brooks songs. If the Garth Brooks songs are terrible than I don’t know how you can describe the Florida Georgia Line songs.

        • Razor X November 19, 2014 at 4:05 pm

          It’s a non- sequitir to bring Florida Georgia Line into the discussion. Just brcause FGL’s music is terrible doesn’t mean that somerhing else by another artist isn’t also terrible. It is quite possible ro hold the opinion that ALL of these songs are poorly written.

  8. luckyoldsun November 19, 2014 at 9:19 am

    “The Beaches of Cheyenne” is a take-off on “Ocean Front Property (In Arizona).” The whole POINT is that the writer expects the listener to know that there are no beaches in Cheyenne.

  9. J.R. Journey November 22, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    I like “It’s Midnight Cinderella” quite a bit. I think it’s fun and catchy and the tongue-in-cheek lyric is pretty clever. It’s probably my favorite track from this album, but that’s not saying much. The only songs I ever play from this set are “Cinderella”, “Beaches of Cheyenne” and “Ireland”. This is actually my second-least favorite Garth Brooks album.

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